This is the second of two posts (here’s the first) on pitching minimalism to family members…
Give me 18 months of consistent work on yourself. Quietly, without saying a word to your family unless they ask you about the new ‘way’ you’ve been doing things. And, even if they do ask you about your new minimalist habits, don’t be a sales person or a preacher. Just tell them what you’ve been doing and how it’s impacting you.
One of the biggest challenges with locking in a new habit is the urge to proclaim to the world that we have found the truth and the secret to life. And it makes sense. If you discover something that is incredibly freeing for you in your own life, and you see other people struggling with the same problem, it seems almost irresponsible to not say something. This idea is the genesis of this whole blogging/speaking endeavor for me — “Let me tell people how I lost weight… Let me tell people how I got out of debt… Let me tell people how I’ve conquered various challenges in life that I see others struggling with… ”
The thing is, maybe I see a behavior in someone else, that’s similar to a behavior that I once had (like over eating or lack of budgeting). What I can not see is whether or not they are consciously trying to change that behavior. I came to the realization a long time ago that just because I don’t put up with certain things doesn’t mean that other people don’t put up with certain things. To take this further, one man’s trash is another’s treasure… for example, my business is intentionally one that is not based on a physical product… I don’t have to store it, pack it, move it, pay employees to help me build it (at this point anyway) etc. For me, that is an active choice. Someone else who likes selling baked goods or craft beer, has to deal with a lot more in terms of physical products. That’s the road they’ve chosen. I once wanted to own my own gym but after working in one for a few years I realized I didn’t want to manage all the stuff. Somebody else loves managing all the moving pieces.
I would encourage you to apply this thinking to others when it comes to being an advocate of minimalism. Not everybody wants what you want, to include someone you’re married to. You do you!
Also, remember that consumption drives our economy (The economic shock of the COVID-19 response is a clear example of this). Many of the stories that we as Americans are told growing up revolve around success being defined by being able to acquire more. Let’s be careful not to judge people too harshly for operating off of the stories they were given as children…
You may have noticed thus far I really haven’t told you to say anything, except on the rare occasion when asked. This is a passive approach. Do and Listen for the next 36 months. Walk it out with conviction for the next 72 months. You may be saying, “Travis, that timeline is getting longer and longer, when can I expect my family to convert?!!!” Well… are you beginning your journey into living with less because you believe in it or because you want other people to believe in it?
Change would be so much easier if we had people to do it with, but that just isn’t the reality, I would argue, most of the time. We can blame others because they don’t want to participate in our little experiment or we can go experience the changes we desire. I believe in being a minimalist whether my girlfriend, family, or friends believe in it or not. By the way — I’m just as guilty as the next person of proselytizing my good ideas but I think our goal with our beliefs should be to let our actions convey what we believe. It’s a constant struggle but, be the change you want to see.
Here’s the other thing with a long time-line and consistent execution: nuance.
I contest that there is nothing new that I am presenting in this blog or in any of my content. All of my ideas have been around since people started pondering how we achieve difficult things or just how we get on in life. The nuance comes with time. We seem to have some intuitive sense when one another is walking it like they talk it. When I tell you that you can get into good physical shape and overcome any obstacle to do so, I’ve got 27 years of execution and experience that backs that up. I also know that there’s no magic trick. You do it, even when you don’t feel like it… especially when you don’t feel like it. That’s how you engage a behavior you fundamentally believe in. Even with all that, people still have a proclivity to push against my encouragements to start working out. How much more will people push against someone who has only been doing a certain thing for a short period of time, “Oh you’ve been a minimalist for 30 days and now you’re telling me how to live?!”
Also, time brings with it the experience of learning to navigate certain obstacles. Because I’ve been exercising for 27 years I’ve learned how to move forward no matter what’s happening around me. Mixed Martial Arts gyms are closed all around the country right now due to COVID-19 and I easily transitioned into solo drills for fighting because I’ve been working out on my own for years. I’ve had to solve many problems in order to maintain momentum in my health habit over the years.
In a similar since, as a minimalist, I’ve had to learn to navigate a world filled with materialism. I’ve learned how to politely say no when people ask me if I want furniture. I’ve learned to convey to people close to me that physical gifts don’t really matter to me. It’s their time, attention, the example they set, and their holding me accountable to my goals, that matters most to me. I’ve even begun to learn how to have conversations with someone when they give me a gift that I don’t want (this one is challenging but I’m determined to operate by my belief system). Again, with time and execution comes nuance.
The goal of living with less is easily stated but doing it over time consistently in spite of all of life’s challenges speaks volumes… without having to say anything. I think we tend to look for wisdom in the behavior of people closest to us before we are willing to hear it. So, your communication to your family around living with less (in my estimate) has much more to do with your resolve to embody the belief system over what you say about it.
This is a strategy that obviously takes much patience. It takes adopting a long view and allowing people to be themselves. Are there any specific ideas or mental tools that you use to help you have patience in different scenarios? How could you apply them to the process of living with less among people who want to live with much more? What are some new tools you could use in this situation?
Share thoughts/questions in the comments! Be safe and stay sane!