The importance of living simply cannot be overstated. This is a rather personal blog entry and I hope that you can “hear” it without your filters on. You may agree or disagree with me and that’s fine. I am not trying to convince you of anything nor am I trying to change your mind about anything you currently hold as true. What I do hope is that you will ask yourselves some questions and that you will look deeply in what is true FOR YOU.
The last few months for me have been an incredible experience. As many of you know, my wife, 12-year-old daughter and I have been living the simple life in Mexico. In fact, most of that time has been spent living on a beach in a small (very small) tent trailer. In that time, we have come to see what things are important in life and which are simply not. The most obvious things of importance are family, health, happiness, food, clean water, and safe shelter. I think we can all agree that those things are important. Are there other things that land on your “important list?” There certainly could be. Here’s my list as it stands today (keep in mind that some may be doubles or subsets of previous items) and I’m keenly aware that this list changes almost daily as new joys enter my life.
That Which Is Important
- Clean Water
- Safe Shelter
- Healthy Food
- Freedom (define this as you may as it means many things to me)
- An Open Heart
- An Open Mind
- A Sense of Humor
- A Willingness to Forgive and Be Forgiven
- Quiet (inside and out)
- Peace (inside and out)
- Clean Air
- Connection With Nature
- Money (This can be on either list depending on your relationship with it)
So what about the things we don’t need? As I mentioned at the end of my list, the M word can potentially find itself listed as something of importance or something that we don’t need. How do you relate to money? Do you see it as the root of all evil or something to help spread joy? Perhaps it’s somewhere in between for you. Like everything else on your lists (assuming you decide to take some time to create lists like these) I would hope that you really look at the truths underneath, in between, and around all of your beliefs. I use money as a trigger point here because it is so often surrounded by story and beliefs that come from generations past, the “norm” of community around us, or some other outside influence. So look at what’s true for you with regard to all things “important” and “not important.”
That Which Is Not Important
- A Big House
- Video Games
- Stuff (the things that commercials tell us we need)
- More than 2 or 3 Pairs of Shoes
- A Huge Wardrobe
- Double Master Suite Sinks
- A “Great Room”
- A Big Refrigerator (the extra food will only end up rotting)
- Anything you can’t actually use to make your life better (I mean truly better)
It’s actually really funny that as I write the list of things that are not important, I find that I can’t seem to describe the items I want to list. I wonder why. Perhaps it’s because I really don’t focus on those things anymore? I don’t know. The phrase that keeps coming to mind is “all the junk that our society says we need…when in fact, we really don’t need it.” I had an “aha” moment the other day when we spent a night at a hotel and watched TV. I was so disturbed by all of the commercials (not to mention the programming itself…what a waste of energy) as it seemed that everybody was trying to sell me something. My wife pointed out that this was of course true, as that is the purpose of commercials.
I know it seems silly, but somehow I had not really noticed that I was being bombarded with sales pitches all day long via TV, billboards, radio ads, and more. It had become part of my landscape. Now having been away from it for so long, it was painfully obvious. I bet that if you spent a month without any TV whatsoever, you too would have a similar experience. In fact, many of you may have just taken a deep breath of discomfort just in hearing the suggestion of not watching TV for a month. It has become such a part of so many people’s lives, that living without it seems scary. Why? What will you miss? What might happen to you if you don’t watch TV?
If you are inspired to ask yourself some tough questions, I hope that you will take the time and courage to do just that. Finding out for yourself what things are truly important is a first step to living a simple life. After all, if you don’t know what things really matter, it’s easy to lose focus and spread your attention to all kinds of things. That weakens your energy and your ability to create what you want in your life in the same way that spreading a tiny piece of butter over toast seems to make the butter simply disappear, not increase the flavor of the bread.
So, where to start? I offer this suggestion again: disconnect your TV for a month. Experience your life without it and see what happens. I think you’ll be amazed at how much time you have, especially in the evenings, to do things that inspire you. Read a book, learn a language, play with your family, or discover some other place to find joy in your life. With the TV gone, you’ll have lots of time to really explore other important questions. Maybe make yourself lists of your own. What’s really important? When you know the answer to that question, you can start lining up the details of your life to support those things and to let go of those that are not important and serve only as a distraction from that which really matters.