How spring cleaning, budget tracking and magical thinking can lead to big life changes.
In January of this year, I made a promise to myself that I would start living a simpler life. I decided to embark on this journey around the same time as I transitioned into self-employment.
There were a number of circumstances that pushed me towards this lifestyle change. The most influential of these was seeing one of my best friends suffer a tragic accident. It was an event that completely flipped her world upside down.
It wasn’t her fault. She had no way of preventing it. No matter how many times she’s dreamed differently, it happened, like life does.
Experts say it often takes a drastic event in order for someone to make a serious change. It takes a painful fall down the stairs before your grandmother decides it’s time to move to a retirement facility. It takes losing your job before you decide to launch your own business. It takes a prediabetes diagnosis before your uncle decides it’s time to change his diet.
I decided I no longer wanted to “live for the weekend.”
Yet, when we hear from those who have made a big change, they are rarely reflecting on these experiences with feelings of regret. More often than not, their responses are much the same: “I wish I had done it sooner.”
The first time I watched my friend pull up her pant leg to reveal her new prosthetic, I knew no matter how hard I tried I could never relate to what she was going through. But I had no idea how much her journey to a new life would influence my own.
I decided I no longer wanted to “live for the weekend.” I no longer wanted to work for a boss who capped my potential. I no longer wanted to live a life consumed by material possessions. I no longer wanted to waste my mental energy worrying about a future I couldn’t predict. I no longer wanted to give my time and energy to relationships that were not giving me anything in return.
I decided to make a change. It wasn’t a change that would happen overnight. This endeavor would require a number of smaller modifications; adjustments I think will eventually, over time, lead up to something big.
Here are four steps I am taking towards a more intentional life:
1. I’m removing unnecessary clutter.
Last year, Americans spent more money on self storage units than they spent on going to the movies. I learned this from a podcast interview with best-selling author Seth Godin. “That’s billions of dollars spent putting stuff we’re not going to use in a facility so we can have it for later – when we wont use it then either,” he says.
When we remove the unnecessary from our lives, we have so much more time and energy to focus on what truly matters.
I recently went through all of my belongings and tossed or donated what I no longer had a use for. There is still more I could be removing, but this initial purge has brought a newfound awareness to my life. I feel physically lighter. I feel more focused on experiences, and less distracted by stuff.
When we remove the unnecessary from our lives, we have so much more time and energy to focus on what truly matters to our overall health and happiness.
2. I’m consuming less.
After dedicating many weekends to getting rid of the pointless purchases of our past, my husband and I have no desire to go out and consume even more. Our spring-cleaning purge has completely transformed the way we look at spending our money.
It made me realize we could live for a lot less – even when we started making more.
In January, we set a retail shopping ban. And we realized how easy it actually was to control what we spend. (My best tip: just avoid walking into the stores in the first place). In February, we avoided spending any money on eating out at restaurants. These exercises helped us see how little we really needed to spend and consume in order to be happy.
3. I’m tracking my progress.
When I quit my full-time job to work for myself, I knew I’d be taking a pay cut (at first). So I looked for opportunities to slash spending from our monthly budget. This is what first inspired our retail and restaurant bans. And it soon generated a significant lifestyle change (and boost to our savings accounts). It made me realize we could live for a lot less – even when we started making more.
Too often, we waste time worrying about a future we cannot control.
And it’s not only my spending habits that I am tracking. I’m also documenting my highs and lows each week, noting my progress in reaching my goals. Taking the time to reflect on how far I’ve come in building my own business and creating a new life really helps me appreciate the time and effort I’ve dedicated to making these changes.
4. I’m focusing on the power of positive thoughts.
Our thoughts are so instrumental in determining the lives we live. Too often, we waste time worrying about a future we cannot control. We dramatize and speculate undesirable conclusions, even when they are extremely unlikely to transpire. This is not only unproductive, but also self-destructive.
In her book, #GIRLBOSS, Nasty Gal Founder and CEO Sophia Amoruso writes about “the power of magical thinking.” We control our thoughts and our thoughts control our lives, she says. If we focus on positive thoughts of the future, our minds have a way of working these thoughts into reality. “Focus on visualizing what you want instead of getting distracted by what you don’t want, and send the universe your good intentions so that it can send them right back,” she writes.
If you’re considering making a change, perhaps magical thinking is the best place to start. Visualize the life you want to live… and then get off your ass and make it happen. Oh and don’t forget to track your progress along the way.
Have you recently made any big changes in your life? Do you have any tips to share? How do you practice living more intentionally? Let us know in the comments below.