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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.

Minimalism Kills Fear


“It’s only fear [that] keeps you locked in here.”

—Alexi Murdoch’s It’s Only Fear

We All Have Fears

We’re all afraid of something. Some of our fears are obvious. Some of us are afraid of spiders or flying or heights or dogs or clowns or ex-girlfriends (the ex-girlfriend thing is actually Ryan’s biggest phobia—and Joshua is strangely attracted to female clowns, both of which are sad digressions that won’t be addressed herein).

Other fears are less pronounced, less obvious. So much so that we don’t even know we have certain fears. Like the fear of loss. Loss of things, loss of acceptance, loss of friends, loss of love. Sometimes we’re afraid to give up what we think we have.

Entrapment From Fear

Fear traps us. It prevents us from growing. It prevents us from contributing to other people. It prevents us from living a happy, satisfied, fulfilled, free life. In fact, fear is the antithesis of freedom. It is, by definition, constricting.

We often hold on to things because we are afraid to get rid of them. We fear losing those things that we think we might need. We don’t just fear the loss of these things though, we fear the loss of what these things might potentially mean to us in some distant hypothetical future.

When you say that out loud, it sounds ridiculous. Try it. Say I’m afraid to get rid of this [insert object name here, e.g., T-shirt] because it could potentially make a serious impact on my life someday in the future. Ridiculous, right?

And so there is an obvious questions we must ask ourselves when we’re holding on to something: why am I afraid to get rid of this ?

What Are You Afraid Of?

Julien Smith—in an amazing and potentially offensive essay—tells you to ask yourself an important basic question: what are you afraid of? And while such a question might seem totally banal and obvious on the surface, it’s actually a great question to ask yourself when you are faced with making difficult decisions (or making any decision at all for that matter).

Go on, give it a try”¦

You don’t want to say “no” to that person? Why, what are you afraid of?

You don’t want to write the novel that you’ve always dreamed of writing? Why, what are you afraid of?

You don’t want to learn to play that instrument that you’ve always wanted to play? Why, what are you afraid of?

You don’t want to exercise and eat healthy foods? Why, what are you afraid of?

You don’t want to quit the job that you hate to pursue your passion? Why, what are you afraid of?

You don’t want to [fill in the blank]? Why, what are you afraid of?

The answer to this question is always a ridiculous answer. Are you afraid that people won’t like you anymore? That they won’t love you? Or that they might make fun of you? Chances are that you have manufactured these false fears, and it’s these false fears that keep you from doing what you want to do (or, in the case of our physical items, fears that are keeping you from getting rid of certain things that have no real value, things that have no real meaning in your life).

And so what if someone actually does make fun of you. So what? What they think doesn’t matter anyway.

Make A Choice

We have good news though. Fear is a choice. You actually choose to be afraid. And you can deliberately choose to live without it. All you have to do is make is a conscious decision, a decision to not be afraid. When something stands in your way, you must ask yourself, what am I afraid of?

So many people have chosen to get rid of their fears and move on with a meaningful life. But don’t take our word for it, try it out yourself”¦

Throw away your favorite T-shirt.

Get rid of your TV.

Write that novel.

Start taking yoga classes.

Do something you wouldn’t normally do.

Live your life.

Live a better life.

What are you afraid of?

It’s time to stop being afraid of whatever is preventing you from being happy, whatever is preventing you from being free. Because in the end, you’re holding on to the fear because you’re afraid to give it up.