A Simple Approach to Living With Less

The Two-Step Minimalist Guide to Achieving Your Dreams

There’s just something about staring out at the ocean that makes me incredibly introspective. Sitting out on the balcony has been my favorite thing to do on this vacation. If I manage to snag a few minutes alone to soak up the view, it’s even better. It’s funny how any bit of free time allows my mind to wander more than it normally does.

Looking out towards the horizon lends itself to pondering about my life. I have to admit, I never pictured my life the way it is. The course I charted had a couple definitive locations planned:

  • I would go to college
  • I’d get married
  • I’d probably have kids
  • We’d be happy and successful
  • The End. (not a whole lot of planning involved)

To take advantage of my ocean reflections, that’s pretty much the equivalent of me jumping on a sailboat with no clue how to sail and heading towards Europe. Sure, it sounds fun and adventurous, but anyone who takes off without any sense of direction is bound to get lost along the way.

Lately, I’ve been feeling pretty lost. Without much direction, it’s not hard to see why.

A Change of Direction

We just got back from our week at the beach and it was just what Shawn and I needed. We had lots of great talks together on the balcony overlooking the ocean. It was great! I know the kids had a great time too. It just doesn’t take much for kids to have fun. I really felt like this trip had the biggest impact for me and Shawn.

Did you ever get to that point in your life when you realized that you were in desperate need of some major life changes? Well, that’s where we are. Things were so peaceful while we were away from our “normal life” that we felt ourselves coming back to the question:

Why can’t we have MORE time like this?

I absolutely LOVE this quote from Seth Godin:

“Instead of wondering when your next vacation is,
maybe you ought to set up a life you don’t need to escape from.”

You may have read that quote before and had the same thought I did, “Yeah, that’d be nice in a perfect world.” But really, what’s stopping us from creating a life that we love . . . except the limits we place on ourselves?

If you haven’t read the ProBlogger article by Jon Morrow called “How to Quit Your Job, Move to Paradise and Get Paid to Change the World” then you really need to stop and go read it now. It’s incredible! It’s the best post I can recommend on not letting life limit your dreams.

The Minimalist Guide to Achieving Your Dreams

In its simplest form, the Minimalist Guide to Achieving Your Dreams only has two steps:

  1. Figure out what you want.
  2. Pursue your dream until you get it.

That’s it. Getting discouraged and distracted won’t help you get to where you want to be.

For me, just accomplishing Step 1 was pretty difficult. Sometimes you don’t know what you want out of life. It’s pretty easy to just float along throughout life that we don’t take the time out to reflect on whether we’re happy where we are or if we’re looking for more out of life. Sometimes, it take a small taste of our dreams to realize: YES! I want more of that!

I created an in-depth worksheet on Practical Goal Setting that comes with my upgraded Family-Sized Minimalism package. It’s based on “The Miracle Question” solution-focused technique from counseling, but it’s also great for goal setting and problem solving. Basically, it walks you through describing the specifics from your ideal life.

I’ve included part one from the worksheet below. It helped me this week to think through the things I want to be different in my own life.

Practical Goal Setting – Part 1

If you woke up tomorrow morning and a miracle had occurred and everything in your life was exactly how you wanted, what would be different that would tell you a miracle happened?

  • What would your home life look like?
  • How would you spend your day?
  • Describe your ideal health.
  • How would your relationships be different?
  • Describe your ideal job or way to make money.
  • What would your emotional and spiritual life be like?

Whether you’re going after big dreams like a career change or little goals like decluttering your kitchen, you still need a plan. Think about what the end goal will look and feel like. Be specific and purposeful and you’ll enjoy the journey and the destination that much more when you get there.

If you’d like to learn more about minimalist living, please consider reading my book, Family-Sized Minimalism or subscribing to the RSS or the weekly update newsletter in the sidebar. Thanks so much for reading.

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Article originally published on 06/20/2011

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  1. I’ve been on a journey to a more minimalist lifestyle since last fall. Truthfully, I had never heard about it, or even thought about it until I came across a minimalist website. The entire philosophy was something my heart was yearning for in more ways than one! The Seth Godin quotes hits the nail on the head…and spoke volumes to me. Thanks for sharing this post!

    • Faith Janes says

      That’s exactly how it was for me too. I didn’t really know what it was at first, I just knew I wanted that sense of freedom that I read about. Thanks so much for commenting.

  2. That’s an excellent quote from Seth! Now I’ve got to go read the article you linked to. My ideal life would be pretty similar to the one I have now. The biggest difference would be health… which means I need to actively pursue some weight loss! I’d also (hee!) be a tiny house snowbird with two tiny homes I could split my time between. I keep dreaming and I keep getting closer… with a lot of action steps in between. 🙂

    • Faith Janes says

      I’m right there with ya on the weight loss. That was one of my realizations this week.

      I think the snowbird plan sounds awesome. You’ve got one tiny house down, one to go. 🙂

  3. Great post, Faith! I even made my family listen to me read it to them! I’ve been thinking about my own list since reading this earlier today. I did think of two things that are important in my own life. Number one, as a Christian, I want/need to think of what pleases God. Sometimes that is what I want. Sometimes His plans wouldn’t be what I would choose. But, if I follow His way, I can be happy. The other thing is that sometimes we have to remember that prayer, “God, grant me the serenity….”. There are some areas in my life that I want to change and I can change. There are other areas that I can’t change right now. But we can make the best of it. Like Tanja did with her situation at her mother-in-law’s. I think that is an awesome example of making the best of your situation. Sometimes our spouse doesn’t want the same thing we want or other such challenges. So, that is when we pray for serenity, courage and wisdom. Thanks, Faith, for a lot of food for thought! I’m sure I’ll be linking to you before the week is over. I look forward to following your journey.

    • Faith Janes says

      I agree with you. There will always be things we can’t change and we just have to make the best of them. For me, I just felt like I had let life take over without asking anymore what I wanted to accomplish or even looking for things to change.

      There are plenty of areas in my life that I didn’t plan for that hindsight shows me I ended up in a better place. I just don’t want to be blind to opportunities for growth and feel like I could have done more with my life, but missed those chances.

      Thanks so much for commenting, Laura.

  4. It takes a while to figure out what you want – or rather what you don’t want. the problem you may have at that point is you have responsibility for/to others. That’s where the compromise comes in – and that’s not always what you want to do. People evolve, and not always in the same direction or at the same pace. making the best of what you have, what you can do but appreciating the needs of others is key for me. As my second born prepares to start school, I am at a point also where some thought is required as to what is next. This is something that as primary caregiver you encounter throughout life, as their needs change your direction can also.

    • Faith Janes says

      So true. Before I had children I don’t think I considered how much their presence in my life would affect my goals in life. So many of my goals now are wrapped up in things like: making more time for family, creating lasting memories for my kids, finding ways for flexible ways to make money so I can have more availability for my kids.

      “Being successful” has greatly different implications than when I was younger. When I was going through school, I used to think being successful would look like me being a psychologist with plenty of clients who wanted my help and advice and that I would never need to worry about money. My version of “success” now is having enough to be comfortable, helping those around me, and having a strong family.

      Good to hear from you, Jo! I hope you’re doing well.

  5. This is great Faith. I’m constantly working on figuring out what I want, sprinting towards it, then tweaking the final details. Sometimes as I get closer or reach my ideal life — I realize it doesn’t work for my family.

    In other words, once I had kids my priorities changed, as did my ideal life. 🙂

    Congratulations on figuring out the “want.” For me, that’s always the trickiest part!

    • Faith Janes says

      You’re so right about priorities changing after kids. Breaking down the detailed steps is still the hardest part for me. I am happy to have some major goals decided because for the longest time I didn’t really bother to consider where I was headed.

      Maybe I didn’t want to be disappointed if I didn’t make it to my goals. But I finally decided if I don’t have any goals in mind, I’m lacking direction that helps drives my everyday actions.

      It’s also pretty nice to be headed towards the same goals as my husband. Being on the same team is nice so we can help motivate each other.

  6. I love the quote.

    One of the wonderful things about minimalism is that you step back and take a look at your life in a different way. I’ve worked really hard in the last year to make my life easier and more enjoyable. I’m of the opinion that if you hate your life, its your own fault. Slowly working towards your dreams is the only way to make them happen.

    Thank you Faith for a great post.

    • Faith Janes says

      Thanks for stopping by, Marc. I love your comment because it does take hard work in order to make life easier. I think we forget that part too easily. In most cases, life won’t get easier by itself.

  7. The first step is always the hardest isn’t it? But I’ve found that thinking critically about “what do I need?” puts into focus the things that I really want. I may not have a firm direction for my life, but that will soon come I’m confident. Like the commenter above, I found minimalism through blogs (like this one!) and its principles resonated with me. I’ve just started my journey, and it’s posts like this that tell me there are good things ahead in staying the course!

    • Faith Janes says

      Hi Joel! I’m so glad that you’ve found minimalism to be a helpful thing for you. There are definitely great things ahead! I’m so happy that I discovered minimalism too. It really helped open my eyes to not just the physical changes I wanted to accomplish but in my life priorities as well.

  8. I think that so many people battle with the What do I want question. They have lived life on autopilot so long, living what society has dictated, that they don’t even realize they have a choice.
    Awesome post Faith!
    PS. I love the ocean too!

    • Faith Janes says

      When boats and other machines can run on autopilot, it’s a really cool feature. But when we run our lives on autopilot, not much good comes out of it at all. I was on autopilot for far too long. Just following along with the crowd who got busier and busier and spent more and more. Eyes wide open is a good place to be.

      Thanks for your comment, Bernice.

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