Giving Challenge #2: One Item A Day

While backpacking around New Zealand for seven months, I learned to love living with only the necessities.  All of the possessions I brought with me fit into one backpack and it was still more than I needed.  It is incredible how little you actually need when you are forced into a limited situation.

I knew that this living style was going to be an adjustment, so I began to read about minimalism to prepare.  Walden by Henry David Thoreau is the classic example of minimalist writing.  This book provides a lot of valuable information but for a more modern and applicable example of these principles, I suggest reading Leo Babauta’s writings.  The combination of his books (The Power of Less and Focus) and blog posts (Zen Habits and mnmlist) will provide you with the concepts needed to simplify your life.

This material and my experiences in New Zealand has helped me take a minimalist approach to the number of possessions I have.  It is definitely a struggle to maintain in a society that is constantly pushing people to buy more.  However, it is amazing the amount of stress that is relieved by simply living in an uncluttered and organized space.

This leads to the challenge for the week: Give away one item each day for seven days.  This will not be seven random items either.  I want you to make it a challenge for yourself by strategically choosing the items that you give away.

Take the next five minutes to figure out seven items that fit one of the following two categories:

1) Items contributing to a bad habit
–  Moderate Example: Give away your DVD’s.  Having a large collection of DVD’s can be a huge barrier preventing you from being social.  Without any movies to watch, you eliminate a reason for staying home.  This gives you more incentive to go out and build deeper relationships with friends.  Remove barriers between your current life and your ideal life.
Extreme Example: Give your TV away.  If you want to instantly transform your life, eliminate all TV from it.
Other examples: Unhealthy Food, Video Games, etc.

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How to Revive Any Relationship

If you want to turn your life around, try thankfulness.  It will change your life mightily.  ~Gerald Good

Growing up we are always taught to be grateful for the blessings in our lives.  We are told to take a few moments each day to reflect on those things that we appreciate.  However, that is not very practical.  That may sound a bit harsh but it is true.  We have busy lives.  Sadly, it is rare that a person will randomly stop what they are doing in order to look at the good things in their life.

Occasionally, someone does something extremely generous, all your plans fall into place or some natural beauty will overwhelm you and you will realize how lucky you are to be alive.  Those extravagant moments don’t happen as often as we would like.  We have too many wonderful things in our lives to sit back and wait for them to slap us in the face in order for us to show our appreciation.  We are greatly underutilizing the power of gratitude by waiting for those moments.  We must turn gratitude into a habit if we are to fix this problem.

“Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others.” – Cicero

I was first introduced to the idea of a Thanksgiving Journal by Darren Hardy.  The basic concept is to identify something in your life that you are struggling with.  This could be anything from a lack of motivation at work to a struggling relationship.  At the end of each day, write one thing that you are grateful for about the situation.  For example, if you are married then you might be grateful for the dinner that your spouse made or the beautiful smile that you are so attracted to.  This can be any tiny detail that you are grateful for.  The more specific, the better.

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How to Spend Time Doing What You Love

In 1906, an Italian economist, Vilfredo Pareto made a revolutionary discovery; 80% of the land in Italy was owned by 20% of the population.  Doesn’t sound very revolutionary.  Well, Pareto didn’t stop there.

He also observed that 80% of the peas in a garden are produced by only 20% of the plants.  He began to notice that this ratio continued to pop up in all different areas of life. (80% of crimes are committed by 20% of criminals.  80% of profits come from 20% of customers.)  This law came to be known as the Pareto Principle or the 80/20 rule.

This concept is very common in the business world, but is often underutilized in everyday life.  One area where it should be taken advantage of is in our hobbies.  In order to please people, we often agree to every opportunity offered to us.  It is hard to say no to someone when they ask you to play on their softball team, organize an event or check out their cooking class.  It usually sounds like a good idea at the time, but ends up being a burden later on.  The result is that we either disappoint someone or are extremely stressed.  We need to be able to say no.  It is not rude to thank them for the invitation and simply say that you won’t be able to make it.

“Beware of the bareness of a busy life.” – Socrates

Before you can start to say no, you need to figure out what you want to say no to.  That is where we apply the Pareto Principle.  The goal should be to identify what key areas in your life bring you the most joy and to focus on them.  We are not taking advantage of the potential joy that each area can bring when we say yes to all of them.  You are much better off finding tremendous joy in a few things instead of a little joy (and a lot of stress) in many things.

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