Setting Realistic Goals Unrealistic expectations can often be a barrier to a minimalist lifestyle. This chapter looks at the realistic results that you can expect when you start your journey towards minimalism. As we move through these topics, it’s important to remember that fast results are not the goal. Let’s take a look at some of the expectations that many people have when they try out minimalism, and how you can interpret these expectations so that you’re not under false assumptions before you begin.
The Ability to Slow Down
One of the advantages that was not discussed in the previous chapter is that when you have less material things, you’re able to look around and appreciate things more. For example, there can be a tendency to simply move through the motions of doing chores instead of taking time to appreciate the simple pleasures within them. Once you have less to worry about and less tasks to complete on a daily basis, you can train your brain to stop, slow down, and appreciate the heat that comes from your bath towels as you’re folding them, or the fabulous smell that the washer releases as it cleans your clothes.
These fleeting senses of satisfaction, while they may seem trivial, are key to appreciating the simple pleasures in life. If you’re always casting off these pleasures as trivial or banal, you’re missing the entire point of minimalism. It may take time to reach a point where you notice everyday occurrences and find pleasure in them. However, even if you eventually find yourself able to enjoy the simple pleasures, the degree to which you can do so may be limited.
If you’ve spent your whole live avoiding the task of living from moment-to-moment, you may only find minimal pleasure in slowing down. Slowing down can be initially frustrating. Let’s say that you’re someone with a high-pressure, corporate gig or a job that is extremely fast-paced. In these environments, we tend to be conditioned to work in the most efficient way possible and, in the process, lose our ability to slow down and appreciate small pleasurable moments. The trick is to allow yourself to be patient, to give yourself permission to slow down, and enjoy the small moments of joy and happiness that inevitably surround you.
Realistically Anticipating the Amount of Change that Will Occur
Once you have set the minimalist ball in motion, the amount of change that will occur in your life is largely dependent on your patience. These days, it seems like we can’t move fast enough. We want to get to our destinations quicker, access our information at the speed of light, and communicate around the world in a matter of seconds. These are the expectations that technology has allowed us, and while this is good in many aspects, it doesn’t help us live a calmer, peaceful, and more purposeful life. Another expectation comes from our never-ending pursuit of losing weight. Often, when we pursue a smaller waistline, the amount of success that we have is largely dependent on our expectations.
If the dieter rushes to their goal-weight without taking into consideration that healthier eating habits are beneficial for the long-term, they can meet their expectations, yes, but at a cost of losing out on health. The same can be said about minimalism. If you rush through the process of decluttering your life, you’ll often face unprecedented challenges. A great way to hold your expectations in check is to think about your worst-case scenario. By imagining this, rather than your best-case scenario, you’ll be able to visualize a life where your circumstances are going to become more favorable. You’ll force your brain to quit daydreaming and come back down to earth, and you’ll also become more content with your actual level of progress.
If you’re someone who doesn’t enjoy thinking about worst-case scenarios, find a ‘half way mark’ for your expectations and try reaching that first. Think about your best-case and your worst-case scenarios and envision something in the middle. This will help you to focus on a minimalist lifestyle that not only makes sense but is doable.
Acknowledging the Effort Required
If living a minimalist life were simple, more people would be doing it. The truth is that, if you don’t adjust your daily routine to support this lifestyle, you’re likely to lose sight of any concrete goals that you set. If, during this process, you forget to push yourself to meet specific goals on a daily basis, minimalism will be an ideal that you might find hard to reach. A great method that many aspiring minimalists turn to when starting out on their journey is to commit five minutes per day to a minimalist activity. Once you’ve mastered five minutes of your time, you can then set aside ten minutes, and then twenty and so forth. If you are disciplined, one day you will look around and notice that your life is filled with a greater sense of calm. That sounds wonderful, but it’s important to realize that this requires focus and strict adherence to your goals. It’s not easy work, and it takes time to develop.
Focusing on One Change at a Time
Sometimes aspiring minimalists can be caught up in the idea that if they pursue minimalism to their fullest ability, other areas of their lives will immediately change. It’s important that you not only take your minimalist pursuits one stride at a time, but also that you’re not expecting your life to go from what it is now to something drastically different, simply because of the minimalist work that you’re doing. Change is gradual.
Key Highlights from this post
* One of the primary reasons why aspiring minimalists end up quitting is because they don’t understand how to set realistic expectations for themselves.
* Three of the primary reasons why aspiring minimalists become frustrated with their progress have to do with the ideas of patience, effort required, and expectations of high levels of change to occur.
* Two of the best ways to realistically set goals include thinking about your worst-case scenario, knowing that you can only improve from there, as well as choosing a goal somewhere in the middle between your highest expectation and your lowest.
* If you don’t commit yourself to even five minutes of disciplined minimalist activity per day, then you’re setting yourself up for a failed attempt at this type of lifestyle.