“Most folks are as happy as they make up their minds to be”
A few years ago I wasn’t very happy. I wouldn’t say I was depressed or even unhappy. I just wasn’t happy. I wasn’t content. Life was happening to me. I’d fallen into a job and into a life. Everything happened on autopilot. It was very much like walking around in borrowed clothes.
Recognising the ill fit of my lifesuit was a life saving event. Between meditation, staring out into the sea, a little tree climbing and some kite flying I compiled a list. The list was of full all the things that I thought I would do if I had the money (read freedom) to spend my time however I liked. Question was what the heck did I really enjoy anymore? I had been living a role so long that I’d forgotten who I really was. To help myself along I imagined what I would do with my time if I was in full control and there were no negative trade-offs or adverse consequences of doing or not doing things.
What I discovered from this exercise was marvellous and eventually set me on the course towards voluntary simplicity. Over 90 % of the things on my list were free or cost very little money. Yet here I was working very hard to shop even harder. Throw in eating, the odd bike ride, sleeping and a few showers and that was my life. Very boring. My list was exciting to me, but my life was very boring. Very, very boring indeed!
Your list will be different. Probably not so childish. Maybe more luxurious. Maybe more frugal, but it represents your life. The one that is lost in the fog of work.
Here are some examples from my list of the things that I would do if I woke up and had the day to do as I pleased:
- Run in the forest or in the hills.
- Ride a bike. A mountain bike.
- Sex with giggles.
- Swim in the sea.
- Spend time with my friends and family.
- Tinker in the shed.
- Tend a fire (particularly a big bonfire with a tent nearby).
- Read a book (preferably on a beach or a balcony).
- Draw or write.
- Complete home improvements and house maintenance.
- Redo the garden in edible landscaping.
- Take a nap in a hammock.
- Kick a ball about.
- Drink ale (the compost of the soul!!) in good company.
- Tramp or hike.
- Browse a library.
- Just sit on a hilltop and watch clouds.
- Nowadays I’d add – play with my kids or go on a date with Ms Simple without the kids!
Add up the total annual cost of all of those things and it is probably less than $100!
Yet here I was vigorously climbing the career ladder instead of trees or hillocks! I was working very long hours and making lots of money like a good little producer-consumer. So it struck me. How much would I actually need as an income if I rebuilt my life around my pleasures and passions [turns out a heck of a lot less that I was making at that time].
During that week I asked Ms Simple about her list. It was very similar (except it didn’t include giggling or sex 😦 ). We mapped out a week including things like eating and washing clothes and other chores. We also ensured large blocks of time dedicated to our interests and passions. We costed this up and then reviewed the week adding some work. The work would fit around our life. Not the other way around. We also planned work that was sufficient and compatible to support our life. When we were finished we looked at each other like dummies both wondering why we hadn’t done this year’s earlier. The difference between our life and our preferred lifestyle was night and day. Under the full moon of that night we transformed from corporate zombies to excited teenagers!
If you are unhappy with your life start from bottom up. Redesign your existence around what you’d rather be doing. Map out each day of the week. Cost this way of living out and then turn your mind to the task of figuring out the most efficient way to fund your new lifestyle.
Start thinking about work for what it is…life support.
Work to live. Don’t live to work.