Minimalism: A Summary

I have a friend who introduced me to minimalism about a month ago. We were talking and she said “well, because I’m a minimalist…” and continued on, but I got stuck on that phrase. I had never really heard of minimalists before! What was a minimalist?

I promptly stopped her and said “Woah, woah, woah. What’s a minimalist?”

She smiled.

After she explained the minimalist lifestyle to me, I took it upon myself to do some research and learn more about this way of living.

And the more I learned, the more I loved it.

What is minimalism?

Minimalism is the act of cutting unnecessary “stuff” out of your life and living with only what you need.

Merriam-Webster defined it as “a style or technique (as in music, literature, or design) that is characterized by extreme spareness and simplicity.”

I didn’t know how much I like this definition because of the word “extreme.”  Minimalism is not extreme or radical. Not if you don’t make it that way.

I first learned about minimalism through The Minimalists.

Who are The Minimalists?

I’m glad you asked!

The Minimalists are two men who live a minimalist lifestyle and teach others about minimalism.

Their story is quite unique because they didn’t grow up minimalist, as most of us probably don’t. They both actually were trying to climb the corporate ladder, as they called it.

They were entwined in consumerism and mass consumption. They were rich! They had a ton of money, a bunch of stuff, big houses, the whole works.

Their story about their journey to minimalism is quite interesting. You can watch this TEDxFargo talk to learn more about it.

But, long story short, they changed their lifestyles and became minimalists.

What do minimalists do?

Simply put, minimalists live simple lives. They cut out the excess. Do they need four coats, three pairs of running shoes, four pairs of sneakers, or five different types of cereal in their pantry? A minimalist would decide which one is most important and discard the rest.

Having the newest and sleekest version of something doesn’t bother the minimalist. They take value in what they own. If something no longer has value, they will let it go. A minimalist is not a hoarder. If there’s something they don’t need, use, or love anymore, they toss it! Is that sentimental shirt getting worn down and ragged? Take a picture and let it go.

A minimalist understands the value of things. Minimalists are true materialists. They know the value of a material item for what it is—a material item. They don’t place more value on items than those items deserve. Clothes are just articles to wear. A phone is just a device to communicate.

That being said, minimalists don’t live radical lives. They still use electricity, indoor plumbing, smart phones, wifi, etc., but they don’t need the newest version of a laptop when the one they have works perfectly fine. When that one breaks, they’ll get a new one. They aren’t caught up in commercialism.

It’s your life.

This is perhaps one of the most important things I learned about minimalism. It’s not a set lifestyle that you have to follow, rule by rule, if you’re going to call yourself a minimalist.

Minimalism is tailored to you. You don’t have to get rid of everything except for the essentials. Simply let go of the “stuff” that doesn’t add value to your life.

Let me give you an example. Books are very special to me. They add value to my life! I am collecting books, and one day want to have a very admirable bookshelf or library in my future home.

That is ok! There is nothing wrong with collecting something that adds value to your life. Maybe for you, that value is rocks, or insects, or Legos, or statues, or paintings. Whatever adds value to your life is valuable.

But if it doesn’t add value, you can let it go. Spoons don’t especially add value to my life. I need spoons, but why do I have eight spoons for just me? One or two spoons would do just fine. Or maybe even four, if I decide to have guests over for ice cream.

The point is, let go of the excess.

How to change

So how do you apply this and reap the benefits?

  1. Do your own research and learn more about minimalism. Follow @theminimalists on Instagram! Sign up for weekly emails from bemorewithless.com.  Watch Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things on Netflix.
  2. Reflect on your life and take inventory. What adds value? What just wastes space?
  3. If you are up for it, try doing one of the many challenges these well-known minimalists issue. Maybe you could try a packing party, or simplifying your wardrobe.

Minimalism is simplicity. It’s intentionality.

The Plague of Procrastination

Lets get real for a second… Procrastination is a terribly real thing. How often have you sat down to do a necessary project and wound up doing something completely irrelevant?

Wait But Why produced a fantastic series of blogposts about procrastination, where he focused on what happens internally inside a procrastinators head. I am going to summarize this very briefly for you and then expounding in more detail how this principle applies to you, young adults making major decisions.

Tim Urban, the author to Wait But Why, called the plague of procrastination the “instant gratification monkey.” We all have one.

This monkey encourages us to do basically everything that isn’t urgent or important. And when we don’t do urgent and important things? Well, that’s procrastination.

The struggle with procrastination is very real and very frustrating for most of us. But how do we overcome it?

Urban talked about how there are a few ways to get rid of the monkey and be productive. One way is the panic monster.

The panic monster comes out whenever there’s a deadline. 50 page essay due in a week? The panic monster wakes up.

The instant gratification monkey is TERRIFIED of the panic monster. The monkey disappears every time the monster comes out. And then, the work get’s done. But it’s usually not very good because the lack of preparation is beyond fixing at that point.

Another way to get rid of the monkey is through sheer will. However, this can be very draining and eventually the monkey win’s again.

At this current moment, all I want to do is watch SOMETHING on Netflix. I don’t even know what, but all I know is that the monkey is kicking and fighting productivity, every step of the way.

What really changed my perspective on procrastination is learning about the four quadrants. Steven Covey, author of 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, taught about this system in his book. Here is a graphic of it:

Eisenhower-Matrix

Ideally, productive people spend most of their time in Quadrant 2. Realistically, productive people spend most of their time in Quadrants 1 and 3.

Procrastinators spend most of their time in Quadrant 4.

The most helpful thing for myself, as an experienced procrastinator, is to use this chart as a planner of sorts. I wish they’d make a planner purely of this, every day, 365 days a year.

When I am feeling the struggle of doing what I want (monkey) and doing what I should (rational-decision maker), I simply organize my to-do list in these quadrants. I even include in Quadrant 4 the items I feel will be of most value (so not social media). Typically my quadrants will look something like this:

Quadrant 1- Homework, lunch, work

Quadrant 2- Networking, cleaning the apartment, getting enough sleep

Quadrant 3- Prepare for speech, write analysis

Quadrant 4- Watch Lord of the Rings, read Jurassic Park, play Settlers of Cataan with friends

Then as I go throughout my day, I take a look at my matrix and I accomplish items from the list. If I have been doing really good at Quadrant 1, I’ll move into Quadrant 2. Once I’m done with that, maybe I’ll dally in Quadrant 4 for a little while as a reward. Then I’ll move back into the other quadrants and continue working effectively.

Dwight Eisenhower, the creator of the matrix, is better than I. This is how he uses his matrix:

correct eisenhower matrix.png

I know this sounds like it is the solution to all of your procrastination problems, but it’s not. Hate to break it to ya.

Because EVEN WITH this knowledge, applying it is a chore. Yesterday I spent all of my time in Quadrant 4 and pushed everything else to “later.” Urban demonstrated the struggle in the following diagram:

Procrastinators-Matrix1

How does this apply to you? Well, it could be the cure to your procrastination. But as for myself, it will be a constant struggle.

Knowledge is power, and what you do with your knowledge is up to you.

Good luck, non-procrastinator!

Disciplined Decisions

There are at least two words nearly everybody is terrified of: discipline and decisions.

We love living in a state of indecision, don’t we? I know I do. Sometimes it’s easier to just not choose.

And all too often, discipline has a very negative connotation. But what if I were to tell you that these things are good—and more than that, they will improve your life?

Recently I watched an incredible video called RETRAIN YOUR MIND – NEW Motivational Video (very powerful). This video taught some very key principles about deciding WHO you are, and who you want to become. The video had many powerful quotes that teach even more powerful lessons, but there weren’t any attributions for the quotes used.

Decision

To start off, the video teaches that “your life comes down to your decisions. When you change your decisions, you change everything.”

Have you ever made a decision that impacted your life? For most of us, the answer is a resounding “Yes!”

I’ve heard people say before that the decade from 20-30 is the decade of decision.  Where to go to college, what to study, who to date and marry, where to work, buying your first car, your first house. These decisions set off how the rest of our lives will look.

The decade of decision can be a pretty stressful time.

So what do you do if you feel like you are stuck in a decision making process that you don’t like?

My design thinking professor, Brother Justin Morris, called this principle “The Equation for Change.”

He taught that in our brains, our conscious mind can only handle seven to ten processes or items at a time, which leaves our subconscious mind to handle millions of functions.

From an early age we learn habits which we follow subconsciously, like brushing our teeth or opening a door. We don’t think about this action every time we do it, but we do it many times a day.

By the time we are teenagers, most of our brain functions and habits are set—we stop learning new processes and it gets harder to change old processes. But Brother Morris taught us that there is an easy way to step out of this cycle and form a new habit, a new decision.

Once you know what decision you want to make, you must overcome a seemingly impenetrable wall—hesitation.

As someone from the “Retrain your Mind” video said, “You have about a 5 second window in which you can move from idea to action before your brain kicks into full gear and sabotages any change of behavior.”

In order to overcome this wall of hesitation, you must make a choice, test it and adjust. “Decide. Commit. Act. Succeed. Repeat,” is the process described in the video.

Once you decide and test it out, you’ve formed a new road that hasn’t been traveled before. Now, you must travel this new road more than the old road so it becomes your new, and improved, habit.

Discipline is a whole other topic.

Discipline

The video teaches that “what you are and what you become depends on how you use your time.” Now that you’ve decided what you want to do, you need to decide when you will do it, and maintain that discipline until it becomes the habit you want.

So many people think of the military when they think of discipline. They think of being obedient, being robots, being slaves to authorities. They think of being good soldiers.

What they don’t understand is that discipline is so much more than that. Learning how to operate within the bounds that are set—whether they are set for you, or you set them yourself—brings a freedom that you didn’t know existed.

This principle is taught clearly in the video above. “The thing about self-discipline is that it is necessary for everything you do in your life. You have to be self-disciplined. Discipline is not punishment. It’s not. If you change your mindset and really focus it on what discipline really is, you start to welcome discipline. You welcome self-discipline into your life.”

How can you exercise discipline in your decision-making?

Maybe you can start by getting up early. Maybe you could prioritize your activities every day and procrastinate less. Setting goals and making plans is the pathway to change.

One final thought from the video teaches an important principle about time. The beggar receives the same amount of time every day as the billionaire. Black or white, Christian or Muslim, adult or child, we all receive the same 24 hours every day.

What we do with that time is our decision.

How will you use it?

 

Wait, What’s My Personality?

Hopefully, most of us don’t ask this question every day. But while we all know we have a personality, or characteristics unique to our individual selves, how well do we really know what our personality is?

Many scholars have tried to categorize those characteristics into personality types, to give who we are a name. How many of us have taken those personality quizzes that we find all over the internet? (I raise my hand proudly.) But they are all so different!

I’ve found that most of the time I take the quizzes for fun, and then when I find one that sounds like it fits me best, I stick with that one. But is there a personality-defining system out there that is scientifically proven and accurate? What is it? And what am I?

Take a look at some of the more popular personality types and quizzes available:

And lets not even look at the sheer amount of buzzfeed and go-to personality quizzes that exist.

Are there dangers to categorizing people under these tests?

In an article about personality quizzes, David Mount said, “Just because a person may favor one trait does not mean that they do not possess some characteristics of another trait.”

Knowing who people are, and what characteristics they possess, is good for relationships. But it shouldn’t necessarily be taken quite so seriously.

I recently went to an event at BYU-I called The Big Picture. The event was similar to a TED Talk event, but it is written and presented by students instead. One of the students, who’s topic was victimology, described being a victim as “an acquired personality trait.” An article from Journal Sentinel also uses that phrase when describing the mindset of a victim.

The principle this definition teaches is that personality traits can be acquired.  You can acquire a personality trait that you didn’t have before.

This poses a serious problem for those who are dedicated supporters of personality tests. if I can acquire a new personality trait, who says I can’t leave an old characteristic?

Another speaker from The Big Picture spoke about Joyful Discovery. During his speech, he quoted Viktor Frankl, who said, “the meaning of our existence is not invented by ourselves, but rather detected.”

Personality is a combination of choice and self-discovery. We can choose who we want to be and what traits we want to acquire and we can become aware of our current personality traits through self reflection and patience. It takes both to reach any sort of conclusion.

The long story short, though, is this:

You are who you want to be.

 

Setting Sail to Self-Discovery

The need to know ourselves and be happy with who we are is a base and universal need. From the time we are young, we are on a search to discover ourselves—exploring our passions, finding our motives, developing our personalities. It is an innate desire that every individual carries.

Abraham Maslow created a hierarchy of needs that every human, well, needs. It’s simple, and it makes sense. But how does it apply to you? How does it apply to me?

For those of you who need a refresher, here is his hierarchy, found on this website:

maslow-pyramid

I first learned about Maslow’s Hierarchy in a science class in seventh grade. My teacher explained to us that shelter, food, and water are our primal needs. If those needs aren’t met, we don’t care about the less-important needs above it. But once we have those needs met, suddenly the other needs are very important to us.

I’ve spent most of my life living in comfort. I live in a first-world country, I have food, a home, a family, friends. These needs have always been met in my life, so the majority of my adolescence was spent learning about my self-esteem, discovering my psychological needs.

I have moved on to the final need, the peak on the pyramid, self-actualization. My final need is the need to be self-fulfilled, and it is not yet satisfied. I am 20 years old, a sophomore in college, and I do not feel fulfilled.

Most people tell me this is perfectly normal, and that I’m just being dramatic. But, for those of you who are in this same stage as me at this current moment, you understand how frustrating it feels to not be aware of yourself in the way you’d like to be. I want to explore this realm of self-fulfillment.

I feel it is the final step in becoming an adult and being wholly responsible for myself. It is my own walk-a-bout, my rite of passage.

One of my favorite movies that talk about this topic is Moana. In this movie, the dear old grandmother says a phrase to Moana that causes serious reflection on my part.

“Do you know who you are?”

This phrase is repeated several times throughout the movie. Moana goes on a quest to save her island and her people, but along the way she discovers who she is. Her response:

“Who am I? I am a girl who loves my island, I am a girl who loves the sea. It calls me. I am the daughter of the village chief. We are descended from voyagers, who found their way across the world. They call me!”

This part always frustrates me. How does she know that this is who she is? Is this her definition of herself? If so, her definition is relying on who she is in relation to others. There has to be more than that.

My exploration on this topic of self-fulfillment is beginning 1,000 miles away from home. Yours may be starting in your own backyard, or you may be in a similar boat as me. My hope is that my own journey will help yours along the way.

Bon Voyage!