I have been thinking a lot about being single at 57 years of age, lately. Without going into unnecessary detail, I was briefly married a long time ago to an unpleasant woman. I have never felt compelled to take a chance on repeating that mistake. That is why I find myself single well after the half-century mark.
Here’s the thing: I am not bothered by being alone. I have always been comfortable with my own company. I believe that this has fostered in me a certain self-sufficiency. I answer to no schedule but that which I choose, and I find a lot of satisfaction in that. I would probably make a really good hermit, as long as my cave had WiFi.
Frankly at my age, it’s hard to imagine having someone around all the time. I have work, church, and friends, so I’m not planning on changing any time soon. I am, as Mary Chapin Carpenter sang, alone but not lonely.
I strenuously exercise on a regular basis because I want to be healthy. I eat vegan because I don’t want animals to suffer on my behalf. I decrappify because I want less stuff cluttering up my house and attention. I do 90 percent of the repairs on my house to save money and frankly, because I can. So there you have it, the motivations for four of the big ticket items in my life.
Here’s the thing: motivation is all at once personal and situation-specific. At the end of the day, each of us must identify that which we value and how much we value it. For example, if you want to lose weight but aren’t willing to move a bit more and eat a bit less, you like the idea of losing weight but you aren’t motivated enough to do the necessary work. I lost count of the number of times someone has told me they’d love to drop a few pounds, but when I suggest easy ways to start, they balk.
They are not motivated so much as they are wishful. Well guess what, there ain’t no genie in a magic lamp here.
It isn’t just weight loss, either. Anything that can or should matter to you (and I leave it to you to make that distinction) is subject to motivation. And, that which is subject to motivation is also subject to its loss. So how do you find and maintain motivation? Here is what works for me: keep the reason I started something in mind (I keep my “before” photo on my fridge to remind myself why I exercise), I participate in online accountability groups for support and feedback, I view challenges (like home repairs) as opportunities not limitations, and I don’t let setbacks define my level of success (speed bumps are not the end of the road).
I can’t believe I’ve been away from here for a month! Time to get back into my groove!
As I continue my pursuit of a simpler life, I’m sometimes surprised at how far I have come, and how far I have to go. The thing is, this simpler life thing is not a one-time effort. It is an ongoing process. I think I have picked most of the low hanging fruit and now it is time to reexamine what I have accomplished. My goal is to determine what steps I take next.
For example, I got rid of a lot of unread books and magazines early on, and mostly switched to e-books and magazines. Over the past couple years I’ve accumulated a small stockpile of hardcover books, a couple magazines that aren’t readily accessible as e-zines, and comic books (a store opened up nearby, which is hard to resist). I plan to go through all of my accumulated hardcopy reading material and mercilessly purge. I am also going to investigate the cost effectiveness of a service like Comixology for digital copies of the comic books I like.
I’m also going to go through my clothing again, and anything I haven’t worn in the past year will be donated or turned into paint rags. As much as it pains me, I am also going to inventory my tools, and eliminate duplicates. A couple of winter projects are going to be scanning my photos and ripping my DVDs to a terabyte drive. Clearly, I have my work cut out for me.
But realistically, if a given item is neither useful to me nor a source of joy, I don’t need it taking up space in my life.
In the June issue of Success Magazine there is an article which poses the question: can you spend money only on essentials for one month? As written in the table of contents “No fancy coffee. No new clothes. No eating out. Nothing fun. Do you have the self-discipline to go a month without spending money on unnecessary items?” Wow…nothing fun?
I honestly don’t know if I have that kind of self-discipline. Thinking about it, here is what I come up with as “necessary”: basic food for me and my cats, prescriptions, soap and toilet paper, mortgage, utilities, gasoline for commuting to work, and my church offering. So that would mean for me foregoing my weekly dinner out with friends; three takeout coffees per day-black, no sugar; no purchased snacks during the day; no comic books, movies, or Amazon Prime video rentals; no impulse purchases; and so on. I admit that while I don’t buy a lot of new clothes (hardly any unless something wears out, in fact) and other household items, I also don’t pay a lot attention to my “nickel and dime” expenses. As an aside, that is clearly an outdated phrase!
I’m honestly not prepared to go a whole month on a no-spending spree. I will though commit to keeping detailed track of my expenses for a week beginning when I wake up tomorrow. Care to join me?
A little bit at a time will eventually add up to a lot.
Living an intentional life draws from many elements. Simplicity, thoughtfulness, and self-awareness come immediately to mind. As I continue to seek to live a more intentional life, I find that I am almost always on the upward slope of a learning curve. Certainly, I’ve had my share of setbacks. We all do. It’s not an easy and natural condition for most of us, this intentional living.
I am reminded of a scene from The Empire Strikes Back, in which Yoda describes Luke’s lack of focus. “This one a long time have I watched. All his life has he looked away to the future, to the horizon. Never his mind on where he was. What he was doing.” Focus is a major aspect of intentional living.
It is a good thing, to plan for the future and to be prepared. The inverse is, it isn’t good to ignore the present in favor of the future. If you are going through a tough time seek support and help if needed, and persevere, rather than ignoring the issue and hoping tomorrow will be better. Tomorrow can be a better day for any of us, but in my opinion it takes an intentional effort on our parts for this to come to fruition.
I enjoy listening to and reading from John C. Maxwell’s works. I’ll close with a quote from him: “Intentional living always has an idea. Unintentional living always has an excuse.” I urge you to have ideas, not excuses.