Minimalism is all about letting go of things that don’t give you value. But it’s not just about the physical things.
I recently read a great article about holding things lightly in a psychological sense (I would have put a link to it but it appeared in my feed and then I couldn’t find it again). It got me thinking about the immaterial things I am still clinging to.
Becoming more minimalist and reducing the things that I buy has naturally led to a loosening of my sense of identity. It’s something that’s often given to us by adverts – a particular product somehow embodies who you are. And you believe that you can change who you are simply by purchasing something else. I’ve started to stretch this a bit further, distancing myself from my job role, my salary and my current circumstances. I feel like it will make it easier to make change, because all I need to do is change my next actions rather than everything that is around me.
I often relive conversations in my head, and past decisions that weren’t the best. What could I have done differently? What should I have said? I’m trying to hold on to my past a little more lightly, and just accept it for what it was rather than rehashing regrets. You can never know if another choice would have led to a worse outcome, and all mistakes teach you something and set you on the path to where you are now.
On the other hand, I sometimes look back to certain phases of my life with rose-tinted glasses, misremembering how perfect life was. I cling onto my previous identity, when I was younger, fitter and more care-free and feel like I can’t get back to that state. And I’m right – I can’t get back to being that happy, because I never really was.
My sense of what’s fair
One of my core values is fairness, but I tend to hold on to this too tightly and try to apply it constantly. It’s easy for me to be ticked off at a million minor injustices. Someone doesn’t use their indicator to change lane, someone doesn’t wear their mask on the bus, someone cuts in line… once you start to see it you can’t un-see it! Rather than keeping this sense of what’s right at the forefront of my mind, I’m trying to save it for when it really matters and for when I can do something about it. And for when it’s harder to call it out or make the decision that aligns with this value.
My natural tendency is to be a perfectionist, but I’m trying to shift this trait into ‘excellence’. Part of this has meant setting goals that don’t have a definitive outcome, which is why I chose focus areas for my energy instead. It has also meant prioritizing instead of blindly aiming to do everything, which is very hard for me to do as I’m somewhat of a compulsive completist! I try and hold my goals lightly instead of squeezing them into existence.
It might sound strange for someone who is into productivity to want to hold my dreams more lightly. What I mean is that a dream doesn’t need to be a life commitment. When I think of what I want to achieve with my life, the question seems daunting and any answer I come up with doesn’t seem worthwhile. If I think of it as what I want to do in the next phase of my life, it feels a lot more manageable and I’m more likely to pursue it. And if I get there and discover I want something else, it’s just another phase.
I’m not saying I’m giving up on these things. I’m just loosening my grip and giving myself a bit more freedom.
Do any of these things resonate with you to hold lightly?