“Strive to live the life your future self will be proud of.”
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A Mirror of Truth
How minimalism forced me to see the truth about my life
By Emmanuel Kontovas
Minimalism came into my life at a moment of profound busyness. I was doing a million different things, feeling proud of myself because I was doing what I thought was expected of me. I had a job and three side projects and I was working for at least 12 hours every day. I didn’t have time for myself, I didn’t have time for my relationship, and I was not living life the way I truly wanted to. I was just reacting to whatever life was throwing at me. I thought living this way was a small sacrifice to pay in order to live life to its fullest later on.
My experience with minimalism began after watching the documentary “Minimalism.” I was dumbfounded by what I had watched. I realized how wrong my life was and how, in reality, I was missing all that really mattered. In that moment of clarity, I decided to make a change.
Almost immediately, I decluttered my wardrobe and my possessions and found countless things that I didn’t need or didn’t use anymore. I started spending money more mindfully and soon, I didn’t need to work so hard. I realized that I had been spending just to support a lifestyle that I saw in social media, movies, and blogs—a lifestyle that I didn’t really want.
It wasn’t only the material side of my life that minimalism helped me improve. The most important change was an internal one that had to do with my personal life and who I really was. When I stopped working so hard and found extra time on my hands, I started reflecting on who I was, what I wanted out of life, and what made my life meaningful. These were hard questions without easy answers.
For so long, I was just working to become successful and to buy new and shinier things. I would show my “love” to my girlfriend and everyone I cared about by buying them expensive things instead of being present with them. I didn’t realize that I was just alienating myself from them. I was at a point in my life where I didn’t know who I was or what was really important to me anymore. All the people that really mattered complained to me that I was missing in their lives. As a result, I lost my girlfriend who could have been the love of my life.
Minimalism helped me get through this crisis, like a mirror that only shows the truth. It showed me my scars, my wrongdoings, and my deviation from the things that really make life worth living. Minimalism made me reflect on and change my life.
Now I possess fewer things and I work fewer hours. I spend time with my family and friends and try to do work that offers me genuine satisfaction. Minimalism helped me start a journey of reconnection and rediscovery, leading me to focus on what is really essential in my life. It made me see the truth and start living a meaningful life.
Moving Beyond Goals
You can’t manage what you don’t measure—this was the corporate mantra by which I lived for a long time. And it’s total bullshit.
We used to measure everything at my old job: There were 29 metrics for which we were responsible every single day (even on weekends). There was morning reporting, 3 p.m. updates, 6 p.m. updates, and end-of-day reporting.
I was consumed by numbers. After a while, I even started dreaming in spreadsheet format.
Then I realized something: it didn’t really matter. The goals were never as powerful as someone’s internal motivations.
People work hard for two reasons: they are externally inspired, or they are internally motivated. Sometimes it’s a combination of both.
Some people can be momentarily inspired by goal attainment, but that kind of inspiration is impermanent, and it doesn’t last beyond the goal itself.
Conversely, intrinsic motivation—such as the desire to grow or contribute—carries on long after the goal is met. It often carries on in perpetuity. External inspiration can be the trigger, but internal motivation is what fuels someone’s desire. When you discover your true motivation, you don’t need an arbitrary goal.
Goals are for the unmotivated. This is one of the reasons I got rid of mine—so I could focus on what’s important, so I could focus on living a life centered around health, relationships, passion, growth, and contribution. I don’t need goals to focus on these aspects of my life, because I’m already motivated by these values. Having goals for these things would be irrelevant; I simply need to live my life in accordance with these principles.
A Little More of Less
A few other articles we think you might enjoy…
Play the 30-Day Minimalism Game by The Minimalists
Choose Joy by Karen Trefzger
The Essential Zen Habits of 2019 by Leo Babauta
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