Ask people what is most important to them—what they think is the foundation for the best kind of life—and most would reply, “love, happiness, and good health.”
They’re not wrong. There’s lots you can live without, but if you don’t feel anyone cares about you, or fulfilled in any way, or if your body is failing, it’s hard to imagine life being that great.
On top of those, there are many other things that people value in life, such as:
- Security (the feeling of safety and stability)
- Intimacy (feeling connected or close to others)
- Adventure (seeking fun/thrills, wanting to try out new things)
- Freedom (being independent, ability to make own choices)
- Contribution (making a positive change or difference)
- Success (feeling accomplished)
- Passion (doing enjoyable things)
- Growth (learning new things, self-improvement)
- Integrity (being honest and having strong moral principles)
- Comfort (seeking pleasure, avoiding pain)
- Many others…
What each value means and how important they are varies between each person. How you rank these values can affect everything from what kind of job or career you have, to who you choose for a partner (or, at least, what/who you would be happy with in the long term). One might value passion over security, and choose a job or person they love over one that earns more. Another might be horrified at that idea and do the opposite.
Values can be opposing or overlapping. Contribution might be synonymous with success for some, whilst others believe sacrificing security is necessary for success, in their startup for example.
What’s more, some people have higher values in one area, and a different value in other areas. Someone might seek security above all else in their relationships, but go all out adventurous in their travels.
The whole topic of values can be quite complex, but the main point is that you’ll hardly find two things on the anyone’s list that the majority of people in the modern world are spending most of their waking life on—money and material things.
Money and material things are not really values, but are means to get some of the feelings we do value. Money may give people a sense of security or freedom, and having nice things gives some people comfort, or a feeling of accomplishment.
Rarely are money and things actually valuable to people, deep down. Yes, money can afford you basic necessities and healthcare, but it can’t buy you love and fulfilment. Ask anyone who has bought something that they’ve long dreamed of buying if they would happily die now, you’ll hear a resounding no.
Living minimally is a reminder to focus on our values. Instead of being caught up with keeping up with the latest trends on Instagram, or what people think of us, we instead try to minimise distractions and bring our actions back in line with what’s really important to us.
Would you buy the biggest house on the street if you didn’t have time to spend in it with your family? That depends if you value love over what the neighbours think. Would you get into debt for the latest gadget or designer shoes? That depends if you value security and freedom over appearances.
Our values don’t make us who we are but how we rank them influences everything we do. Our actions should be aligned with our values, but you’ll be surprised by how many people haven’t even thought about it, or spend years ignoring the signs, or even doing the complete opposite of what would actually make them happy.
If we can agree that the best life is spent dedicated to what mattered to us the most, then let’s not waste any more time. Cut out, pare down, simplify. Clear the path ahead. By deciding what we value the most, we create our life compass, pointing us in the direction we want to go.