- First steps
This is kind of core to why we set up Living Unplugged. When taken as a whole, the various strategies or choices you can make to become more intentional can seem overwhelming, and a long list of things you feel you should do will only serve to make you feel like it’s an impossible task. I know it sounds silly, but when I trace the roots of my journey to try and become more intentional, I can identify bread making as the key activity. Baking bread became the catalyst that inspired me to look into other things.
Find your catalyst. Pick one thing of the list of stuff that resonates with you and do that. In fact, you can chose one thing and then break it down further. Bread making, for example, can seem like a big step – so maybe the first step is to only buy bread from an independent baker? By finding the core of the smallest nudge, you can set in motion a chain of events. But beware, this leads to the 2nd blocker….
This is a big one for me. I’m impatient. I struggle with the time delay between making a decision and something actually happening. The older we get, the more commitments and entanglements we accumulate – this can make putting plans into action slow. Sometimes the thought of having to work at something for months or even years can be enough to stop us from taking action in the first place.
One of my new favourite sayings is – “The best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago.” It sounds obvious, but if we don’t take the first step, then we can’t take the second. That sounds fine in theory, but in practice we need to see tangible benefits when we start doing something new or else we lose interest. So we should try and balance actions that will take longer to produce results with things we can do that will give us more immediate gratification.For example – minimising your wardrobe is therapeutic and can more or less instant. Building in changes to your daily exercise regime (or even simply starting one) will take longer to manifest results. Satisfy your gratification monkey with the small quick changes and plant the seeds of the trees you can enjoy in a few years time.
Vegan, vegetarian, minimalist. They all create an emotional response. When you give something a label you are giving people permission to make assumptions before entering into a conversation about it. Say to someone that you’re a vegan and they can feel judged or even angry that your life choices are an criticism of theirs. Rather than telling people what you are, just be happy to demonstrate how you live your life. Naturally they will be curious about some of the things you’re doing – like the food you’re eating or the way you spend your time. The best advert for vegetarianism is a meal cooked without comment. Likewise the best advert for soft minimalism is a house free from clutter.
There’s no finishing line. No end goal. Living a more intentional, satisfying life takes work. We’ve had a lifetime of following various templates for living whilst abdicating responsibility for our choices to both societal expectation and the easier path. I find that when we’re full up with the stresses and strains of everyday living, it’s just easier to fall back on these behavioural muscle memories.Want to know something? That’s ok! Ordering a pizza rather than making a meal from scratch is OK. Zoning out to a mindless TV series for an evening is OK. We need to accept that there will always be times when following an intentional route is just too to hard. When this inevitably happens we have to accept it for what it is. A blip, a bump in the road. The problems only start when these blips become daily and the bumps become the norm. Know what though? Even the massive slips into a less intentional way of living are recoverable. Don’t beat yourself up. Be pragmatic and, if it’s still important to you start again tomorrow. We’ve even got an infographic for you!
I’ve left the best for last. Fear is a bugger when it comes to making changes in your life. We humans are funny creatures. We’d sometimes rather stick with ‘the devil you know’ than risk trying something new and failing. It’s not just the embarrassment of failure that we fear. Leaps into the unknown – like leaving your job or selling your home – can result in real problems. There’s no simple answer here. Everybody has commitments and dependencies that can seem insurmountable when it comes to making big changes in our lives. Rather than tell you that failure is almost always a chance to grow (which is true) or that the fear of failure is almost always worse than the reality (also true), I’ll ask you two questions.
1 – How would you rather spend your old age? Regretting the things you never tried or regretting the things you tried and failed at.
2 – Imagine the best version of yourself in 10 years time. Did that person take any risks?*More about the benefits of failure here.
*I bet they did. I bet they took loads of risks.
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