It may seem strange to discuss ‘mindfulness and attitude’ on a website dedicated to the practice of simplicity. Isn’t this supposed to be about actually doing things differently, not just thinking differently? Yes it is, but it is very important to understand that the Simpler Way is first and foremost a frame of mind, a set of attitudes. If our minds are not in order, the Simpler Way will not make sense. Below are some important things to think about – to think seriously about – as you undertake your practical transition to a simpler life.
- Affirm life: Everyday we are faced with a fundamental choice about how we approach life. Choose positivity. If we do not begin each day by saying ‘yes’ to life – even in the face of adverstity – then all else is lost. Attitude matters.
- Take a second look: Dissatisfaction with our material or financial situations can sometimes be the result of failing to look properly at our lives, rather than the result of any genuine ‘lack.’ Take a second look. When we understand that genuine wealth does not depend on having the latest consumer products, we might discover that we are much richer than we sometimes think we are.
- Do not confuse ‘standard of living’ with ‘quality of life’: There comes a point when pursuing a higher ‘standard of living,’ in terms of material wealth, adds absolutely nothing to ‘quality of life,’ in terms of overall wellbeing. Pursuing material wealth can even detract from quality of life if we aren’t careful. If you focus on ‘quality of life’ you will discover it doesn’t depend on being materially wealthy. So step out of the rat race. Seek true abundance – sustainable abundance – in the Simpler Way. ‘There is no wealth but life.’
- Ask yourself: ‘How much is enough?’ Consumer society is defined by the ethos that ‘more is always better.’ The Simpler Way is defined by the ethos that ‘Just enough is plenty.’ As Henry Thoreau once wrote: ‘Superfluous wealth can buy superfluities only.’ Don’t waste life on superfluities. Know how much is enough.
- Overcome status anxiety: Many people today work jobs they don’t like, to buy things they don’t need, so that they can impress people they don’t like. But at the end of life these people will deeply regret spending their lives trying to impress other people. Be humble and seek to impress yourself only. Let other people worry about chasing status. This perspective is extremely liberating.
- The ‘Deathbed’ thought-experiment: If you were lying on your deathbed, reflecting on your life, how would you want to have lived? How important will material possessions seem to you on your deathbed? You might agree that ultimately it’s not the possessions that will matter. It’s the people and the experiences. So live life for the people and the experiences, not the stuff. Privilege ‘being’ over ‘having’.
- Be Grateful: Be grateful for what we have. Do not always demand more. Let us embrace sufficiency, moderation, and frugality. Less really can be more.
- Live Deliberately: Escaping the mindset of consumer culture takes effort. Re-read these points slowly everyday until they take root in personal experience.
If you are interested in some more elaborate ‘thought experiments’ on the Simpler Way, please download our Meditations On Simplicity.