Minimalism and Me
How I Cleared the Path to Happiness
My self discovery journey has continually dropped me at the doorstep of “Minimalism”. A seemingly daunting way of life that I always categorized as “unobtainable”. Yet, as I dug into the concept, I discovered it was less and less about these extremes, and more about creating a mindset shift. Which lessons from minimalism can I extract and apply, without dragging myself and my family into the extreme?
Minimalism sat within the frame of impossible, painted with images of “Zero Waste”, “Tiny Homes”, and plain grey T-Shirts every day. My only vision of minimalism was through that extreme lens. However, I understand now that the “ism” is merely a tangible practice that can help facilitate a mindset shift into a simpler, happier life.
It wasn’t until I heard Matt D’avella mention it in a video, but the concept of “Decision Fatigue” was the first minimalism message to really resonate with me. I knew how much I was effected by large decisions in my life, but had never even begun to inspect the daily, repetitive, and monotonous decisions and the way they effect me.
Before I break it down in a metaphor (My #1 weapon against understanding) I should lay out the direct definition.
“In decision making and psychology, decision fatigue refers to the deteriorating quality of decisions made by an individual after a long session of decision making.” – Wikipedia
Every single day, when our eyes open and we roll (or flop, I don’t judge) out of bed, we are faced with an outstretched lineup of decisions. Each one, an enthusiastic reader lined up at a book signing. As the lineup grows longer, some will begin nudging past others in an attempt to get one step closer to you. Some may even try bombastic methods to get your attention, such as screaming from the back of the lineup, create a sob story to anchor your investment in them for longer than the rest of the line, or simply bypass the lineup altogether in a guise of entitlement.
Allow me to lend this explanation to a simpler, more visual, metaphor. Picture a baseball diamond. Bases loaded, each decision takes turns stepping up to the plate. One by one – sometimes in rapid succession – they take turns swinging for the fences. What we have to understand is that they are swinging that aluminum bat directly at our brains. Sure to create some cognitive issues, we cannot let this batting order sustain or we will be down and out long before the 9th inning. We simply have to strip unimportant decisions down to bares, so they take less toll on us. No home runs can happen if we take away the baseball bats.
Redefining Goals and Generating Focus
Okay, confession time. I’ve never gone to a book signing or a baseball game, but what I have done is leverage my decision fatigue by stripping away decisions where I am able to. Simple changes, in various areas of my life, have freed up the mental capacity to properly focus on the right priorities, at the RIGHT time.
I moved myself to a tighter scheduling system, so I am less often faced with the meandering “What to do now…” feeling. I have developed checklist based systems for my repeated tasks so I am not taxing my brain trying to remember exact processes. I simplified my closet, not to extreme minimalist standards, but to a state I am comfortable with, where I rarely go through the motions of repeatedly pulling out a T-Shirt I have no interest in wearing.
I titled this section “Redefining Goals and Generating Focus“, but in reality I am not ‘generating’ anything. I am merely ‘automating’ things that don’t need focus. That way, the real priorities that deserve it, have it available to them.
Implementation (Without the Extremes)
My assumptions about Minimalism formed a barrier between myself and the concept. This barrier was blocking the final door I needed to open to understand Mindfulness. When I stepped back, and viewed the larger picture (instead of the extreme angles), I could see a clear path into a happier future.
Our destructive habits build walls around themselves. Protection meant to swindle you into further despair. Mindset shifts are needed to thwart these defenses, and minimalism was the tool I needed to break it all down.