“While I love goal-setting and bucket lists, you really only need to ask yourself one question to change the trajectory of your life: How can I solve the one problem in my life that keeps resurfacing?”
~Sandra Bienkowski’s The One Question That Can Change Your Life – mindbodygreen.com
“When I was five years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down “happy.” They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life.”
– John Lennon
What Do I Want?
- I want to live in a tiny house.
- I want less stuff.
- I want to write.
- I want to travel.
- I want to take summers off and not have to work if I don’t feel like it.
- I want to write on the beach in Costa Rica.
- I want to eat GOOD FOOD – healthy, REAL FOOD.
- I want to go hiking and take long walks with my dogs.
- I want to take a nap whenever I’m tired.
You get the idea.
As I was thinking about this list before I sat down to write it, I realized that all of these things are easily within my reach. Everything on this list is absolutely 100% doable. I could have it all, and do it all, like, NOW.
So why don’t I?
What makes a downshifter’s dream life – a life that is smaller, simpler, quieter – seem so far out of reach for so many people? It’s not like we’re asking for millions of dollars. We want less. Less stuff. Less stress. But we also want more. More freedom. More control over our own lives.
Or do we?
What is it about freedom of choice that scares the crap out of most people? We all have it, but we fool ourselves into thinking that we don’t. We live the way we do because, well, we have no choice. That’s what we tell ourselves. It’s complete bullshit.
Why are so many of us scared to change?
“If money is to enhance your happiness, it must be used to support aspects of life that themselves bring happiness to you.”
-Gretchen Rubin, The Happiness Project
“I’d rather be a failure at something I enjoy than be a success at something I hate.”
While some of us only dream of quitting our mundane jobs and moving to the Caribbean (or Europe, Alaska, wherever), some people actually do it.
Noelle Hancock went from feeling “stressed, uninspired, and disconnected” in NYC to living “on a tiny, rustic island of 4,100 people sharing a bathroom with poultry.” Check out her story on Esquire.com to learn why and how she did it:
Why I Gave Up a $95,000 Dream Job to Move to the Caribbean and Scoop Ice Cream
Some of you are probably thinking that you couldn’t possibly do anything that radical. I can hear your objections:
- “But she was young.”
- “But she was single.”
- “But she didn’t have a mortgage.”
- “But she didn’t have kids.”
I know, I know. BUT, BUT, BUT, what can we learn from her? What is your dream? What do you want your life to look like? And what small steps (or BIG ones) can you take today to start moving closer to that dream life?
- Take a class?
- Put your house on the market?
- Look for a new job?
- Buy a one-way ticket to paradise?
It’s never too late. We all have choices. We aren’t as stuck as we think. According to Hancock:
“It was startlingly simple to dismantle the life I’d spent a decade building: I broke the lease on my apartment, sold my belongings, and bought a one-way plane ticket. The hardest part was convincing myself it was OK to do something for no other reason than to change the narrative of my life.”
We each only get one life to live. How will we change the narratives of our lives?
If you’re following Downshifter’s Journal, then you probably agree that:
$ ≠ 🙂 (Translation: MONEY does NOT equal HAPPINESS)
Along those lines, I would like to add a new equation:
INCOME (from FULFILLING work) + FREEDOM from DEBT = HAPPINESS
Because, as we all know:
DEBT –> MISERY
Many of the books and articles I read about health and happiness promote practicing gratitude as a way to bring more happiness and fulfillment into our lives. The authors often suggest keeping a daily gratitude journal to remind ourselves of all the good things in our lives, instead of always focusing on the bad things or what we think is missing.
I am terrible at expressing gratitude. (Just ask my husband!) I tend to dwell on what I think I lack — material things, accomplishments, physical attributes, etc. — and take for granted everything that I have and have done. So for today, I would like to remind myself of three things I am grateful for right now:
- This beautiful, warm, sunny afternoon.
- My dogs and cat that are spending this beautiful afternoon on the porch with me.
- My good health, and the health of my friends and family — especially my 86 year-old mother. Her heart gave us a bit of a scare last month, but she’s doing great now and is still able to live on her own.
I know I have a lot to be thankful for. I’m quite spoiled, really! And I think that’s true for most of us. Gratitude is another habit that I need to practice every day, like writing, to keep myself focused and positive and moving in the right direction.
So what are you grateful for today?