I often get messages from people asking what they need to do to simplify their life. They ask what they should do first. Should they declutter? Should they work less? Should they become frugal? My answer is always that the most important thing that they can do is to work on, and change, their mindset. All the other things are superficial, but mindset is in their control and is the real key to whether or not one can maintain a simple life. The changes have to come from the inside first.
CHANGING HABITS IS NOT ENOUGH
My experience when I first started cutting back was that when I started doing all the external things life still felt hard, uncomfortable and as if something was missing. I was bored and did not feel fulfilled. I was doing some of the things that books tell you to do to simplify your life but I wasn’t getting the peace that people talked about. Initially, changing my life was dumped on me as I had suffered a break down, I fought my sickness to go back to work, and then consequently was told that I was no longer fit for my responsible job, and so was given 3 months’ notice. It was a very worrying time. I felt like I was going to lose ‘everything’. It took a 3 year fight to keep my job, but the real battle that I won was in my head. Once my head was sorted, I walked away from the job that I had clung on to, freely and gladly 6 years after my illness. I knew that keeping the career that I had worked so hard to achieve wasn’t important anymore. My health was my priority, my family, and feeling joy every day instead of dread.
FINDING OUT WHAT IS IMPORTANT TO ME
My thinking changed, which led to my life reflecting my inner beliefs. I sorted out in my head what meant the most to me. I did life coaching activities to realise what my values and priorities were, as when initially asked I didn’t have a clue. (My next IT lesson in a month is hopefully going to help me make free resources to share some life coaching activities). I then learned to say “no” to things that didn’t fit those priorities. Knowing what my values and priorities are helps me now make time for what is important, and helps me declutter my life of people, habits, and material possessions that don’t align with them. I am still a work in progress, though, but improving all the time.
REALISING THAT MATERIAL POSSESSIONS DO NOT DEFINE ME
Another mindset change was realising that material things and how much money I earned didn’t define me. As my self-esteem and self-worth improved, I became proud of my values of kindness and integrity rather than my job title or salary. I also became aware that time was more valuable than money. Time meant freedom which was something I hadn’t felt since being a teenager. I had wasted so much time in a job I grew to hate, mixing with people with whom I felt nothing in common with, just to impress people who didn’t give a damn about me. Boundaries entered my life as I started to love myself.
LEARNING TO BE GRATEFUL
I had gone through most of my life wanting what other people had, not just material things, but the support they had, the fun they had, the way their lives always seemed ‘perfect’ whilst I always felt that it was me against the world. A massive mindset change was learning to be grateful. I realised that there was a lot more going on underneath those perfect lives which were not as pretty as they seemed. I started examining my own life and realised how lucky and fortunate I was. First thing when I woke up in the morning I would do an exercise which was listing 10 things that I was grateful for from the day before. At first I found this hard and I would just name generic things like the fact that it was sunny the day before. As I practiced I added more minute detail. Over time I stopped looking at was was lacking in my life and started focussing on what was positive in my life. This helps a lot with contentment.
BECOMING MORE MINDFUL
One thing that did change during this time was .that I became more mindful in all areas of my life. I became more intentional with how I spent my time, what I spent my money on, who I spent my time with, and the habits that I placed into my life. I tried to behave in a way that supported the vision that I had of my simple life. I also became more mindful of what was around me and noticed things that I had passed a million times before but not seen. An example is the 9 cherry trees that I pass when ever I walk to town along the canal.
As a young child I spent most of my time outside in nature. Every day I would take a sandwich and a Penguin biscuit and a flask of water and disappear for the day if I was not at school. I would build dens, climb trees, make clay pots, build fires and cook vegetables left behind when the market gardens had harvested. As an adult I spent little time outside unless I took my children out for the day or was exploring on holiday. Renewing my relationship with nature and re-discovered the joy, the support and the health benefits that it provides gives me balance in my simple life and has helped with my mindset. I get so much pleasure from the sunsets, a wood full of blue bells, an electric storm or dancing in the rain. I don’t need much to keep me happy now, I am rarely bored and I know that I have an abundant life.
I know that many people search for an instant ‘hack’ to change their mindset, but it is a gradual process that takes time as you discover your authentic self. By investing time into working on your mindset and yourself, a simple life reduces stress and can change your whole personality as it has mine since I found peace and purpose in my simple, frugal life.
How did you change your mindset so that you enjoy a simple life?