Finding Freedom in Minimalism

2017 Freedom Minimalism

Welcome to the first of a six part series on my personal aspirations for minimalism. In each piece I hope to examine some of the tenants as to what I am looking to increase in my life as a result of embracing minimalist philosophies. Those six things are bettering my health, increasing the depth of my personal relationships and forming new amazing connections, finding passion and excitement in my life, increasing the freedom to make deliberate purposeful choices, turn my brain on to learning new things, and finding the contribution I can make to the world and the people in it.

These are lofty goals, and I fully expect them to be a work in progress for the rest of my life. But like all old habits that I’m trying to break, and new habits that I’m forming, the more I can put focus into them, I’m inevitably finding myself improving bit by bit in each of these areas.

In this piece I want to explore freedom. When I think about minimalism, I think about decluttering my life from the things I’m told and expected should fill my life that aren’t bringing me happiness, and focus on the things that I’m really excited about. Freedom is a very interesting aspect of that mindset.

Sometimes when we think of freedom, we might think of choice. Or we might think of having no chains or ties. We might think of freedom as possibility. Maybe we think of freedom as a lack of obligations. When I explore the idea of freedom, it is inextricably linked to the philosophy of living on purpose. It means I have clarity of thought and am in a position to make decisions that I believe to be valuable and that are leading me towards my goals. Unfortunately, I feel like much of my life was not lived on purpose, but rather a state of floating caused by influence I didn’t want, advice from people I didn’t respect, and most impactfully, from self imposed restrictions, doubts, and limiting beliefs that kept me in my comfort zone.

As we seek to find freedom in our lives, maybe we can come to terms with each of these aspects. If we think of the first as being influenced from outside marketing, corporations and constant advertisement, we must examine the core of these messages. Almost all advertising speaks to a “need” to obtain something material. To create this need, the advertisement message must create a desire for you to have that thing, again usually due to your lack of it in the first place. The message is: you’re not enough, you need this thing. You’re not beautiful you need this thing. You’re not successful, you need this thing. You’re not living this lifestyle, you need this thing. Almost all of these messages come from a place of self deprecation instead of self belief and fulfillment.

Now I fully believe that consumerism is not evil, that all companies are not bad, and money is in no way a bad influence in our life. Instead we must have the freedom to separate ourselves from the message, analyze the intent, and make choices about the messages that resonate with our values against the ones that don’t. For example, Lindsey and I just bought a mattress, and the company we purchased from donated a mattress to the homeless for each mattress purchased. Homelessness is a huge and sad problem in Los Angeles where we live, so their intentions resonated with me. When I received their messages, their advertisement, I was able to have the freedom to choose high quality that added value to my life by making a decision on purpose. However, outside of this great example, I have countless others that are bombarding my email, my phone, social media, billboards, television, etc. that make me think my car isn’t good enough or the only way to have fun is with parties and booze. I try to be as grateful as possible for the things in my life currently and have the freedom to disassociate when I can add value to my live versus adding “things” I don’t need.

The second aspect of freedom is advice from people that I don’t want to model my life after. Almost more dangerous than advertisements because our brains are trained to trust people above all else, this is when you become a slave to other people’s opinions and what others think. Consider about how much visual advertisement it takes to buy something versus if it is recommended by a friend. Or working with someone because they come recommended versus sifting through resumes. This phenomena can work in your favor if you’re allowing freedom of choice to surround yourself with people you trust, admire, and want to model yourself after. Unfortunately that doesn’t always happen. Sometimes we take advice from role models on television or the news to look a certain way or do certain things. Maybe we take advice from “popular” people in our school or place of work. We may even take advice from family that, as sad as it sounds, aren’t really people who resonate with our values.

An important piece of advice I received that really spoke to me was: “It’s not that we shouldn’t care about what anyone thinks of us, but rather, we should only care what people think of us when they are people that align with our values.” When we live on purpose, we can better remove the clutter and find what those true values are, and then we have the freedom to only follow advice and recommendations from those people we want to model ourselves after. When I think of freedom, I think of the ability to break the chains of anyone that holds you back, produces negative or self defeating thoughts, or simply does not embrace a lifestyle of values that you subscribe to.

Finally, we come to the largest and most difficult barrier to freedom of all: ourselves. In many ways, the shackles we place on ourselves can arise and be stirred by the two aforementioned topics: advertisement and the accumulation of things, as well as toxic people and relationships. But in many ways, we are truly our own worst enemies. The worst part about it is that most people that I talk to about changing their lives completely realize and recognize their limiting beliefs, they just don’t know what to do about it.

When I think of freedom from ourselves, I think of my comfort zone. My soft pillowy space where I can “check out” physically and mentally, where nothing can hurt me or make me feel bad because I take no risks, try nothing new, and hide from the world, nursing my fears with fleeting distractions that keep me from any goals I may have. This is a very dark place to be once we realize it, but even more poignant is the fact that it can seem like almost everyone around us is constantly in this state. It is a state of fear that perpetuates inaction, which traps us in a vicious cycle. I’ve been there, and it is a very difficult place to be in life.

We need freedom from our comfort zones. We need the freedom to take risks and do things bigger than ourselves. We need the freedom to travel and see a world larger than our commute to work and back. Freedom from this comfort zone is where I started to realize I went from “surviving” to “living”. It is where I was free to grow and learn as a person. It was freedom from not loving myself, from avoiding baring my soul, and freedom from a version of myself that wasn’t who I truly wanted to be.

Increasing freedom in your life is hard. I’m certainly still working on it. But I have found ways that are personally working for me to help increase freedom. Starting this March I’m taking risks outside of my comfort zone to free myself from the corporate ladder I was clinging to and quite frankly, failing to progress. I’m working to free myself from limiting beliefs like, “what I have to write and share won’t help people, can’t change anything, or will be criticized”. Because the people that I’m being influenced and changed by are facing the same self doubts, and they are beating them to help show that we can have the same freedom as well.


When I write I want it to be an open invitation to engage in dialogue and discussion.

Please feel free to write me at cstephens.calila@gmail.com

 

Part Two on Finding Learning in Minimalism

Part Three on Finding Health in Minimalism

 

I can’t say I love social media, but because I realize it can be a powerful force for change, I’m trying to help put a little positivity out into it.

Since I do love the impact of minimalist lifestyle in our world, I try to spread that message as much as I can on Instagram at @caliladesigns

 

And finally, if you'd like to know more about Calila, we are at here:

www.shopcalila.com

 

Thank you for spending time with me over the medium of language.

- Cameron

 







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