Category Archives: Minimalism

How imagining the worst can make you happier

treadmill

What phenomenon happens to every person on earth every day of their lives without anyone realising it or learning from?

The answer is hedonic adaptation. It’s the tendency of humans to go back to a stable level of happiness, even after something good (or bad) has happened to them.

If you’ve ever dreamed of doing or buying something that seemed unobtainable at the time, thinking, “I’ll be happy when I have that”, then after getting it you find yourself getting so used to having it that eventually you move onto wanting something new, you’ve experienced running on the hedonic treadmill.

You keep chasing bigger and better things, but you’re not really going anywhere. That’s how people who win the lottery revert back to the same level of happiness after a few years, and even billionaires have their own problems. In the end there is never enough money/stuff/fame/power/achievements/love that you can’t get used to eventually.

It may be in our nature to always be seeking more, but it’s a recipe for perpetual unhappiness.

What can we do about it? It turns out, insatiable human appetite isn’t a new problem. In fact, it’s a conundrum at least 2,000 years old because even in ancient times the Stoics were thinking about it. They may not have been pining for the latest smartphone or sports cars back then, but they had the same issues we do today—how do we find a balance between our unlimited wants with trying to live a virtuous and happy life?

Their solution was simple—imagine the worst that could happen. They called this negative visualisation. Essentially it’s an exercise where you take the things you value the most, it could be anything at all, and imagine for a minute not having it. You’ll realise just how much you take it for granted.

For example, think of a beloved spouse, family member, or child. It sounds horrible, but imagine they will die tomorrow. What will you do on their last day? Would you waste time watching TV or staying late after work? No! You would spend every moment you could with that person, savouring every minute of it.

Compare this with someone who takes the more common approach of banishing all negative thoughts from their mind. They think they’re better off but they are living in denial that their beloved could one day be gone. So they go about their daily lives as most people do, without realising that they’re taking the most precious things for granted. In the end, they will probably have more regrets about how they spent their time.

You might think this is all quite morbid, but who do you think is the person who is happier and more grateful for their loved one? Is it the person who periodically thinks about the fact that nothing lasts forever so they better make the most of it, or the person who doesn’t think about it at all? Who do you think is more grateful? Who do you think will have the fewest regrets?

The same could be applied to anything—you could imagine for a minute losing your home, or your job, or your health, or specific things such as your eyesight, access to the internet, running water, or political stability in your country… there is an infinite number of things that would be terrible or uncomfortable to live without. There is so much to be grateful for.

The Stoics advised doing this kind of exercise every now and again, maybe a few times a week or daily at most. Imagining the worst isn’t supposed to make you worry or become a morbid pessimist. It’s a reminder to appreciate things while you have them, and mitigate utter disappointment when not everything goes your way.

Saying that, exercising negative visualisation doesn’t mean anyone wouldn’t be devastated to lose something that is important to them. It’s not intended to be a magical solution to all problems. But learning to be grateful for what you already have, even for a few moments, will give you a break from running on that treadmill.

Indeed, often when I do this, when I realise I still have whatever it is I was thinking about losing, it feels like I’m waking up from a bad dream. I’m so relieved that it even makes me smile. So I encourage you to ask yourself today—what do you value most that you take for granted?

Book I’m currently reading: A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy

On Appreciation’ was originally published via Minimalist Meditations.

Written by Jessica Dang
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Learning to say no

…is an essential part of living minimally.

Most of the things we’re asked to or recommended to do/see/try/buy etc. are rooted in other people’s desires, needs, and expectations, not from our own.

You only have a certain amount of time in life. It’s a zero sum game—the more you fill it with one thing, the less you have to fill it with something else. It’s a direct trade off.

By saying no, you avoid wasting time and effort on things that distract you from what really matters.

It takes courage and discipline to say no, especially if people are relying on you. That’s when you have to ask yourself the hard questions about what’s most important to you, and then do what you need to do.

If you’re not sure what to do then try this—if it isn’t a ‘fuck yes!’, then it’s a no.

Go on, live your life protecting your time as if it’s your most precious resource, because it is.

On Saying No’ was originally published via Minimalist Meditations.

Written by Jessica Dang
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Minimalism and the KonMari Method by Marie Kondo

kondo

I’ve been a long time fan of Marie Kondo and her work, so it’s been great to see her gain so much popularity lately.

Over the past few months, I’ve witnessed dozens of people doing big clear outs, giving stuff away for other people to use, or donating bags to charity. It’s great to see the mindset shift towards having less stuff becoming mainstream.

One thing I get asked about a lot is what I think about her ‘KonMari Method’. Essentially, it consists of six basic rules:

  1. Commit yourself to tidying up.
  2. Imagine your ideal lifestyle.
  3. Finish discarding first. Before getting rid of items, sincerely thank each item for serving its purpose.
  4. Tidy by category, not location.
  5. Follow the right order
  6. Ask yourself if it sparks joy.

There is so much that I love about her method. While I’m not able to sustain the rigorous folding rules of individual clothing items, I do agree with a lot of her philosophy:

Tidying as a reset button

In her book ‘The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying’, she says, “The moment you start you reset your life”. This is so true. Imagining your ideal lifestyle while committing to having a big clear out makes you rethink your relationship to stuff. You can address your anxieties and begin a new phase in your life where you don’t put as much emphasis on buying and having things. Kondo is careful to say that tidying is not a magic bullet that solves all the problems in your life, but since clutter naturally induces distraction and anxiety, getting rid of it is a good way to start.

Storing is not tidying

Tidying, done properly, should not be mistaken for simply making a house neater. “Putting things away creates the illusion that the clutter problem has been solved”, she writes. I’ve seen many people make the same mistake—just because things are hidden in drawers or organised in boxes it doesn’t mean it’s gone, and it doesn’t mean the underlying problem has been addressed. First, one must be willing and able to discard the unnecessary, then they can sort out the important items that are left. Hiding things is a way of not being honest with oneself.

Thank something before you get rid of it

It sounds silly but this has actually helped me say goodbye to things that I otherwise would have found hard to give or throw away. If it’s something that I used or wore a lot, it’s nice to say something like, “Thank you for the memories”. If it was something I didn’t use, at least I can say, “Thank you for teaching me that I didn’t need/suit this”. It helps to think that every item has played a role in my life, whether large or small, but nothing is forever and when it’s time to move on I can still be grateful for it in some way.

Tidy by category in the right order

Her method is clear that the best way to address stuff is in the order of clothes > books > papers > komono (a.k.a. Miscellaneous Items) > sentimental items. The rationale is that it goes from easiest to hardest, so that people can start with momentum, and by the time they get to the end they would have honed their ability to sense what sparks joy and won’t find it as difficult to get rid of sentimental things at the end. I do agree with this reasoning, and she does allow a lot of flexibility, which is just as well because people will differ greatly on what they have a lot or a little of, and what they find easy/difficult so the order might change. (See my personal meditations about this).

Keep the things that make you happy

Kondo isn’t a traditional ‘minimalist’ as most people think of the word. The criterion she uses to decide whether or not to keep an item is whether or not it ‘sparks joy’. Put simply, if it gives you a good feeling, then keep it. It doesn’t matter if the item is something that is regularly used or not, which is how ‘minimalists’ tend to decide. This way, you look to keep more happiness in your life, instead of chopping stuff out just because it doesn’t get used.

Minimalism and the KonMari method aren’t opposing ideals if you understand that minimalism isn’t about decluttering for the sake of it. Having a tidier house isn’t what’s important—it’s about getting rid of distractions so that you can focus on what matters most to you. It’s not about the number of things you own, but how much they make you happy.

If you think of it like that, minimalism and Kondo’s method have a lot in common. In the end, they both have the same noble goal—to find happiness beyond stuff.

Check out my personal thoughts/stories about this topic in my post ‘On Tidying’ via Minimalist Meditations

Written by Jessica Dang
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Last Year Reflections & Resolutions for 2019

At the end of each year, I find it a helpful exercise to look back on different areas of my life to see how things have changed, for better or for worse. Thankfully, with time and deliberate effort, this year I’ve managed to make good progress in most areas of my life:

People/relationships—The biggest thing that happened to me this year is that I got engaged! My partner and I have been happily together for six years now, and we’re very excited to move onto the next chapter in our life. With my grandma passing earlier in the year I made a special effort to spend more time with my family, including going on two trips abroad with both of my parents, something they hadn’t done in years.

  • People lesson of 2018: Even though it’s always possible to change and improve, many people choose to see the world as they want to. Whether it’s as a victim of circumstance or an agent of change, it’s not my responsibility (or even within my ability) to help everyone. Also, there is such a thing as people who love you for you are, but at the same time make you a better person for being with them.
  • People resolution for 2019: Don’t waste time and heartache on stubborn people. Make time for those who make me happiest.

Health—Although I managed to train and complete a marathon in 2016 and 2017, with my business taking up more of my time this year I couldn’t fit in the training for another marathon and settled on regularly attending fitness classes instead. So I didn’t participate in any major running events but I have improved in areas such as strength and flexibility. In 2019 I plan to do a yoga teaching qualification—hopefully the anticipation of the course and the training itself will motivate me to get exponentially stronger and more flexible.

  • Health lesson of 2018: A healthy body isn’t just about being slim—it’s about being strong, flexible, durable, adaptable, fast, and eating well.
  • Health resolution for 2019: Inspired by this Instagram, I will do something that contributes to my strength and flexibility everyday, even if it’s only a few stretches. Also, I will try to get my yoga teaching qualification, finally after 5+ years of practising yoga.

Business—I’ve increased the size and net income of my investment portfolio by a third over the last year which is a great achievement, but I had originally aimed for a 50% increase. Circumstances at the end of the year meant that I couldn’t complete in certain investments before the end of the year, but I should be very grateful for what I’ve accomplished and keep the momentum going.

  • Business lesson of 2018: how important it is to not get involved with things that will cause unnecessary anxiety later on, and how often something that seems like a big deal now won’t matter in a week/month/year’s time.
  • Business resolution for 2019: Don’t sweat the small stuff. Keep better track of my net worth and focus on the bigger picture.

Self improvement—At the beginning of this year, I wrote a post about how I was often unable to concentrate on a single task for longer than a few minutes before being distracted by something else. So I reduced distractions in my life by not reading the news on a daily basis and turning off notifications. As a result, I managed to write at least once every month for this blog, and read 52 books this year.

  • Self improvement lessons for 2018: The power of setting a big goal, then breaking it down to yearly/monthly/weekly/daily tasks cannot be underestimated. Most things can be accomplished through discipline and hustle. Compare yourself upwards with people who you want to become to push yourself to improve, not downwards with people who haven’t done what you have to make you feel better.
  • Self-improvement resolution for 2019: Stay hungry, stay humble.

On Values’ was originally published via Minimalist Meditations.

Written by Jessica Dang
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How our values change the course of our lives

compass
Ask people what is most important to them—what they think is the foundation for the best kind of life—and most would reply, “love, happiness, and good health.”

They’re not wrong. There’s lots you can live without, but if you don’t feel anyone cares about you, or fulfilled in any way, or if your body is failing, it’s hard to imagine life being that great.

On top of those, there are many other things that people value in life, such as:

  • Security (the feeling of safety and stability)
  • Intimacy (feeling connected or close to others)
  • Adventure (seeking fun/thrills, wanting to try out new things)
  • Freedom (being independent, ability to make own choices)
  • Contribution (making a positive change or difference)
  • Success (feeling accomplished)
  • Passion (doing enjoyable things)
  • Growth (learning new things, self-improvement)
  • Integrity (being honest and having strong moral principles)
  • Comfort (seeking pleasure, avoiding pain)
  • Many others…

What each value means and how important they are varies between each person. How you rank these values can affect everything from what kind of job or career you have, to who you choose for a partner (or, at least, what/who you would be happy with in the long term). One might value passion over security, and choose a job or person they love over one that earns more. Another might be horrified at that idea and do the opposite.

Values can be opposing or overlapping. Contribution might be synonymous with success for some, whilst others believe sacrificing security is necessary for success, in their startup for example.

What’s more, some people have higher values in one area, and a different value in other areas. Someone might seek security above all else in their relationships, but go all out adventurous in their travels.

The whole topic of values can be quite complex, but the main point is that you’ll hardly find two things on the anyone’s list that the majority of people in the modern world are spending most of their waking life on—money and material things.

Money and material things are not really values, but are means to get some of the feelings we do value. Money may give people a sense of security or freedom, and having nice things gives some people comfort, or a feeling of accomplishment.

Rarely are money and things actually valuable to people, deep down. Yes, money can afford you basic necessities and healthcare, but it can’t buy you love and fulfilment. Ask anyone who has bought something that they’ve long dreamed of buying if they would happily die now, you’ll hear a resounding no.

Living minimally is a reminder to focus on our values. Instead of being caught up with keeping up with the latest trends on Instagram, or what people think of us, we instead try to minimise distractions and bring our actions back in line with what’s really important to us.

Would you buy the biggest house on the street if you didn’t have time to spend in it with your family? That depends if you value love over what the neighbours think. Would you get into debt for the latest gadget or designer shoes? That depends if you value security and freedom over appearances.

Our values don’t make us who we are but how we rank them influences everything we do. Our actions should be aligned with our values, but you’ll be surprised by how many people haven’t even thought about it, or spend years ignoring the signs, or even doing the complete opposite of what would actually make them happy.

If we can agree that the best life is spent dedicated to what mattered to us the most, then let’s not waste any more time. Cut out, pare down, simplify. Clear the path ahead. By deciding what we value the most, we create our life compass, pointing us in the direction we want to go.

On Values’ was originally published via Minimalist Meditations.

Written by Jessica Dang
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On Materialism

An often misunderstood part of minimalism is that it is an all or nothing deal.

With popular books, articles and videos showing ‘minimalists’ living in white boxes with just three shirts, two plates, and one pen, it’s no wonder why most people get the wrong idea.

A minimalist lifestyle is defined by each individual’s own terms. For some, owning less than 100 things is their definition. It’s not wrong, but it’s doesn’t fit every aspiring minimalist. Rather than being defined by how much you have or don’t have, it’s about being mindful of the things we introduce and keep in our lives.

Sometimes things have a use, and that’s okay.

A case for stuff

It has become fashionable to demonise acquiring material things as a waste of money and a pointless exercise. Most of us know that buying more won’t keep us happy in the long term, but that doesn’t stop us from doing it.

The feeling of satisfaction or superiority that comes from buying certain things is superficial, which is why the rush doesn’t last long. But some possessions can actually be meaningful to us.

A new suit gives us a much needed confidence boost at work, a set of paintbrushes reveal our creative side, a language course booked to learn something new, a tablet computer connects us to family and friends, a skiing holiday pushes us to take risks, a photo album full of memories makes us smile, a full bookshelf reminds us of how much we’ve learned over the years…

Things like this are needed as part of a life well lived. It may be an unpopular conclusion to come to on a blog about minimalism, but perhaps sometimes buying stuff is not a complete waste after all.

Importantly, however, is the realisation that just having useful possessions is not enough by itself to transform us for the better. Even religions like Zen Buddhism which encourage the use of mindfulness bells acknowledge that a bell by itself is not enough to make us paragons of calm. But for many monks and laypeople, every ring feels like it’s tuning them little by little into the kind of person they aspire to be.

Approached in the right way, material goods can help us become happier people, but achieving the right balance can be difficult. Here is where minimalism as a practice comes in—helping us become more disciplined with our desires and mindful of distractions that tempt us away from the kind of life we want to live.

On Materialism’ was originally published via Minimalist Meditations.

Written by Jessica Dang
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Minimalism and our natural biology

brain

Based on thousands of years of evolution, our bodies are biologically hard-wired to reward us when we feel pleasure, and punish us when we feel pain. If you do something that your body likes, it rewards you with a rush of dopamine, endorphins, and other chemicals making you feel happy. It hardly matters what the consequences are in the long term.

The major flaw in this system is that any pleasurable feelings that you initially felt for doing/eating/getting something will always fade away. This is so that you’ll go out of your way to get it again.

Imagine if a chimp ate a banana and felt happy about it for the rest of his life. He would eventually die of starvation whilst his chimp friends whose dopamine hits faded away would go on to seek the feeling again. The most well fed chimps would be the strongest and most likely to find mates, thereby passing on their dopamine seeking genes. Meanwhile our chimp who got everlasting happiness from his first banana wouldn’t be motivated to do much else, and would likely end up dying without having passed its genes.

Multiply this by thousands of generations of evolution and couple it with the fact that we can get dopamine fixes as easily as buying a new pair of shoes and we begin to understand why living a minimalist lifestyle is so difficult.

To intentionally abstain from the fun and flashy things that wins us social approval is basically going against human nature itself. Indeed, humans are especially difficult to please because it doesn’t take long for our brains to become normalised to the hit of buying the latest gadget before having it is no longer enough. At least chimps are happy with bananas—if they were human they would inevitably get bored and find a way to upgrade to the latest version.

What can we do about this? Unfortunately, short of reprogramming our evolutionary biology, we can’t do a whole lot about the way that our brains react to pleasure, or absence of pleasure. But as Homo Sapiens we do have the ability to override our biology using our intellect. We can look back into the past, come to conclusions about our decisions, and make predictions about the future.

We can look back and see that for almost every material thing we have bought in our lives, the ‘happiness’ we felt in that moment eventually faded. From this we can conclude that continually buying new things may not be an effective or sustainable way to obtain happiness. Instead, we can decide to concentrate on the kinds of things that make happiness last, such as our hobbies and achievements, memorable experiences, and close relationships.

Being human can be both a curse and a blessing. When I see how happy a pet dog is playing in the grass, or how satisfied with life a house cat is, I sometimes wonder why we humans have to make things so complicated.

Maybe if we spent half as much time and effort learning how to be happy as we do on buying stuff, we could actually do it. Just as we can choose to have carrots over cake, our biology can be overcome—it’s a factor, not an excuse. Perhaps the real determinants of happiness are how ready we are make the most of the situation we’re in, and our willingness to make the hard choices. That’s what makes a difference.

On Nature’ was originally published via Minimalist Meditations.

Written by Jessica Dang
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How a Stolen Bike Made Me Rich

bike

A few years ago, back when I was still a university student, I bought a brand new road bike which I owned and loved for a couple of months before it was quietly stolen in the early hours of a grey rainy morning. There were no any security cameras, so the local police couldn’t do anything about it. I never got it back.

I was devastated. It was worth the equivalent of a few hundred dollars, which was a lot of money to me back then when I only working part-time around my studies for £8 an hour and was spending less than £20 a week on food. For months after that every time I thought about the money I wasted on a stolen bike I would kick myself for not being more careful.

I was so upset and angry that I made a vow to myself that one day I would earn enough money so that losing a few hundred dollars would never affect me so badly again.

Little did I know that over the next few years the incident would become fuel for my future growth and a valuable life lesson.

Over the following months I worked hard to finish my degree and was awarded prestigious internships in the public sector. I was offered good job opportunities at the end, but I turned them down because it wasn’t enough for me. I switched to the private sector because it paid more money. I’m not saying that the bike incident was the only reason (after all, I had been bought up by Asian immigrant parents who equated money with self-worth which took me years to get over) but I was definitely motivated by earning more money for the better part of my career.

Eventually I grew exhausted with corporate life, so I quit the conventional career path and started my own business so I could work less but still, of course, earn more money. To cut a long story short, now my investments are paying off and my business is growing every year. I’ve earned and saved enough resources in the last two or three years that I’ve noticed myself feeling more free about spending and giving money away.

So thanks to the bike thief, I made and fulfilled that promise to myself to earn enough money so that a few hundred dollars isn’t such a big deal any more. At least, it’s not worth getting so upset over because I can earn it back. But looking back now I can see that the original promise was a shallow reaction to losing money. The real question is, how can feel less stressed about money, and more happy about my life? Is it as simple as earning more?

No, the answer is more complex. Certainly earning more money helps (and I do appreciate there are people who don’t have a lot and would be horrified at the thought of working hard for something expensive and having it stolen—see above, I’ve been there) but as I get older and I naturally cycle through more things over time, I’ve also noticed myself getting less and less attached to things in general.

Whereas when I was a child the few toys and clothes I had were precious to me, nearly three decades later I’ve gone through hundreds of possessions which have come into my life, been used, and then donated or disposed of. It’s not that I’m much more wasteful than the average person (in fact as a practising minimalist I have less than most people) but it’s just a natural result of living a normal life—clothes wear down, favourite mugs break, books get read, gadgets die… eventually things get replaced. Repeat the process a few dozen times for everything I’ve ever owned and naturally one becomes less attached to each thing. Heck, I’ve even gone through another 1-2 bikes since that one was stolen (before you judge, I cycle everywhere, I don’t own a car). It hasn’t escaped my notice how extremely rich and privileged I already am to be able to live like this.

However, the most important factor is gaining an awareness of time passing, and having more important things in my life to occupy me as I grow older. My business, my health, my relationships with my partner, family and friends… they all take time and mental energy to maintain and grow but they are the things that matter to me the most. They make my life worthwhile and I would pay any amount of money to have them. It just doesn’t make sense to waste energy worrying about buying/keeping material stuff or fretting about small things that don’t matter in the long run.

All of this, I realise, is what a minimalist lifestyle is supposed to be about—not having less stuff for the sake of it, but having less because it means worrying less and enjoying more.

Minimalism gives us the freedom to separate the trivial from the vital, to let go of stuff so that we can get over one stupid stolen bike and go on to lead a a rich and meaningful life anyway.

On Perspective’ was originally published via Minimalist Meditations.

Written by Jessica Dang
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Dear Grandma

by Jessica Dang

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My dear mama, you passed away earlier this month.

You had been ill for a long time, so it wasn’t unexpected. At least you were surrounded by family when it happened. Everyone dropped everything to go to your house that night. There were a lot of tears.

You lived a hard and busy life, immigrating from Vietnam to England forty years ago bringing your ten children with you. With such a big family, your house always had people coming in and out to visit, to talk about everything and nothing, to eat and drink tea until late into the night. Weddings, birthdays, and Chinese New Years have always been hectic and wonderful and full of food and laughter.

In the end though, old age took over. You got breast cancer, and eventually liver cancer and other ailments that made you so weak you needed help with everything. We all did our best to take care of you, getting you the best treatment we could, but in the end, we had to let you go.

Growing up, you didn’t have much. You married a man, my grandfather, who was from a village in the mountains near the border of China and Vietnam. You had to have ten children because you were so poor you didn’t know how many would survive until adulthood. Some actually didn’t survive—as close as we all are, there are members of our family that I would never know.

So it’s no wonder you valued money so much. Having it meant the survival of your family, which was everything to you. When you all came to England in the 1980’s to look for a better life, everyone worked hard at the few years they had at school to learn English so that they could find work. My own father, who was 14 at the time you moved here, only had a single year of education. Those first few years were all about learning to survive in a new world.

Eventually everyone found their feet. All ten children became adults, found jobs or started successful businesses and married and had children. Some even went on to have their own children and you and Grandad became great-grandparents. Ten years ago, Grandad passed away and although you were alone without him, you were never lonely with all of us being there for you.

We started with nothing but now our family has more money than we could have imagined as refugees from a mountain village. You started a dynasty, but we haven’t forgotten our roots. Although money is useful, it isn’t the most important thing. To this day every one of us would do anything to support each other.

You were a minimalist by circumstance, not by choice. You didn’t have much, but what you did have and all that mattered were things that money couldn’t buy—good health for as long as possible, a loving family, and living a full and happy life. You had everything you ever needed, and I’m glad for that.

May you rest in peace.

‘Dear Grandma’ post was originally published via Minimalist Meditations.

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On Maturity — What would I tell myself if I could go back 10 years?

by Jessica Dang

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It was my 27th birthday this month. Although I don’t feel that old yet, almost every day I’m reminded of memes I don’t understand, trends I haven’t heard of, or technology I didn’t know existed. I feel a big difference between myself and ‘kids these days’. In fact, I have a brother who is 11 years younger than me, but it often feels like he’s from a different generation.

Amongst all of this change in the world, I realise there has been a lot of change within myself too. I wasn’t always so comfortable with not being up-to-date on the latest fashions and gadgets. Like most teenagers, I overcompensated for my self-confidence issues by trying in my own way to be as cool as possible. For me that meant having cool stuff like the latest iPhone or laptop to show off with. People would gather around me and it would make me feel better about myself, but only for a while. Obviously buying stuff wasn’t a long term fix for my insecurities. Those times sowed the seeds for the minimalist lifestyle I developed soon after.

As a teenager I dreaded getting older, but a decade later I’m in a much, much better place. The biggest lesson I learned is to not give a f*ck. Who cares where I live, what job I do, or whether I have the latest iPhone? No one! Or at least, no one cares nearly as much as I thought.

Realising that and being okay with it has been huge. Once I let go of other people’s expectations of me, I was free to do whatever I want—it’s unlikely people care enough to judge me for it, and even if they did, who cares! Certainly not me.

Hence living minimally to avoid debt and save up enough to be able to quit my job in my mid-twenties to start my own business. Could I have done that if I was concerned about what people thought of me? Probably not. I would have felt too self conscious to say no to spending $100 on a night out, worrying about what outfit I was wearing, or which car I was driving, or staying in a luxury hotel so that I could instagram it, instead of saving up the start up capital I needed to be free of those kinds of traps.

Two years on, I only work a couple of hours a week but earn twice as much as I did in my soul-sucking job. I have the freedom to pursue anything I want to. I can sleep/read/travel whenever I want, and thanks to not being tied to a desk all day, my health is better than ever. On top of that, I can give more to people and causes I care about, because I have more to give.

It wasn’t easy getting here, but neither was it that hard to be honest. It was a series of small sacrifices and good decisions that paid off. I only wish I started started sooner. That is, if I could go back ten years and give advice to my 17 year old self, or indeed to my younger brother now, I would say, “Hey, you. Stop worrying so much about what other people think, they don’t know all the answers themselves. Breathe. If you do what you feel is the right thing, you’re going to find happiness. I promise.

‘On Maturity’ was originally published via Minimalist Meditations.

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