The first step in any journey is often the most difficult. This was true for our journey into minimalism. In this case, our first step had nothing to do with a task that we had to complete. Our first step was deciding. Or, rather, deciding that we wanted to make a significant change in our lives.
Making decisions is often difficult. And procrastination is easy, at least for the moment. But there is no reward in procrastination.
The most difficult part of creating a change is deciding to make that change a reality, it’s deciding when to take action, it’s when you know that you must make a decision in order to change your life.
This might sound like abstract nonsense or hyperbole, so let’s get more concrete.
Two Kinds of Decisions
Fundamentally, we believe that there are two kinds of decisions you can make: intellectual decisions and emotional decisions.
Intellectually, we knew that we wanted a change in our lives. We knew that we were unhappy, unsatisfied, and unfulfilled. We knew that we didn’t have freedom. Not real freedom. The problem is that we knew these things intellectually but not emotionally. We didn’t have the feeling in our guts that things must change. We knew they should change but the change wasn’t a must for us.
Should vs. Must
And so it’s just like anything else you tell yourself.
I should change.
I should stop wasting my money.
I should work less.
I should get rid of all this junk.
I should eat healthier food.
I should exercise.
I should write more.
I should read more.
I should watch less TV.
I should, I should, I should.
After a while you end up shoulding all over yourself. It may be an off color analogy, but it’s fitting because you really do feel like shit after you’ve put everything off for so long, after you’ve procrastinated over and over and over.
But once you understand these things on an emotional level, you are able to turn your shoulds into musts. We believe that is the pivotal point. That is when you get leverage. That is when you are compelled to take action.
Thus, a decision is not a real decision until it is a must for you, until you feel it on your nerve endings and it effects you at a cellular level, until you are compelled to take action. Once your shoulds have turned into musts, then you have made a real decision.
I must change.
I must stop wasting my money.
I must work less.
I must get rid of all this junk.
I must eat healthier food.
I must exercise.
I must write more.
I must read more.
I must watch less TV (or no TV at all).
I must, I must, I must.
Go back and say these things out loud. Seriously, don’t do anything else until you go back and say those musts out loud. Do you feel how much more powerful they feel than the same exact list of shoulds above? The should list is passive and defeated and lethargic and dead. The musts are alive and are filled with vigor and strength and energy. I must take action!
Now, your only exercise for today is simple, it’s to make your Must List. What are your musts? What must happen in your life for a fundamental change to occur? Take as much time as you need and write down all your musts.
We must take action. That’s what we decided when we started this journey. And you must take action too. (N.B. you will see our Must List when you get to day 2 of your journey).
Your first day on your journey isn’t even about taking action though (you’ll take action every day after today), but your first day is still your hardest day. Today is the day that you must decide things must change. You know, at least intellectually, that you are not happy with how things are in your life. But you can’t have it both ways. You can’t want it to be one way, when your actions are the other way. If your actions are not congruent with your desires, then you will never feel happy, never feel fulfilled, never be content.
Take a look at your Must List. Put that list somewhere where you will see it all the time. Now stop everything you are doing and make a decision. Make a decision to change your life, to live your life the way you want to live it. Don’t just think about the change intellectually, feel it in your gut. Know that you must change. Feel the change on your nerve endings.
Today is the best day of your life, because today is the day that everything changes. Today is the day that your shoulds turn into your musts. Today is the day you decide to take action. Today is the first day of the rest of your new life, your new minimalist life.