The notion of living a simple life, for many, is automatically associated with living a life that is somewhat unsuccessful; a life that is peaceful but not what we are fully capable of experiencing as flourished humans.
It has been my experience that the complete opposite is true.
There are some common misconceptions that I often come across which are worth addressing:
Misconception #1: The desire for simplicity is ultimately a desire born out of learned helplessness.
That is to say: “There’s no point living an extravagant life. It’s too hard, and not worth even trying”.
False: The desire for simplicity is born out of the maturity to be able to see that material extravagance is no match for inner majesty.
Peace and joy become priorities, and they are known to be influenced by value such as wonder, curiosity, relationships, appreciation, recreation, the arts and others alike – none of which require the acquisition of popular products.
Simplicity is never due to the anticipation of failure, it is welcomed because what is deemed as ‘success’ the the eyes of today’s commercial society seems useless. It simply does not achieve the result we are looking for.
Misconception #2: A simple life is not a joyful life, it’s benign.
False: A simple life has benign surroundings. So to the eye, yes, it’s bland. Minimal possessions. Minimal technology. Minimal toys. Minimal needs.
But internally – where it counts – there is abundant joy. A wonder. A fascination with life.
To many this sounds airy-fairy. And that may very well be the case for hundreds of years to come.
But if you prioritise peace and happiness in your life, you will questions your decisions and challenge the assumptions behind them, especially those relating to the hoarding of objects.
Objects do not equate to a fulfilling life, whatever that product may be. So where be the need for them in a joyful life?
Misconception #3: A simple life is useless. It’s lacking everything we’ve come to develop as an intelligent species.
False: What is one difference between the life of a normal westernised life and a simple life?
Busyness does not imply productivity.
So whilst we may have no time left between going to a job (many of which do not actually benefit society), eating food (most likely which is murdering the human body), watching TV (almost definitely destroying the human mind), it does not inherently mean that our day has been productive.
The simple life provides one thing: time.
And with that time we can pursue the few things we are passionate about.
And because we have the time to pursue them regularly, we can pursue excellence.
Think about it: how would things be different if there were less fluctuating shiny objects pulling for your attention?
Achieving excellence in a field meaningful to you, nourishing and developing extremely meaningful connections with people, the ability to focus more on whatever you’re doing because you haven’t subjected your brain to undying dual-tasking. These are all achievements that require time.
Maybe you will have time to keep in touch with those who you really care about and deserve your acknowledgement and appreciation.
Maybe you’ll have enough time to pursue one or two things with complete and utter brilliance. That charity you wanted to start 7 years ago but forgot about. That artwork you wanted to manifest and share with the world. That business you knew would produce products that can help people live better lives, if only in a small way.
Living simply does not, in any way, shape or form mean living slowly.
Busyness is beautiful – but only when it’s because you are fully engaged in consciously chosen activities. Not if it’s a mind constantly fleeting to unimportant demands; a sight far too often seen in today’s society.
In simple busyness we can bring joy to not only our own lives but to those we interact with.
If this is not contributing to the society in a positive way, I wouldn’t know what is.
Misconception #4: Simplicity is a hard change to make, even if it is worth it.
False beyond all reason: Living a simple life is not – and I stress this with utmost importance – not a lifestyle change one actively picks.
It is a secondary by-product of a change in priorities.
Trying to chose simplicity because of what it seems to achieve in and of itself is a worrying sign; reasons one would do this may be because of the notions that a simple life harbours a peaceful life, or – Life forbid – because it is spiritually impressive.
But what if you began with the intention for peace? The desire for happiness?
This is the one thing we are missing in our world today. The organic and authentic curiosity concerning the nature of human flourishing.
If we had this curiosity, we would naturally lead ourselves to challenge our current notions of happiness, especially the idea that material success brings about true person well-being.
Personal experience, I hope you would agree, would tell us otherwise.
So, naturally, the desire for possession will trickle away. Not pushed by force, but drawn down like rain on a steep road; without intention, without effort, only to notice in hindsight that our attitudes have changed, and joy is brought about.
If only we all did this. Industries would fall. Others rise.
Our personal health would be better. Less stress, less frantic hopping around.
Our bank balance would increase. Less compulsion.
Our relationships would flourish. Thoughtfulness for those who really matter.
Our life would be worth it. Efficiency amongst a distracted nation.
Happiness would prevail. Silliness dissipated.
A world at peace. Madness to an end.