Do you ever feel that you aren’t as minimalist as you could be? Have you had moments of guilt because you bought that extra throw pillow just for the amazing colour and texture, not because you really need a new throw pillow. For shame! Just kidding. The minimalist journey is a long one and often filled with times of slow progress and setbacks just like any other change.
I read an inspiring post by Benjamin Handy on Medium the other day and the title stuck with me. In fact, it’s why I clicked on the article in the first place: ‘ To have what you want you must give up what’s holding you back.’ This resonated with me as in some areas, I’m still reluctant to give up what’s holding me back, like my slightly excessive intake of cookies for example. I’m dealing with this by trying to take a minimal approach to my consumption of these delicious but sugar filled snacks. I wrote about this minimalist approach to food in a previous post. The thing is, it’s a long process and there are always setbacks. Sometimes you just don’t make as much progress as you would like and sometimes, you make a batch of cookies ‘for the family’ and end up eating half the batch.
Setbacks can be discouraging, they make us feel like we have failed, even though you can’t really have a setback unless you’ve made progress in the first place. It takes time to form new habits and we are almost certain to have a few missteps on the way.
Forming new habits is an awkward and difficult process. According to Mike Rother, the author of Toyota Kata, we have well established neural pathways for doing the things that are familiar to us. It takes a lot of mental energy to develop new neural pathways. Any time we learn a new skill it feels uncomfortable and wrong until we do it often enough that our brain starts to consider the task as the new normal. Rother says that we naturally default to already established thought and behavioural patterns because they conserve our mental resources. Does this mean I’m unable to break my my cookie habit simply because I don’t feel like putting up with the discomfort of training myself just to have one? Very possibly. Knowing that change is likely to make you feel uncomfortable prepares you better to meet that discomfort head-on and find ways to make progress anyway.
The important thing while forming new habits is to give yourself a mental break. Maybe you really want to live a more minimalist lifestyle but are having trouble passing up bargains in the local department store sale. Maybe like me, you want to minimise your cookie intake but are driven to excess by the amazing smell of chocolate sultana deliciousness. There is no minimalist yardstick you have to measure up to. It’s your life and you decide what is meaningful. What’s important is knowing where you want to be and continuing to make progress, even if it’s slow and the path is littered with cookie crumbs.