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?
“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?
I started off with big plans for today. Sunday is my only day off from work, and today was an exceptionally sunny and warm day for early May in New Hampshire. I had a friend lined up this afternoon to come over and start painting my front porch.
Today was Mother’s Day. The local restaurant that we usually go to for Sunday breakfast was totally packed. It took over an hour to get our food. Not a big problem, I thought. They were doing the best they could. Breakfast was followed by my weekly trip to the grocery store, which went pretty smoothly, then a visit with my mom. But my mom wasn’t home. Apparently, my brother stole her and took her out to lunch. The nerve.
Around 2:30, after I finally got together with my very popular mother, my painter friend called and claimed to be having the same type of day. Things just weren’t aligning properly for this painting project to get off the ground today. I told him not to worry about it. Tomorrow’s a new day. So I spent some time outdoors, visited with my neighbors, and had a much more relaxed afternoon than I had originally planned.
For some reason, the universe didn’t want me to be too productive today. And I think I’m pretty OK with that.
“The wisdom of life consists in the elimination of non-essentials.”
Last week, I stumbled across economist Larry Smith’s TEDx talk titled Why You Will Fail to Have a Great Career. I can’t seem to stop watching it. Not only is he hilariously engaging, but he raises a few very strong arguments for finding and pursuing our passions. Please watch it. I’ll wait…
I know, I know. We all believe in the concept, but…
I don’t know what my passion is!
I know what my passion is, but it’s impossible to make a living at it!
If I decide to do something I’m passionate about for a living, I might get sick of it!
I may not be passionate about my “day job,” but it pays the bills and lets me pursue my passion(s) in my spare time!
If it was fun, they wouldn’t call it work!
Pursuing my passion would be selfish!
I have a family, a mortgage!
Who do I think I am? I don’t deserve a great career!
Is passion really that important? Don’t some of us have legitimate reasons not to pursue passion in our careers? Isn’t compromise a necessary part of life? Or are these just the lies we tell ourselves, over and over, because we are afraid?
What do you think? Wherever you stand on the passion spectrum, please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below!
Go for it, kid.
“There are some people who live in a dream world, and there are some who face reality; and then there are those who turn one into the other.”
Last week, I was delighted to see a new post from one of my favorite downshifting bloggers MrWoodpecker on A Good Day To Live. He raised a very important issue that I have also been struggling with for a while:
At what point does the quest for “self-optimization” cease to be positive and helpful, and start to feel like we’re constantly beating ourselves up?
When are we finally GOOD ENOUGH?
Are we there yet?
How did we cross the line from personal growth and self-improvement to addiction?
It’s easy to get hung up on fixing what we think is “wrong” with ourselves and our lives:
- Save even more money (another one of my addictions)!
- Eat healthier!
- Work out for an hour every day!
- Maximize efficiency!
- Squeeze the most out of every minute, every hour, every day!
Oh, the guilt! Why can’t we just be happy and enjoy the here and now, just as we are? As MrWoodpecker advises, remember the middle way. It’s all about BALANCE, my friends. We can still grow and improve, but every once in a while it’s important to look back at how far we’ve come, and be thankful for where we are now. Remember how very, very lucky we are to even have the time and capacity to worry about these kinds of things.
Relax! We’re doing great.