“Don’t let your happiness depend on something you may lose.” ~C.S. Lewis
For as long as I can remember, “more” has always been better, but the word “more” is no longer what it used to be.
Five years ago, I started exercising for the first time in my life. At first, I counted down the minutes until my workout was over. As I got stronger, though, I started staying at the gym longer and longer.
For a while, I burned more calories than I consumed during meals. It didn’t matter. I worked out as much as I could because I liked the effects it had on my body and mind. I felt healthy and vibrantly energetic.
But I hardly had time for much more in my life.
I was burnt out. Some of my other favorite activities—like reading or making plans with friends—took a backseat to putting in hours at the gym. But working out in less time scared me, as silly as that sounds now. Would less time in the gym slow down my health and energy level? Would I lose momentum?
When my loved ones started complaining, I knew I had to make a change.
I found I could do more with less at the gym. I found that my body appreciated the extra rest more than I ever expected. I found that, by finding a balance, my life felt more at ease.
Over time, I discovered that in many areas of my life, less is more. Carrying the excess of my life felt like pulling around a parachute, making every step more strained.
Focusing on the necessary, on the positive, on the essential may grant you the freedom you desire. Here are three areas in your life you can redesign:
1. Your Relationships
Growing up, my friends and I counted and compared how many toys we had, how many books we read, how many good grades we achieved. Only now, decades later, have I dropped that habit of thinking “more” is better.
When I quit my job and started my own business, I never thought that my biggest obstacle would be the people I chose to accompany me on that path. Once I hit that roadblock, it took great courage to cut the ties that were holding me back.
The people we come across and spend time with become a part of our lives. That doesn’t mean they necessarily should. It’s up to you to choose.
Jim Rohn once said, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” If that is true, could your relationships serve you better? If you could choose, what kind of people would you surround yourself with?
2. Your Material Goods
Someone once told me, “The fastest way to get a pay raise is to spend less money.”
Quitting my job last year meant watching how I spent money. This was a blessing in disguise.
Every single time I browsed the web for a beautiful new handbag, I stopped myself, thinking: “What am I trying to find in this handbag? What am I looking to feel by buying this?”
Over time, this spread to the material goods I already have, not just the ones I hoped to purchase. I gave away some things that would be more useful to people in need. Living in a third-world country made that process easier, giving me a chance to give back to the communities around me.
The items we hold around us pile up over time, but the purpose of that is not always clear. What are you looking for within those items: happiness, status, or is it something else?
If you are interested in living a life with less stress, try asking yourself why you hold dear the possessions around you.
3. Your Expectations
For much of my life, I gave in to my emotions. With a blindfold over my eyes, I stumbled through life at the whim of my mood swings.
Very often, I spent my days feeling angry, jealous, or doubtful. I was unaware of the reason behind these emotions. I let them run free, untethered inside my heart and mind.
Until someone introduced me to a book called Man’s Search For Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl.
In his book, he writes:
“A man’s suffering is similar to the behavior of gas. If a certain quantity of gas is pumped into an empty chamber, it will fill the chamber completely and evenly, no matter how big the chamber. Thus, suffering completely fills the human soul and conscious mind.”
Whether the situation is big or small, every single person decides just how much to suffer for it. When faced with the same situation, each of us decides just how to frame and feel that situation.
The biggest reason I let my emotions run wild was because I was not aware of my expectations. I imagined life to be a certain way, and I was torn when reality didn’t match up.
Wiping my mind clean of how life should play out, I allow myself to accept each moment as it comes, for better or for worse. The calm I feel at shedding expectations is extraordinary.
When I set out to redesign my life— quitting my job, starting my own mini-business, spending more time writing—I never thought I would also start a quest to shed many parts of my life.
None of this is easy, but it is worth it. I grapple with it everyday, but that grappling makes all the difference.
Are you looking to redesign your life? Share your stories in the comments.
Photo by The Green Party