I’ve tried to live with a few simple guidelines for some time now. I’m not really one for manifestos or rigid creeds, but recently I’ve been trying to think of my values in terms of a simply stated philosophy. A few words that can encompass many values that makes it easy to understand what I stand for.
As I’ve played with words and phrasing, I feel like I’ve finally come to a philosophy that’s simple to understand and broad enough to include many more specific values.
Live Simply. Think Critically. Move Daily.
I’m not going to make this a long post, but I’ll devote just a little space below to expanding on each of these micro-statements.
Likely the broadest of these statements, and the one I feel I’m most successful with. In no particular order, this means a few things to me:
- Minimalism – In general, live with fewer things, and use less stuff. Buy only what you need and make sure you need something before you buy it. When we first began this a couple years ago we found it very liberating. Our plan is to continually reduce our possessions over time. It has the added benefit of reducing our need for money.
- Plant-based – I don’t eat animal products and I avoid buying things with animal-tested or derived ingredients. If my food choices can provide me good health, reduce animal suffering and reduce our environmental impact, why wouldn’t I do it?
- Walk and Cycle – We still have a car and typically only use it on weekends for errands, and sparingly at that. My spouse works from home, I walk to work and we love it.
Likely the most difficult of these statements to really live day-to-day. Human beings are emotional animals and our emotions are what truly make us human. However, in my decision-making and reactions, I’m always striving to make the most logical decisions I can, though I know I’m very far from doing it all the time.
It’s easy to react to things and not give them enough thought before responding. We engage with trolls we should just leave alone on social media, or get emotional about something someone says and only realize it after the fact. I find more breathing and even meditating on some things helps me a great deal.
With regard to big things, I try to use impartial evaluation criteria to make my decisions. It always begins with consulting my spouse, looking for as much external evidence as possible, then usually sitting on my decision for at least a day, if not longer. In particular, to truly think critically there’s no way around the need to read more, and doing so has been a goal of mine as long as I can remember. I’m probably doing it more now than I ever have.
Likely the simplest of these statements … in theory. My walk commuting does help, but I tend to think of moving as being faster than a walk. However, I shouldn’t. We get a host of health benefits through this simple activity, which is one of the primary things we were designed to do. The downsides of a sedentary lifestyle are many and serious, and are taken a step further when people commute by car.
While I used to think of moving in terms of cycling and running only, as I’ve aged I’ve broadened my definition to realize the many things I can do to attain my goal of moving daily. Yoga, meditation, weight training and swimming are all additional ways to reach this goal. While I’ll admit I don’t really swim any more, between the rest of these and walking, running and cycling, I’m doing something – often a few things – almost every day to move my body, and sometimes quite substantially when I am riding or running longer.
Perhaps the most important thing for me in this philosophy is that my values are pretty compatible with one another and, when lived regularly, work together to deliver more benefits, and to more than just myself.
Living simply with few possessions allows me to be more active and be more present in other aspects of my life, while I feel a plant-based diet and exercising enhance the benefits of each thing. Thinking critically is a form of meditation and meditation is like exercise for your mind. Living simply and being plant-based ensures I am having as little an impact on animals and the environment as I reasonably can, and that kind of thing makes me very happy.
I expect we all think about how we want to live our lives. The question I think we need to ask ourselves is whether the way we’re living makes us happy.