Lately, I've been thinking a lot about minimalism and how to live minimally. As my client base gets fuller and my life and relationships more precious, I find myself pining for simplicity and time in the mountains.
However, what has always puzzled me about minimalism is the immense abundance of nature. As I strive to make a dent in my positive impact on the environment by recycling or being mindful of purchases, a part of me simultaneously seeks MORE... more mastery, more health, more fun, and lavish abundance. Did you know that our brains are wired for more?
(Look at the beauty and extravagance of the peacock. Can you imagine saying to him, "What's with all the feathers?" Nope, we just observe in awe.)
Where is the balance between living simply and also abundantly?
My perspective is that everyone gets to choose. The key is our intention and how we derive value. Happiness and the quality of life depend on what we value, not the volume. And how present we are in our lives.
Take for example, most everyone has experienced the wonderful feeling of leaving a salon with great-looking hair—beautifully sculpted, every hair flowing in the right direction? Pretty awesome, isn't it? I love that feeling; for me, it's part of my self-care. However, for others it's just another task or have-to; for some, it's an extravagance; they style their own hair to save money. And for people like my mom, it's dreaded. She would postpone making the hair appointment until her hair became unbearable to her.I landed a great stylist several years ago, one who takes her profession very seriously and has kept up with the latest industry trends. You might say that she has mastery in her trade. To my good fortune, she agreed to share her secrets with me because I could never repeat the look she crafted! By learning simple techniques, like taking smaller clumps of hair when straightening or cooling hair to set the curl, my hair regularly looks better. However, even more valuable was how the same keys applied to life.
Recently while getting my hair cut, I lamented to her that even though I knew how to style my hair better now, I still find myself quickly fixing my hair to get out the door in the morning. My hairdresser told me to cut myself some slack. Then she confessed and admitted that she rarely put the kind of care into her own hair that she puts into her clients'. She rushed to get out the door, too!
Every industry and field of knowledge has its little secrets. The people in each trade master specific skills because they practice them every day, repeating them meticulously, performing them deliberately in a certain way. However, what stood out for me in this experience is that even when we KNOW something, nothing changes unless we USE it! And we must take actions consistently for them to become habits.
For example, if your goal is to eat healthier and lose weight, you don't eat a dozen chocolates a day. However, grabbing an apple or a few almonds for a snack would align with that intention.
Related reading: "The Power of Habit—One Habit Can Transform Your Life!"
5 Lessons to Greater Self-Awareness
When seeking to live minimally or simplify one's life, it takes mindfulness, consistency, and practice. It's a new way of interacting with ourselves and the world. We often default back to our old ways before a habit sticks.
Here are a few insights that I've gained that may be helpful to you whether you're trying to live more simply, be more mindful, or not yell at your kids.
1) You can’t expect a good result without knowing what you want.
A part of being human, and an inclination of our brains, is to identify what we don't like or want rather than to decide precisely what we do want, learn how, and go after it with a passion. Having a clear picture of what we want and the practical steps to get there are essential. No matter what skill we have mastered, this knowledge doesn't do us any good if we don't know where we're going. Or perhaps we have too much to care for or too little time to enjoy what is most valued by us. It's not enough to see or know, we must act!
2) Less is more.
You've probably heard this expression frequently, especially when it comes to minimalism. But how do we translate less in our daily life in a useful way that also enriches our lives?
Just as grabbing too much hair to style isn't effective, sometimes we take on too much in life as well. One simple and basic tip made remarkable changes in the way my hair looked: dry and style using small clumps of hair at a time. Trying to do too much in a hurry couldn't possibly get the result I was looking for! Less really is more!
When we try to change too much too fast, we often relapse and fail to meet our objective. Take small, steadfast steps that can be sustained consistently. This approach allows us to make steady progress and adjust to the changes so they seem manageable and natural.
Related reading: "What Is Minimalism?"
3) Don't expect an ideal result unless you are willing to apply the effort, time, and attention required.
Another lesson for me: it's okay to choose to save time and do a slip-shot job with my hair if time is the priority. What doesn't work is expecting the same quality. My frustration and disappointment regarding my hair are often the results of expecting the same result as if I had taken the time and gone through the necessary actions.
Also, if you want the ideal outcome, set your life up for success. Create an environment that makes it easy to stay consistent with your goal. For instance, if you want to live more simply, buy less stuff, and make a trip to the Goodwill regularly. Or, if you want more time for meditation, mindfulness, and quality relationships, your choices need to reflect this priority. You can't work 70 hours a week and expect spaciousness in your life and relationships.
4) Give focused attention to the present.
Here’s another distinction in how my hairdresser was styling my hair: she concentrated entirely on what she was doing, like a person balancing on a tight rope. Completely absorbed. Like it or not, multitasking doesn't create the same result.
Whenever I carve more time to work on my hair and put my focus on what I am doing, my hair looks better. (Rushing = bad hair day.) The lesson: devote time and focused attention to what is important to YOU.
It may not be to live a life of a monk's simplicity, but whatever does bring you joy, do it with gusto!
5) If you want better results, you can’t keep practicing the old way.
I wanted my hair to look professionally done without the necessary ingredient of adequate time and focus on being successful. Now I decide what is most important throughout my day. If I don't want to rush, I allow time for relaxed travel or more time in between clients. If I want quality time with my husband or children, I plan for it. Being a grandma is precious to me so I carve a day every week to be with her.
Small but crucial keys make life easier, create higher quality, and get far superior results.
Mentors help us see the blind spots that are creating substandard results. They teach us skills and offer us bits of knowledge to increase our effectiveness and inspire us to reach higher. But the rest is up to us! We cannot change or have a better result without doing something different.
I, for one, am grateful for fewer bad hair days!
If you'd like a little help learning how to be your own inner life coach and spot areas needing attention, check out our Emotional Intelligence online course, which includes a section on self-awareness, or visit our online store for other products to help you create a life you love!