by Leo Babauta
We strive to improve our lives, often because we are dissatisfied with how things are. I know this, because I’ve lived it.
I don’t like the way I look, so I try to improve myself. I don’t like my house, so I work to get a better one. I want everyone around me to improve too, so I push them to change, and get frustrated when they won’t.
This striving never ends. When we are unsatisfied with how things are, including ourselves, we make changes, but then what? We are still unsatisfied, because the root cause of this problem isn’t the things around us (or how we look, etc.), but our expectations. We expect things to be different.
This means we are always unhappy in some way. Things don’t meet our expectations. We try to correct this problem by changing the world around us, trying to get others to change, trying to change ourselves. Our compulsion to spend, to consume, to buy more stuff … it’s rooted in this as well. And so minimalism is an attempt to fix the compulsion, but that can really only be done once we address the root problem: our expectations.
Sit for a minute and look at the things around you. Are you happy with them, or would you like things to change? Think about what you do each day, and ask if you’re happy with your daily life, or if you’d like change. Think about the people in your life, and ask if you’re happy with them, or if you’d like them to change. Think about yourself, and see if there are things you’re dissatisfied with, if you’d like to change yourself.
Now, for each thing you think needs change, try sitting for a minute and see if you can simply accept each one, as they are right now. See if you can accept each person in your life for who they are, exactly as they are. See if you can accept your body for what it is, without the need for change. It takes practice, so if you aren’t good at it at first (and I’m still not a master at it myself), practice. It’s an enlightening process, to be sure.
This doesn’t mean we’ll never change anything. We can develop healthy habits and make our bodies healthier over time, but we can do that while also being happy with who we already are. Change is inevitable, but it doesn’t necessarily require that we not accept things as they are, that we not be happy with things as they already are.
Once we become happy with things, people, and ourselves … as they are … we can become whole, without the need to spend money to fill a hole in our lives. Then minimalism becomes a possibility, because once we are OK with things as they are, we can simply strip away the unnecessary, and be content with little.