“There’s an infinite amount of things that make life worth living.” – The Minimalists

One of the most compelling things I’ve listened to this January is an excerpt from The Minimalists’s podcast on stress.

Specifically, they were responding to a listener question. As I don’t have any particular permission to tell her story here, I’ll keep the descriptions general.  And really, the personal details aren’t necessary to see the resonance of this question in our lives.

The listener was struggling to find a solution to a problem, ultimately, of time and geography. She loved her job, she loved her communities, and she loved her relationships — but the three were in geographic opposition to each other, and had created a situation in which she was not content in the totality of her life, even though she loved each piece on its own.

This may sound familiar.

Time and geography are some of the biggest hurdles that we face as humans in the modern world. However, due in part to incredible advances in technology, we’ve managed to convince ourselves that these factors don’t really exist. 

It’s not a problem that I live 20 miles from the office, you might think; my shiny car will get me there.  This is true, until: the snowstorm closes your roads, your car goes into the shop, you become gradually worn down by the congestion, and the small problems and irritations snowball until you’re battling road rage or recklessly texting while driving.

Or – it’s fine to overbook my time, because with this handy miniature computer in my hand, I can work from the road, or reply to clients from my child’s sporting event, or just keep an eye on any critical notifications while I’m out for drinks with my girlfriends. This is also true, until you find yourself in a restaurant everyone is sitting around the table without talking to each other, and you wonder why we pay money to sit together in community while every person is mastered by the electronics in their pockets.

Certainly technology has contributed much more to our lives than it’s taken, or at least that’s how I see it. But it does impact how we view these two factors, and I think it can help entrench our fear of challenging either of them directly.

Artificial Scarcity

So to bring this back to the podcast, the response to the listener highlighted the fact that she is in a position where she has chosen to adopt a scarcity mindset. She’s so focused on the life she has created, it’s hard for her to see the possibilities that might be around the corner. Just like so many of us, she has not truly asked that really key, scary, question – what else is out there? How am I unintentionally limiting myself? And, what could happen if I made a change?

Not something small, like getting up earlier to avoid traffic, or making different arrangements with friends to meet in a more convenient location. Although these are both great suggestions and topics that the podcast touched on, I think to really break ourselves out of the scarcity mindset, we have to think bigger.

What if you love your job — but you quit anyway?

What if you have a great community — but you go in search of a new one?

What if you change your geography, or how you structure your time, in a way that fundamentally changes your life?

I believe one of the most courageous things we can do is to clear the table and start fresh. Because while our time is in fact limited, and we may have geographic roots that can’t be easily unearthed, it is our mind that looks at our current reality and ultimately decides whether this is, in fact, all there is — or whether there could be more.

And for this January of 2017, with big changes in play in our country, our world, and in my own life, this is an inspiring thought.