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The Minimalists

Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus write about living a meaningful life with less stuff for 4 million readers. As featured on: ABC, CBS, NBC, BBC, TODAY, NPR, TIME, Forbes, The Atlantic, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and National Post. They live in Missoula, Montana.

Day 8 | Beliefs

The Minimalists, photo by Adam Dressler

Have you considered the origins of your beliefs? Not the religious beliefs many of us are raised with, but, rather, the sum total of your beliefs.

The house we believe we must own.
The career we believe we must attain.
The material goods we believe we must possess.
The college degrees.
The luxury cars.
The cool kids.
The income.
The status.
The achievements.
The trinkets of success.
The white picket fence.
The American Dream.

It’s difficult to pin down precisely where all these beliefs originate, but, when we step back and look at our beliefs from a distance, it’s easy to see many of them are absolute poppycock.

Recently, during this journey into minimalism, Ryan discovered his condo and all his belongings are not as important as he once believed. He has unpacked only a few hundred items since his Packing Party, which was quite the epiphany since he believed he truly needed most of what he’d packed.

And yet here the majority of the boxes sit: Unpacked. Unused. Unaccessed.

Ryan’s journey so far has not only made him acutely aware of the material things in his life, but he has taken more notice of the other “things,” too: Friends. Family. Habits. Health. Thoughts. Beliefs.

When Ryan graduated from high school in 1999, he went to work for his father’s wallpaper business—the plan was for him to take over the family business one day. They worked in many million-dollar houses, and, in time, Ryan realized that painting and wallpapering would never allow him to afford any of the houses he worked in. So, after four years, he decided to leave the family business, opting instead for a sales job at a telecommunications company. Once Ryan earned his first commission check, he knew he was on his way to making six figures—and once he reached that point, he was confident everything would be okay.

That’s what he believed.

And he believed this for the six years he climbed the corporate ladder, making more and more money, only to realize that until he was happy with what he had, no amount of money, status, or achievement would make him happy.

This is Ryan’s new belief, a belief that aligns with his values—not the values of our heavily-mediated pop culture.

Ultimately we get to choose what we believe, so it’s crucial to choose wisely: to align our beliefs with our values, and to align those values with our daily actions—that’s a congruent life, a happy life.

“Beliefs” is Day 8 of Our 21-Day Journey into Minimalism. Move on to Day 9. Read Ryan’s journal entries from this entire journey in Everything That Remains. You can also subscribe to The Minimalists via email.