Ah, a simpler life. It sounds like it should be quite easy to achieve, right? I mean, it’s simple after all.
Unfortunately, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Living in the 21st century is everything *but* simple – information overload, keeping up with the Joneses, entertainment and advertisements everywhere you look, expectations upon expectations, oh, and don’t even get me started on social media.
As it turns out, it’s pretty complicated to live a simple life.
Not impossible, though. A good start is to say goodbye to these 8 attachments.
1) Material possessions
Alright, alright, before you roll your eyes and say that there’s no way in hell you’re giving up your apartment and becoming a monk, let me elaborate.
I’m not saying you should sell all your possessions and go live in a cave. But I *am* saying that we tend to assign way too much value to material things that don’t matter in the long run.
Recently, I was moving to a new apartment, and I couldn’t help but feel frustrated with myself for owning so much stuff.
Why was I still holding on to that old teddy bear? And why did I have so many trinkets hidden underneath the bed? And why hadn’t I thrown out all those notebooks from high school already?
Once I donated a lot of my things to a charity shop or threw them out, I felt much lighter.
Sometimes, stuff can have a lot of sentimental value. I get that. But more often than not, stuff is just… stuff. If you didn’t bother to use it for two years straight, it means you don’t actually need it.
2) Short-term dopamine boosts
Speaking of stuff, shopping is one of the best ways to get a lovely dopamine boost that makes you feel satisfied.
For a day. Or a week. A month at the very most. Then the clothes become so familiar to you that they no longer make you feel new or exciting, which triggers yet another avalanche of shopping.
As a result, you are stuck in a cycle of “want, get, want, get”.
The same applies to all bad habits that make your brain release dopamine, such as checking your phone every five minutes, gambling, or gathering likes and subscribers on social media.
This overwhelming need to get another dopamine boost makes your life incredibly complicated. Not only that, but it can make you feel pretty miserable, too.
As Erich Fromm said: “Greed is a bottomless pit which exhausts the person in an endless effort to satisfy the need without ever reaching satisfaction.”
That’s what dopamine-fuelled habits do. They feed your greed.
3) Your social status
Some people shop to make themselves feel better. Others shop to show off their social status. Both are making your life pretty freaking complicated.
Sometimes when I take a step back and look at our society from a distance, people remind me of birds. Male birds specifically use the color of their feathers and the complex dances they’ve learned as a courting technique. And the more colorful and shiny they are, the higher their chances of getting the girl.
That’s what symbols of social status are like. Expensive cars, designer handbags, putting on specific accents, living in certain parts of the city – they’re all different kinds of colors that help us put on a show and stand out.
But while birds are quite literally fighting for survival, humans just like to boost their egos a little bit.
However, if everyone got lost on a deserted island, would their social status matter?
No. Their personality, skills, and knowledge would make or break the deal.
Don’t focus too much on how the world perceives you. Focus on how *you* perceive the world.
4) The results of your actions
When you’re doing something, how often do you think to yourself, “Ugh, I’m looking forward to when this is finally finished”?
The act of wishing for something to be over is so powerful that when you actually do reach the finish line, it doesn’t even feel that satisfying in comparison. There’s some mild relief, but that’s about it.
This brings us to another attachment that unnecessarily complicates your life: focusing on results so much that you completely forget to enjoy the journey.
The journey is what ultimately counts, though. Just think about it. Most of your daily activities aren’t results – those usually last only for a few minutes – but rather the actual process of *doing*.
This is why The Bhagavad Gita says, “Renounce attachment to the fruits.” Life is action. The result of that action is only a bonus.
5) A false sense of control
Obsessing over results is a symptom of clinging onto a false sense of control.
If you think about it often enough, maybe that’s exactly what will happen.
If you overthink and drown in the worst-case scenarios, at least you’ll be prepared.
But that kind of thinking is completely futile. Your worries exist on a plane of thoughts, and they might never manifest in the real world. All you’re doing is making yourself feel worse.
You might not know what the future brings, but that’s something you should accept rather than try to change.
6) Regrets about the past
Letting go of the past is just as important as surrendering yourself to the future.
You only ever experience life in the present moment, and the more you drown in your memories, the more you’re missing out on.
You can’t change the past no matter how much you think about it. What-ifs are pointless.
Stop asking yourself, “What if I did X and Y?”
Instead, ask: “What can I do right now that will make a difference?”
7) Relationships that only bring you down
Think about every important relationship you have. Then ask yourself:
- What about this person do you find inspiring?
- How do you feel after an interaction with them?
- Is the relationship a positive force in your life?
If your answer is negative to at least two of these questions, it might be a good idea to think about the relationship in more depth. Is this person even good for you in the first place?
People often say, “Let go of what doesn’t serve you.”
And while this sounds very cold and tactical – people aren’t here to serve you, after all, they’re here to form deep connections with you – the point still stands that relationships should make your life better, not worse.
The people you surround yourself with affect your well-being to a large degree. Be mindful of who you let in.
8) A rigid sense of identity
Last but not least, if you want a simpler life, say goodbye to holding onto a rigid sense of identity.
And what do I mean by that?
I mean putting yourself into brackets with no extra space. I mean sticking labels upon labels on your head and refusing to admit that the complexities of your mind can simply never be described by a few simple words.
Identity is always in a state of flux. With each new experience, you’re changing. With each new day, you’re becoming someone new.
You might have been quite a jealous person two years ago, but does that really apply now?
You may have hated sports as a child, but does that mean you should avoid going to the gym in your twenties?
Let yourself change and grow. Accept that your identity isn’t something solid. Show yourself more self-compassion and grace. You’ll have a much simpler life as a result.