By far the most important lesson travel teaches you is that your time is all you really own in life.
Time — a concept I’ve been chatting about recently with my friends back in Kampala, Uganda, discussing the many different ways it can be experienced. For example, how does a freelancer experience time as compared to a salaried worker? What about the time it takes to write an essay for university, compared to writing a daily blog? Or, the time spent waiting at the doctor’s office for test results, as opposed to waiting at the airport to see your sweetheart? How would the experience of time differ between meditating in silence for 10 days, versus running a 100m sprint?
Tim Ferriss, motivational guru and the man who helped support Soma in their incredibly successful Kickstarter campaign, also has time on the brain. He’s written several books revolving around the concept, including the famous 4-Hour Work Week, which suggests that by eschewing the delayed gratification in favor of taking mini-retirements, we can be happier in the here and now.
Stop for a minute to think about how satisfied you feel with your life. Are you living your true potential? Do you make an effort to see the bright side of things, even when life brings challenges and tough situations to your door? Sometimes, depending on our work environment, or home life, we inadvertently grow accustomed to living in a culture of complaint, where constant complaining is the norm — the usual go-to topic of conversation. It’s understandable that we might naturally go there with our friends, co-workers, or family members: the roots of complaining lie pretty close to those of empathy and compassion; we want to relate to one another’s problems and plights, feeling solidarity with one another. However, complaining is fruitless for myriad reasons.
Being mindful of time
Remembering what will truly fulfill our deeper needs is useful when making life-enhancing choices:
“Scientific studies have shown that new experiences (and the memories they produce) are more likely to produce long-term happiness than new things. Since new experiences aren’t exclusive to travel, consider ways to become time-rich at home. Spend less time working on things you don’t enjoy and buying things you don’t need; spend more time embracing the kinds of activities (learning new skills, meeting new people, spending time with friends and family) that make you feel alive and part of the world.”
Though this insight was originally gained from travel experience, it can be applied to our everyday lives, regardless of whether or not we’re on the road. Choosing to engage in activities that are experiential, rather than material will inevitably lead to a more emotionally rewarding experience. Years ago, before I left for Thailand, I had a pair of high-quality, expensive headphones that I loved dearly. As luck had it, the day before I hopped on a plane to Asia, I realized I’d lost them in the chaotic midst of packing. After feeling disappointed for a few minutes, I noticed that I didn’t even really care — I was about to fly to Thailand! My world was about to get so much bigger than my obsession with listening to crisp audio. To this day, I use a cheap pair of low-quality replacements. My gratitude for my experiences since then far surpasses any loss of material goods, or money.
Being mindful about how we use our time is an excellent way to ensure that we’re simplifying, not complicating things. As Tim notes, “unless you learn to pace and savor your daily experiences (even your work-commutes and your noontime meals) you’re cheating your days out of small moments of leisure, discovery, and joy.” Slowing down lets us breathe deeper and absorb the little things, often opening our eyes to the everyday beauty we’re surrounded by.
Simplifying and outsourcing
Streamlining our lives is fun and freeing; letting go of unnecessary work, material goods, and information is easy if we focus on letting go of any roles or tasks that feel genuinely pointless. Choosing products to help us increase efficiency is an easy way to start doing this. Innovative, eco-friendly items like the Soma water filter are not only environmentally sustainable, but are made with the intent to simplify our lives. Instead of needing to keep track of when we need to change our filters — along with making an extra trip to purchase them on an ongoing basis — Soma reduces our chores by delivering them to our doorsteps, free of charge. When we purchase products like the Soma water filter, we’re really just outsourcing some of our household work. Mindful consumption means more free time for activities that add value to our lives.
Cultivating selective ignorance
Along these same lines, one of the tips from Tim that I really appreciate is ‘cultivating selective ignorance,’ or going on a low-information diet. Choosing to tune out certain aspects of the media, unimportant emails, advertisements, or anything else that doesn’t feel valuable to your life is critical to simplifying life. While I was previously unaware of the term ‘selective ignorance,’ it turns out that I’ve been practicing this for years! For one example (and there are many), I stopped looking at celebrity-oriented media ages ago, due to a combination of sheer disinterest and total disdain for the values they promoted. Now when I catch glimpses of celebrity features in online magazines that I still enjoy, like the New York Times or Huffington Post, my eyes reflexively ignore them. They barely register on my radar. The mental freedom gained from ignoring information that’s irrelevant to me is wonderful — like I’m the curator of my own life. We all have the ability to pick and choose what we spend our time absorbing. In our media-saturated world, this is a profession we’re all going to need to embrace, sooner rather than later.
Have you had a successful experience with simplifying your life? Found any great, eco-friendly products that have helped decrease your amount of chores? Share in the comments!
If we all begin to mindfully curate our everyday lives, perhaps the world will be on its way to resembling a gallery of our personal visions.
The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched – they must be felt with the heart.
– Helen Keller