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What happens when a goal takes too long?
When it feels like it is eating up the life?
When there doesn’t feel like there is significant progress?
When does focused work turn into an obsession?
Where should I give up and seek contentment instead of growth?
Burning Need For Change
When does the uncomfortable state of our lives turn from motivational growth to an life-sucking obsession?
Since the theme of this blog is simple living I am going to talk about the simplification process. However, I believe this works for many different goals in your life.
A few weeks ago a reader wrote me a bit discouraged. She said she had been trying to simplify for quite a while and, though there had been progress, she didn’t feel like she was simplifying as much as she wanted too. What upset her more was the fact that she thought she was just as obsessed about simplifying material possessions as other people were in collecting them. Had it turned from one obsession to another?
Short answer is ‘no’ – I don’t think so.
Changing to a minimalist/simple life, for some people, is fairly quick and painless. If they are single, more open to change, or don’t own many things, this could be a (relatively) easy process.
But for most people, myself included, the process of simplification felt extremely long and drawn out.
This starts because we often refer to the process as an event. But, though there can be great progress made in simplifying in a short time, this concept of simple living and minimalism is a change in thinking and life values.
Changing our thinking takes time – usually a lot of time. Where it is often a revolutionary idea to envision a simple life, this doesn’t come with the ability to get rid of things we have treasured and owned. This creates tension in our minds because these things don’t add up. We can’t have the simple life we want without changing our current life – and change is never easy.
There are many tools for helping make these changes and decisions. I have been writing over the last few years about how to make these changes, what to keep, how to make priorities, and more. But, while all this is helpful, changing ideas and habits take time.
I can’t speak for other minimalists, but I lived in a state of tension and confusion on these ideas for about 3 years.
How much is enough? What does the simple life (realistically) look like for a family? I still have more than I want. What do I need and what is excess?
I can’t count how many times we went through our belongings and tried to simplify them. Looking back I wish we could have just cut down faster. It would have saved so much time of sorting and stressing. But it takes time for the mind to change.
This is a journey without an ending. Though I believe you can simplify to where you are comfortable with your life, this point will change through your life. Instead of focusing on a material or a schedule goal, it is better to see how they are acting as a tool for your life.
There isn’t a point where you ‘achieve minimalism’. Minimalism is a choice you make in your head when you start the process and use to make decisions as you move forward. Many people write me with “I am not a minimalist yet but… ” and talk about how they are trying to simplify. But that isn’t correct.
You become a minimalist when you see a different lifestyle – one less distracted and ruled by things – and you start moving toward it.
So when does it become an obsession?
… when you stop making progress toward your goal. When you give up on change but not on the idea.
Think of the person who is unhappy with their weight but has long since given up on the idea to exercise or eat healthy. They are just miserable but aren’t willing to make changes.
Change is hard, discouragement is almost guaranteed. Sometimes there will be progress and some days it will feel like nothing is changing. As humans we want fast change and effective results but we need to realize that it may take longer than we want.
- Focus on the progress you have made instead of how much farther you have to go
- Break future tasks in to realistic and manageable projects
- Be patient with yourself and pace yourself for a journey. Small changes over a long period of time are more effective than a few big changes.
Thanks for reading!