I was talking to a nice guy who was in dire straits the other day. He laid before me many of his problems. His marriage was crumbling. He was in massive debt. He was making less money than he used to. He was living an unhealthy lifestyle. He was unhappy, depressed, and frustrated with where he was in life. He asked me for my advice. He wanted to know how I changed so many things in my life in such a short period of time.
I explained that I didn’t have any advice for him. I told him that he knew his situation better than I ever could, and he likely knew what to do. I asked him what advice he’d give himself if he was in my shoes. He told me what he would say to himself. And, it’s funny, all his ideas sounded like great advice. Then, I explained why taking our own advice is the hardest pill to swallow.
But he didn’t like his own advice because it was too gradual. Plus, his advice wasn’t easy. He was recommending small, incremental changes—changes that wouldn’t likely make a huge difference right away. Instead, he wanted the magic pill, he wanted something that would radically change his life immediately, he wanted instant gratification. His advice seemed so basic, so intuitive, so vapid that obviously it’s not what I did to change my life—obviously I had the secret answer with this whole minimalism thingy.
I said that while I had no advice for him, I could tell him how I changed my life, and he could see if any of those changes were applicable to his situation, and if they were, he could use my life as an example. Then I simply echoed his advice back to him, and applied it to my life. You see, I didn’t have a magic strategy either. It took me two long years to get where I am now—one small change at a time.
Two Years of Incremental Changes
Two years ago, I was also unhappy, in debt, out of shape, and stuck.
It took me two years to pay off most of my debt and establish a minimalist budget. I focused on paying off one creditor at a time. I allocated every extra dollar to pay off my car. I sold my house and moved into an apartment. I got rid of any superfluous bills (e.g., cable TV, Internet, etc.).
It took me two years to get into the best shape of my life, exercising every day and completely changing my diet over time.
It took me two years to give less meaning to my physical possessions, focusing instead on important relationships, personal growth, and contribution.
It took me two years to get away from corporate America and pursue my passions.
None of it happened over night. And it certainly wasn’t easy, but a lot can change in a year or two. I changed my life by focusing on small changes each day. I focused on those small changes, not on everything I wanted to change. And then, one day, I looked in the rearview mirror and everything was different.