Aim for a Mindful, Not Minimal, Life

Can you recall the name of the latest self-actualization article you’ve read on the web this month? Raise your hand if you have attempted –– and tragically failed at achieving what it said to do. Raise your hand if you’ve discovered:

  1. Being a digital nomad isn’t for you.
  2. Hygge didn’t make you happy.
  3. KonMari didn’t declutter your mind after decluttering your home.
  4. Becoming a minimalist only prompted you to buy more things.

{Is your hand up?}

Now raise that other hand if you are utterly exhausted by finding who you are and what your passions are through the latest trend that people say will bring you these answers.

{Are your hands up in surrender?}

I have to be honest, as one of the many who became intrigued, and then obsessed with almost all these concepts above, lately, I’ve found myself asking, “has the quest for a minimalistic life based on self-care and radical experiences started to do more harm than good?” Has the challenge of curbing your consumption left you even more bankrupt – physically, financially, mentally?

I’m going to tell you, right now, that living a free-spirited, semi-nomadic, minimalist lifestyle doesn’t help you find HYGGE and no amount of KonMari will set free you from the clutter found in your life. When it comes to constructing a life worth living, it can’t be found in self-help books –– most self-help books suck.

This $9.6 billion industry is built on the same principles of why we buy into and adopt so many other (physical) things; all companies use tactics to get you to aspire and strive for something/more/better. In this case –– less; but less as more is nothing new.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m inspired by stories related to HYGGE and Spark Joy was worth the read, but happiness isn’t going to be found in lack of ownership, denial of creature comforts and empty crevices found within your home. Here’s what I have to say:

Happiness is going to found in living a life that is suited to you and what you need as the person you are. Happiness is subjective. Happiness is not one size fits all, nor should it be. What works for one person won’t work for others –– and that’s okay.

Let’s take a step back — from natural resources to goods sold, Americans consume more than any other country around the globe; it’s our consumption that is making us unhappy. We are taught that we always need more, should have more, should do more. We are making ourselves physically and mentally ill. The minimal living trend was born out of this as an extreme reaction to physical and mental ailments Western society faces with an over-consumptive consumer culture.

But dear readers, if diets and budgets don’t work, what makes us think minimal will either? It’s hard, we do need things depending on what we do in life. To deny ourselves those things adds stress, the lack of something ultimately causes us to fall off the wagon and then binge on what we’ve been depriving ourselves of.

So what’s the cure? Well, it’s not to get rid of things or go to extremes –– it’s to accept what we have and look at the habits that drive us. That requires conscious, and sometimes painful, thought. We have to look at, analyze and identify what’s driving our consumptive behavior.

Analyzing this is related to MINDFULNESS, another term that’s being thrown around the web, as an alternative to extreme ends of the consumption or anti-consumption spectrums. I am not talking about the mindfulness related to hippie-dippy, new age lifestyles; I am talking about mindfulness as it relates to the decisions and choices we make in our lives. What I’m getting at is that behavior has a root cause.

  1. Are you hiding from something?
  2. Covering something up?
  3. Avoiding acceptance of a truth that will shatter your world?

Guess what… being mindful about how and why you’re living the way you do is the only way that you’re going to discover what makes you happy. Once you understand what’s driving you, accept how your own habits impact your desire for happiness, and then take steps to change what doesn’t work in your life, you’ll be able to achieve what you want in life.

Books, podcasts, videos, yoga and {insert your self-help tools here} can help you in that search, but only to a point. Pyramid schemes fail, self-help fads also fail. Developing willpower and driving our own change is the only way to achieve your goals. Do we need help to do it? Yes! But it starts with us. From there we can move forward. So skip the trends and don’t overuse the gurus, use what’s on the web to start your journey and go from there, but make sure that you create your own path.


“To acquire knowledge, one must study; but to acquire wisdom, one must observe.” – Marilyn Vos Savant