Finding True North

Traveling Buddies.  During my early college years, I hung out with a really interesting group of friends. They were fascinated with nature and we spent many wonderful summer days hiking the hills of Southern Ohio. From them, I learned about wildflowers and river studies, skydiving and bike touring, beaver dams and Morel mushrooms, bird watching and primitive camping.  Adventure was woven into the fabric of our friendships. Eventually, a couple of the guys began spending alternate seasons traveling between Andros Island in the Bahamas and Denali in Alaska.  They lived minimalist lives and did what they loved most.

At the time I was dating Brent, one of the seasonal travelers. He earned a degree in mechanical engineering;  but upon graduation, he realized his heart just wasn’t on that path.  After an intense semester of soul searching,  he began gathering the needed gear for a cross-country bicycle trip …and off he went.  Eventually, he settled into seasonal work between the tropics and the majestic landscapes of the north.

Wisdom in a Nutshell.  During a visit home after a stint in Alaska, our little group of friends decided to take Brent out to a pub near campus. One of the guys caught the attention of the barmaid and announced, “Hey!  This guy just came back from Alaska!”  With a deep sigh, the young woman replied, “I wish I could do that.”

I will never forget Brent’s response.

He glanced at her and said (rather flatly), “You could if you wanted to.”

Brent’s response seemed a bit brusque at the time …but there was actually a world of truth wrapped up in his words! His comment resonates to this day whenever I face challenges that require a paradigm shift from my old thought patterns to new ones.  In retrospect, Brent was not being aloof. He simply shared a truth that was very obvious to him because he was living it!   He told me later that people are usually imprisoned behind obstacles of their own design, not realizing they usually hold the key to their own prison cell.  We tend to make things harder than they really are; and while some things are out of our control, we can certainly trim the sails so we’re ready when the wind blows.

Reflections.   These days, I find myself reflecting back on Brent’s words even more as I navigate a lifestyle shift toward a merciful form of minimalism …a form that prevents me from self-flagellation  over past mistakes and looks forward to becoming a blessing to others. Although it’s a rough road at times with setbacks along the way,  I often remind myself, “I can do this if I really want to.”  The true question is, am I really committed to making this change?

How many times have you moved heaven and earth to accomplish the things that really mattered to you?   Or how often have you managed to complete a task for work or school that simply had to get done, regardless of time and resource limitations?  You found a way.  We’ve all been there in one form or another; and we all accomplish what must be done when we place high enough importance on the task.

 So, how high of a priority have you made it to reach your goals and reap the benefits of a minimalist lifestyle? Is this journey becoming a must in your life? Are the long-term benefits worth the short term sacrifices required to reorganize and declutter your belief patterns and your home?

Set Your Compass Bearing …Then Trust It.  Change is not easy for anyone. Old habits creep in and we fall back into the very habits we are trying to break.  Be kind to you! On the quest toward minimalism, there may be moments of discouragement and weakness.  In those times, it helps to really define what you want to gain from simplifying your life and minimizing your belongings. Before hitting the trail, be reflective and determine what your True North is.  Why does minimalism appeal to you in the first place? What do you hope to gain through owning less?  Once defined, keep this ultimate goal before you as you begin decluttering your space.  You can and will reach your goal if you *really* want to.  There is no magic formula aside from putting one foot in front of the other.   It’s important  to know what your ultimate goal is so you can keep focused on it.  The only way to fail is to sit on the path and stop moving completely.  No matter how long it takes, move steadily in the direction of your goal until you reach a level of minimalism that works for you.   Remember, you are competing against no one but yourself.  You absolutely can simplify your life …if you want to.

Happy Trails!

Trail Markers:
I learned this, at least, by my experiment; that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours…      ~ Thoreau


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