Freedom with Less
If you have listened to more than one of our podcast episodes you'll hear us offer up the blessing: "Wishing you peace, wonder and joy....and the freedom that come with less." Today I want to talk about the freedom part of that equation. What does that even mean? How can we have freedom with less? Aren't we told that a happy life is a full life?
That depends on our definition of full.
I happen to believe that if we are continually pursuing external things that we'll likely be disappointed and always reaching for more. If we're desperately trying to find fulfillment in a promotion, more money, pretty clothes, exotic trips, relationships, etc....those things might make us happy for a moment.
But they lose their sparkle.
There's always another trip, a new style, or a bigger promotion.
I happen to believe that the lasting sparkle comes from within. It's during the process of growth, change, learning, resting and pain that we can find true joy. We need not depend on circumstances to bring us a feeling; we already have access to those feelings RIGHT NOW.
So what does this have to do with finding freedom in less?
I think the need to tune into that inner joy, that inner peace, that inner sparkle is universal. And it's hard to do when we've filled up our homes, our lives, and our minds with distractions. So let me offer up some areas in life where having less just might lead you to a little more freedom to tune into your inner sparkle.
Freedom of Thought
Having fewer things and commitments will undoubtedly bring new thoughts to the surface. Sometimes those thoughts and feelings will be higher level feelings, but sometimes they will be messy. Sometimes they'll be left over thoughts that never had a chance to bubble up because we were so preoccupied looking at things and doing things. These thoughts matter. These thoughts can help un tune in to the person we are without the things, without the commitments. Sometimes we face unexpected thoughts when we no longer allow ourselves to turn to consumerism or busyness. These thoughts can be challenging, but can also free us from negative thought patterns. For examples, I use to be a shopaholic. I turned to clothes, jewelry, home decor, and even clothes for my kids to make me feel pretty, useful, secure, and confident. When I first decided to stop my shopping habit, all of a sudden I was faced with the impulse to shop. Instead of giving in, I started asking myself why. Now that I have allowed myself to think through the "whys" without judgment, I am free. Free from the compulsion, free from temporary joys, free of guilt. When we can let go, we can be free.
Back in my shopping days, all I really wanted was for life to slow down and to spend more time with my kids. But counterintuitively, I was shopping to make myself feel better, taking me farther and farther away from what I wanted in my bones. Seth Godin once said, "Once we have a roof over our heads and food to eat...well, once we have met our basic needs, what are we willing to trade our time and money for?" Do we really need to work as hard and as long as we do? By downsizing and by living with intention, often you'll find that you actually save money and don't feel the shackles of bills pulling at our ankles so tightly. While I do not think minimalism and frugality are mutually exclusive, most minimalists will agree that they've achieved greater financial freedom with living with less and spending time and money on what is most important to them.
Freedom from Obligation
It seems that what we all want these days is more time. I've heard it said that if you don't claim your time, then someone else will. I agree. How much of our calendar is filled with "shoulds?"
I should have my kid in a sport.
I should volunteer at this event.
I should go visit this friend.
I should attend this graduation ceremony.
I should go take this trip with my girlfriend.
How much of our calendar is filled with "shoulds?" For me, at one time, it was probably over half. It's no wonder I was no fun to be around a few years back. At one point I realized, I don't have to do anything. I don't have to pay bills, I don't even have to take care of my kids. When I realized everything is a CHOICE, that's when things turned around for me. What if I only did the things that I wanted to do...that I chose to do? (**gasp**) Our culture glorifies the self sacrificing. Why else would we feel guilty for pursuing something enjoyable, for taking time for ourselves, or for following our curiosity? What if we radiated joy instead of muffled resentment? When we strip away everything and only spend time doing things we actually want to do we have more time and freedom from obligation.
Are you getting my drift? Are you seeing the hope of freedom with less? So how do I start, you ask?
For some it may be by curating a simpler wardrobe. For some it may be cleaning out the junk drawer. Some of you may need to get on the phone right now and bow out of obligations you didn't realize were breeding resentment and weariness. Start where you have the most discomfort or pain. Just start. Without judgment. And wait for freedom's sparkle.