On Greed

The other day, I was having a conversation with my friend about which of the seven sins we felt we would be if we had to choose one.

I knew my answer straight away—I would be greed.

It may seem surprising, a self-proclaimed minimalist being guilty of greed out of all the sins, but that is exactly why I was attracted to a minimalist lifestyle in the first place—to keep my greed in check.

I don’t mean just material things. After a few years, it’s relatively easy for me to not desire new gadgets or designer clothing, but it’s less easy for me to not want to keep doing more.

It has happened to me many times in the past. Once I reach a goal, I don’t really stop to appreciate what I’ve done.  Instead, I’m already looking for the next challenge, and I push and push until I get there. Sometimes I fail, sometimes I succeed. Either way, it’s not long before I want to push something else to the next level, or take on a new project. I’m usually not content to just sit there and do nothing. It’s endless.

This mindset of wanting to do more and more isn’t greedy in the traditional sense, but it is a kind of greed. I’m glad that I’m mindful of the fact that I should be more grateful for what I’ve done, but it’s not always a bad thing to want to accomplish more in life.

Where do you draw the line? Maybe this is why I write so much about success because I’m trying to define it in a way that I can be both satisfied with what I’ve done, but still strive to do better.

There is no clear answer, and even if there were, it would be different for everyone. We all need to find our own definitions for success, discover our own self worth, and learn how to balance all the forces that pull us in different directions. This is what it means to know thyself.

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On Opportunity

Minimalism isn’t just about having less stuff. That’s only the beginning.

The reason why we get rid of things is to make room for opportunities that come our way.

Just think, if you were less burdened by stuff, you would realise that every day is an opportunity, a gift, and you would be able to make the most of it.

If you spent less you would work less. You would have more time, energy, and space to think clearly, to be creative, to be your best, to flourish, and to be happier.

You would grow into the mindset that every place is an opportunity to discover something new, to open your mind, and expand your horizons.

You would learn that every person you meet is an opportunity for friendship, intimacy, and love.

You would be grateful for every moment as an opportunity to live.

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On Money

There are two ways to be rich—to get everything you want, or to want everything you have.

It doesn’t matter how much money or how many possessions you’re talking about, the same rule applies to everyone.

Believe it or not, there are people who earn $100k salaries but live pay check to pay check (I have met them). These are people who are deeply unhappy even though they can afford to buy anything they want. What they don’t realise is that it’s not about how much you have, it’s about how much you appreciate what you already have.

The key here is gratitude. This part of minimalism is often forgotten about. You’re not getting rid of stuff because it looks neater, or because it’s fashionable. You do it because:

  1. With fewer things, you appreciate each thing more.
  2. You don’t spend as much time and energy working to buy more things, instead you use your resources on things that matter.

There is nothing wrong with working or having money. Money is a tool for freedom, and for people to do great things. It is not the root of all evil, rather it’s a magnifier that makes you more of who you are. If you’re already unhappy and selfish, you’ll be more unhappy and selfish with lots of money. If you’re content and kind, you’ll be more content and kind with lots of money.

So, you want to be rich? Good news, there is such thing as a ‘get rich quick scheme’. The secret is to be grateful for everything you already have. You’ll be richer than any millionaire.

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On Why

Speaking of discipline as a sustained practice, how do you keep going when things get difficult?

Minimalism isn’t an easy lifestyle. Everyone is telling you that you need the latest gadget, that you should upgrade your car, that you can’t live without x. Temptations are everywhere, and it’s a constant battle against ‘stuff creep’ (when things start to pile up around the house imperceptibly).

As with anything, to keep the motivation to carry on, you need a why—ask yourself, why are you doing this? If you don’t have a good answer, you won’t last long.

Why minimalism?

—For yourself: You’ve decided that you don’t want to be a slave to your stuff. You’re not going to work sixty hours a week just to afford credit card bills. You don’t want to trade your life for things that won’t make you happy. You want time and freedom to do the things you enjoy, and spend it with the people you love. You learn to make the most of life through minimalism. That’s your why.

—Beyond yourself: There are people you care about who you want to be happy too, and you don’t want to see them wasting their effort and potential. Maybe if you cared less about material stuff, other people would care less too, and they wouldn’t work so hard, or for so long. On top of that, the money, time, and other resources you’ve been able to save from not buying stuff is being put to good use, helping those who need it most. In that way, the world is your why.

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On Discipline

The word discipline gets a bad rap. Most people think it means obeying rules, doing things you don’t want to, and being punished if you do something wrong.

In reality, discipline is another word for sustained practice. It means having the willpower to take effective action over a period of time.

For things that are good for you, for example exercising regularly, having discipline means:

  1. getting started
  2. doing it on a regular basis
  3. practising how to get better
  4. pushing through when things get difficult

Cultivating discipline makes you the kind of person who keeps on going, despite the challenges, whether they are internal or external.

In this way, minimalism is a discipline. It doesn’t come naturally to most people. Nobody said it would be easy to relearn a lifetime’s worth of conditioning about money and material possessions, and to learn to care less what other people think of you. You will face these kinds of internal and external challenges, but discipline—sustained practice—will get you to where you want to be.

To practice means committing to do small actions, with intent. Maybe you give away an old cardigan, maybe you hold off  getting a new phone for another year, maybe you decide you don’t need that kitchen gadget after all…

Small decisions add up to big consequences. Especially when there are hundreds, or thousands of them to make every day. It takes discipline to not get distracted.

Like regular exercise, minimalism takes practice to get past temptations and incorporate it into every day life. Sometimes you’ve had a hard day and you just want some cake and a bit of retail therapy. That’s fine, you deserve to treat yourself occasionally, just not at the long-term expense of your overall happiness. Make things easier by surrounding yourself with like minded people, or blogs and books that remind you of why you’re doing it—of why you do anything really—for a better life.

A better life won’t just fall on your lap. If it was easy, everyone would be happy, but happiness takes a lot of work.

And a lot of work takes a lot of discipline.

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On Kindness

Most people think it’s difficult to make changes in the world.

But every big change starts small. The smallest, easiest thing we can do to make a difference is showing a little kindness.

Imagine if every person you met left your company in a better condition than before. You would be well liked, have good relationships, and genuine friends.

You will lead a happier life. People will remember you as the worthy person you are, and would be much more likely to listen to what you have to say. It’s easier to get people on board if they think you are a good person.

When you show people kindness, you’ll learn lessons about yourself that can only be learned when you see yourself through other people’s eyes.

Let your kindness brighten up someone’s day, and they will pass it on to a stranger, who will pass it onto a colleague, who will pass it onto a loved one… one small act can snowball into affecting a dozen or even a hundred people. That’s how you make a difference.

The best thing is that kindness is free. A smile, a compliment, a thank you note—these are things that don’t cost much. It’s a minimalist gift that keeps on giving.

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Welcome

Welcome to Minimalist Meditations.

You may be a reader from my 7 year old blog, Minimal Student, or perhaps you are a brand new reader who happened to stumble upon here. Either way, I’m glad you’ve found this corner of the Internet.

Minimalist Meditations is a project that I have been incubating for a long time. I loved writing for my original blog, Minimal Student, which I started at the beginning of my minimalist journey when I was actually a student. Over the past few years, it has built a strong community of readers, and I’m pleased to announce the next stage of the journeythis new site, Minimalist Meditations.

I have changed a lot over the years, and so have the topics I like to write about. You can find out more on my About page. The short version is that I’m no longer a student, and I wanted to grow the blog to include readers who aren’t necessarily students either.

Over the next few months, I will be rebranding the original blog and social media to redirect here, where I will be writing more often. I intend to cover a variety of topics that have become more and more relevant to me since I was a student, such as work, money, time, relationships and more—all with a minimalist perspective of course.

I will publish some of the original Meditations from Minimal Student, along with new posts in the next few weeks, which I hope will give you food for thought. You can subscribe to this blog via RSS or email.

If you have any comments or suggestions, I would love to hear from you. Feel free to comment below, or get in touch with me via Twitter or Facebook.

Here’s to many more happy years of minimalism.

All the best,

J