The “American Dream” is a dream that many people aspire to achieve. However, it is not exclusive to Americans and is pursued by nations from all around the world. This “dream” claims that happiness comes from buying and owning more things (and the latest versions of these things) and consuming more in general. Success is achieved by accumulating wealth and climbing the corporate ladder to earn status in your career.
When you start climbing the corporate ladder and gaining status in your career, you will inevitably start to earn more money. But with more money, comes the desire to spend more on things you don’t really need. You will end up enjoying living a luxurious life, and start working more hours in order to earn more money to pay for your expensive tastes and lifestyle. But through doing all of this, you are losing one of the most valuable things that you have – and that is your time. Time that could be better spent towards spending time with your family and friends, time that could be used in pursuing your passions, learning and growing, time that could be used in contributing to your community, time that could be used to travel and explore this beautiful world that we live in.
If the “American Dream” is the ideal life that you are striving to reach, you will likely be disappointed when you realize that it fails to offer what it promises (ie. happiness and a stress-free life). Accumulating more “stuff” and more money creates more stress in your life, because now you will have the responsibility to maintain, organize, repair, research, shop and pay for all of these things you are buying. Buying the best of everything translates to car payments, mortgages and credit card debt. Owning more stuff means that your life will become more cluttered and physical clutter can be overwhelming and stressful. In addition, you will worry about protecting your money, where to invest it, etc. With all of this, comes less time and freedom.
Striving to achieve the “American Dream” is a vicious and never-ending cycle that will never bring lasting and true happiness. It may bring you short-lived happiness but you will constantly be seeking to maintain that feeling and will purchase more and more to maintain that “high.” This is not truly living. The more things you own, the more your things own you. We become trapped and enslaved to our stuff and our things weigh us down (physically and mentally). Having more money, more power, more prestige and more status in our lives, does not make us happier. In fact, this lifestyle will create more stress and busyness in our lives and will increase our desire to keep up with the Joneses. Think of someone you know that has a lot of financial wealth. Do they seem truly happy to you? They may portray surface happiness, but deep down inside, we all know that money doesn’t bring happiness. It’s a trap.
We have to be careful though, as it’s such an easy trap to fall into. I have fallen into this trap myself. I used to spend a lot of money shopping for new clothes, shoes, handbags, makeup, body products, and electronics that I didn’t need at all. I had enough but I continued to desire more and more. I was always pursuing more financial wealth. Shopping for new things gave me a temporary “high” but I came to realize that it is very short lived. I continue to enjoy seeing my bank account grow, but I have to keep reminding myself that this is not a measure of success and happiness. We have to resist the pull of this trap, because these things are not the key to long-lasting happiness. I don’t ever want to make a large salary. When we have more money, we tend to spend more money, and I am scared that I would fall deeper into that trap of desiring better and more things and never be able to break free.
Since discovering minimalism a year ago and continually simplifying my life, I now have no desire to wear the latest fashion trends; to own the newest electronic gadgets; to drive a nice new car; or to take a mortgage out on a large house. I have realized that I don’t need these things and they would only add clutter to my simplified life. I have discovered the amazing benefits of simple living and there is no turning back.
A minimalist lifestyle is so freeing and empowering. It is freeing to realize that you have enough and don’t need to keep adding more. It is freeing to realize how little you truly need to survive. It is empowering to know that you are able to live with less and reject the messages of society telling us that we need more things or to buy specific products in order to make us happier. You will come to understand that buying a new vehicle won’t add adventure and beautiful wilderness scenery to your life. You will understand that purchasing those beauty products won’t make you more beautiful or increase your worth (Beauty comes from the inside and from being the most authentic version of yourself). You will understand that buying more things will never bring you long-lasting happiness, like the commercials so often portray and want us to believe. Happiness can only come from the inside. It starts with you. It is freeing to not have a desire to own more things. The feeling of wanting less is amazing.
Through simplifying my life and decluttering my possessions, I have come to realize that long-lasting happiness and freedom come from living with less, desiring less, and being grateful for what you have in life, not through buying more stuff. I believe that the best things in life are not things. The most important things in life are relationships and connecting with others, contributing beyond yourself, personal growth, pursuing your passions and doing what brings you happiness. A minimalist life is about enjoying the simple pleasures. My goal is always to further simplify my life; to consume less and to make more intentional and conscious decisions about what I do choose to consume and purchase.
What appeals to me, and what I desire far more than accumulating more money and possessions, is exploring and discovering the beauty of our world. I want to venture into the unknown, meet people and connect with people from all over the world, immerse myself in and learn about many different cultures and languages, get off the beaten path and discover hidden gems that only the locals of a place know about, have authentic cultural experiences by traveling like a local, challenge my perspectives and learn to appreciate other viewpoints, outlooks and ways of living, debunk negative stereotypes and perceptions that our society perpetuates about certain places, people and cultures by exploring these places, grow and learn more about myself, and discover my passions and purpose.
I believe that traveling, exploring and learning about our world, its cultures, people and languages, is a more valuable and worthy pursuit than that of wealth, financial security, nicer possessions, status and the traditional definition of success.
I am not saying that we should abandon the notion of working hard to make money. We all need to earn an income in some way in order to purchase the necessities of life, like food, clothing and shelter. However, I think that what we choose to do for work should be aligned with our passions and values, in order for our work to feel meaningful and to give us a sense of purpose.
But I do believe that the pursuit of wealth, status along with more and better possessions should not be our primary pursuit and goal of our work. Our work should inspire us, encourage us to grow and learn, and provide us with purpose and meaning. We should love what we do.
The “American Dream” would consider you successful when you have accumulated a good amount of wealth and have climbed the corporate ladder to earn status in your career. But this is not the only way to define success.
There are many ways to measure success, aside from how much money you make, your position in your career and how many nice and expensive things you own.
My definition of success is experiencing and exploring more while discovering the benefits of simplifying your life and living with less. I believe that success is living a life filled with purpose and passion. It is making conscious and intentional choices that are aligned with your values. It is doing more of what you love and focusing on what makes you happy. It is living simply.
Have you ever read the Fisherman’s Parable? Here is a link for you to read it in full. The story is about a Mexican fisherman who spends his time fishing, taking siestas, sipping wine and playing guitar with his friends while living in a small coastal village. He is focusing on the things that he enjoys doing. Then an American comes along and tells the Mexican that he should spend his time fishing more to make more money. With the money he could buy more boats to catch more fish and expand his business. The American informs the Mexican that this process could take up to 20 years. The Mexican questions the American by responding with, “then what?” The American tells the Mexican that he could then sell his fishing company, become rich and make millions of dollars. The Mexican is doubtful and continues to question the American: “Millions – then what?” he asks.
The American then said, “Then you would retire. Move to a small coastal fishing village where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take siestas with your wife, stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play your guitar with your amigos.”
Get it? The end result of the American’s proposed business plan for the Mexican, which would take upwards of 15 years, is the same life that the Mexican is currently living. He has less money and is living with less, but he is happy and he is doing what is important to him. He is focusing on what he loves. That is the moral of the story.
This famous parable illustrates the fact that there is more to life than the traditional definition of success and ultimately the pursuit of the “American Dream” – that is, earning more money, gaining status and wealth and consuming more. I no longer measure success in terms of wealth and the amount of nice things I own.
A rich life is filled with experiences, purpose, freedom, passion and contentment.
Life should be about collecting memories and experiences, not more things. It should be about living a purpose-driven and passion filled life, while focusing on the important things, like building relationships, connecting with other people, learning and growing, and exploring more of the world. Living with less and embracing simplicity can provide more happiness and the freedom and time to pursue your own dreams and passions and engaging in activities that you love.
I recognize that the “American Dream” is not my dream. I don’t desire to have more wealth, a higher social status and the newest and best possessions. This is why I choose to invest my time and money into experiences and exploring. I choose to stop the desire for more and instead be grateful for what I have. I choose to appreciate and seek the simple things and little pleasures of life. I choose to pursue my own dream of traveling and learning more about the world. These pursuits are far more valuable to me than living a luxurious life which is why I choose to make these priorities in my life. Embracing a life of minimalism and simple living has provided me with the freedom, time and empowerment to pursue the things that I love and those things that bring me true happiness.
Note: I still buy things, but only what I need and when I need it. In general, I consume less than I used to and am more thoughtful about what I purchase. Minimalism does not mean getting rid of all your stuff – it means keeping the things that you use and love, while eliminating the excess stuff and distractions.
I have come to realize that I would much rather have less money and more time to pursue what I love to do, as opposed to the reverse. With less stuff, you have more time to focus on what is important to you and you can do more of what you love. When you own less stuff, you create the space to experience true happiness.
What do you value more: your time and freedom or financial wealth and more possessions? I recommend choosing freedom.
If you are interested in living a life of passion, purpose and happiness while simplifying your life and eliminating the excess possessions and distractions, check out this amazing and inspiring TED Talk from The Minimalists! www.youtube.com/watch?v=GgBpyNsS-jU
Have you stopped chasing the “American Dream” in favour of pursuing your own dream? Are you choosing freedom and simplicity in your life instead of more wealth and higher status? Are you investing in experiences over stuff? Let me know what your dreams and passions are and how embracing simple living is helping you to achieve them in the comments below or on Twitter (www.twitter.com/SimplyTravelBlg).
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