The older I get, the faster it seems the world is spinning around me. It’s so easy to get caught up in the current of work, bills, responsibilities, penciled-in coffee dates, short nights’ sleep, and pressure to continually be working harder, like I can never have enough or do enough to keep up.
Why do we work so hard for things that matter so little? We work long days to make money to pay for larger homes, better cars, more luxurious vacations, and more toys to show off to other people who, frankly, are more concerned about their own homes, cars, vacations, and toys than they are about ours.
If we take a step back to see that we already have far more than we need, and far more than many other people in the world, we ought to be satisfied knowing we don’t have to work ourselves to the bone to attain any more. Assuming that most of us have shelter, food, clothing, and clean water, our basest needs are met. Beyond that, many of us have employment, strong relationships, education, health, freedom, clean air, some form of transportation, and an array of leisurely activities to engage in. We are very fortunate indeed.
So why don’t we pursue things that matter more? Why don’t we choose to center our lives around the things and people that have captured our hearts? Why aren’t we willing to sacrifice the accumulation of accolades and possessions for the greater prize of relationships?
When I look back on my life, I would much rather see strong, vibrant relationships than a long list of worldly accomplishments and corporate ladder-climbing resulting from endless hours spent behind a desk, all the while neglecting my loved ones.
Doing so requires first acknowledging the pull of the world around us toward endlessly striving for more, never being satisfied with what we already have. We live in a consumer-driven culture that thrives on telling people they need the newest gadgets to make their lives easier, promising them happiness, success, beauty, and love as a result of purchasing an As-Seen-on-TV product. Deep down we know these things will never satisfy us. They will only leave us wanting more as we discover a feeling of emptiness that comes with not attaining the happiness or success we thought would result from getting the newest thing. It’s a vicious, endless cycle. But we can stop it.
We can choose to say that we already have enough of the things our society peddles. Instead, we can focus on slowing down, truly enjoying our lives, investing in experiences over things, and pouring our energy into relationships instead of checking tasks off our never-ending to-do lists. We can eschew the dreams our world says we should have in favor of our own simpler goals of focusing on the things that are truly important.
This journey will look different for everyone, but I found inspiration for slowing down from the Slow Your Home blog and breaking free from the chains of our consumeristic culture at Becoming Minimalist. For me, slowing down looks like leaving laundry undone, dishes unwashed, carpets un-vacuumed (no matter how badly they may need to be cleaned), and putting off my latest solo project or hobby when a friend wants to get coffee or go for a walk. It means not upgrading every chance I get just because I can, but realizing the things I have work perfectly fine for now, and I don’t really need the newest versions to make me happy. It includes taking time to relax and enjoy the world around me, appreciating sunsets, butterflies, lake views, wooded paths, and lazy Sunday afternoons, instead of overlooking them in my hurried pace. It likely will mean saying no to some activities so I can say yes to others that mean more to me, and choosing to not feel guilty about it. It means making sure I give my friends quality portions of my time and attention, requiring that I close my computer and put my phone away when we’re having a conversation. It means putting off getting a new computer so I can save more for traveling with friends. It means regularly reminding myself that people matter more.
What does slowing down look like for you?