One of the things that I’ve been focusing on exclusively, since quitting my job in July and moving across the United States to Portland, has been focusing on what’s important.
How does one decide what’s important?
1, Does this positively effect my life in the future?
2, Will this bring meaning to my actions?
3, Will this accomplish something, like furthering my goals?
4, Can I look back on what I did and be proud of myself?
And what do I think about when I am doing something that doesn’t fit my definition of important?
1, Am I wasting my time?
2, Is this really bringing value to my life?
3, Does my body think this feels good?
4, Does my mind think this feels good?
Now, these aren’t catch all answers. You’ll develop your own, based on your own priorities, which vary greatly from one person to the next.
My priorities are very simple:
1, To do yoga daily
2, To live a life of value
3, To take care of myself, and by doing so take care of others
4, To consume as little as possible
So far, I think I’m doing well. I do yoga daily. Every morning I feel like I’m valuing my life, and every night I go to bed feeling like I value my life. I’m taking care of myself by not eating bad things, and in doing so I’m saving a lot of money. I made a healthy sandwich yesterday for 50 cents! Portland is so inexpensive.
I consume as little as possible. Now this is really key, I feel like a big percentage of my re-directional focus is maintaining the sparse and simple life that I’ve been living so far. A lot of the problems that society faces in modern times is due to America’s over-consumption of just about everything.
I feel that by abstaining from this practice of consumerism, I’m both improving the world and becoming an example by which other people can choose to live their lives.
By consuming less, I also have to make a lot less money, and thus have to work a lot less, and then I have free time to do what is important. See the wisdom here?
How you can start escaping consumerism and focus on what is important:
1, Adopt a 30-day watch list for any item that you’re tempted to buy.
A lot of consumer is snap decisions that are based on marketing hype and societal conditioning. I’ve known a lot of people who are subject to this, they’ve every moment of their lives focused on stuff, and getting more stuff, their brains are conditioned to buy buy buy.
You can stop this cycle by, as Leo Babauta suggests in his guest post yesterday on Get Rich Slowly, adopting a 30-day list.
When you’re in the store, and you say to yourself: “gee, I could use that new deluxe sandwich slicer” stop yourself, pull out your notebook and turn to the page where your 30-day list is. Write the date, write the time, write what you want to buy.
After 30 days, return to the list. Do you still want the deluxe sandwich slicer? No? Good, now you haven’t bought it. Do this for everything, except necessities like food, which 30 days from now you won’t really need anymore if you put it on the list.
2, If you had to go today, could you take it all with you?
I always like to think leaving. Maybe there’s a big disaster, and your city is sinking into the ground. Or you find out that you got a job in Cincinnati that is going to make your dreams come true, but they won’t pay relocating fees and you have to be there tomorrow. Or your girlfriend wants to move to Japan, tomorrow. Will it be a big project to move, or will you just pack a bag and go?
I can pack a bag and go, because all of my stuff fits in a bag (well, three bags: one backpacker bag, one computer bag, and one camera bag.) Isn’t that nice? It really is. I can go anywhere, whenever I want.
3, Limit your exposure to advertising.
A lot of buying is the result of ads leading to you to believe that you want something that you don’t really need. By blocking ads, you’ll negate their effects instantly. Cut down on your TV, install Adblock for Firefox, don’t look at billboards (and if you do, laugh what they’re trying to accomplish.)
This is really difficult, and it won’t happen overnight. You’re being subjected to literally billions of dollars of research by advertising firms on how to manipulate people, every time you look at an advertisement. It’s a big battle to fight, but one that is extremely rewarding.
If absolutely must buy something, at least stop yourself and take ten deep breathes. Walk around the store and meditate on the item you “really must have this instant”. Do you really need it now? How will it benefit your life? Will it actually hurt your life? Maybe it will, maybe it won’t. It probably will, so think about that has you walk and breathe. You might be surprised what answers come to you.