“What do I want to do with my life?” That’s an overwhelming question. When I think of asking myself that question, all kinds of things pop up: How do I know? Who knows? If I knew that, I’d be doing it. It’s too big to even think about. Along with a smattering of things that someone else or fate or the universe or whatever needs to start doing or give to me. Examples might be: I want to have more money. Or I want to live with a wonderful partner.
Tangible things like those two things may require me to take some specific action, but often they’re things that we just want to have happen, we just want the outcome, and we want it now or at least pretty soon.
Change Begins Inside
We know, however, that most real change is an inside job, that it takes my working on myself first before beginning any specific action. And that if I don’t do that, whatever action I do take will likely result in my spinning my wheels and getting nowhere, or getting to a place I didn’t intend. Perhaps asking “What do I want to do with my life?” is too big a question.
Last year I was faced with moving from my 2000-square foot home with a big two car garage and a very large yard to an 800-square foot apartment with a 46’x46” cage in the basement for storage. Among other things this meant getting rid of about 80-90% of what I owned, and it was very scary to contemplate. You can read all about my emotional journey in my book The Upside of Downsizing: Getting to Enough.
At one point a friend asked me if there were anything good about the move, and I quickly replied “NO!” (You’ll find after your downsizing, there will be several friends you will need to apologize profusely to or maybe hand deliver a bunch of fresh flowers.) She gave me a patient yet skeptical look, and so I decided to at least think about her question.
When I did that, I realized that I was no longer comfortable with the amount of time and money and energy I was putting into my house and yard, much as I loved them. The inner me was begging for more quiet time in which I could just be, be with me, be with my cat, just BE without having to be doing all the time. I wasn’t sure what I meant, but I realized I wanted a softer life with not quite so much noise.
I also realized that I it would be wonderful if getting ready to leave for a trip were easier. I love to travel, but getting the house and yard and garden ready for me to be gone for a while was a real pain! I dreamed of the time I could schedule the cat sitter, lock the door, and leave!
How Will I Know When I Have Enough?
The biggest aha moment, however, came when it struck me that I had a unique opportunity to discover what it would mean for me to live with enough. For many years I’ve had a special project called the Sign of Enough designed to help us answer the question “How will I know when I have enough?” It has taken on increasing importance to me in the last several years as the world-wide economic inequality has grown larger and larger and shows no signs of slowing down. As our overconsumption adds to the increasing destruction of our environment. And as more and more families are desperately struggling to get by, even with at least one of the adults holding down two and three jobs just to try to make ends meet. I realized I could practice my passion and discover for myself what for me living with just enough would mean.
So instead of trying to answer big questions like what you want to do with your life, open with something like this: “How do I want to live next?” And then look to see if any of those ways become more possible by downsizing. If so, I think you’ll find that the process may be just a bit easier if you keep your eye on that important inner goal.
I’d love to hear what you discover or what you have discovered about working with your inner self if you’ve done a downsizing.
What do you discover when you ask yourself the question “How do I want to live next?”
To the extent you can, describe important aspects of what that would look like.
What are some even very small first steps you could take that would move you in that direction?