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I was recently asked, “How does your view of passing on an inheritance factor in your minimizing?”

I responded with a quote from Peter Strople I’ve never forgotten:

Legacy is not leaving something for people. It’s leaving something in people.

The inheritance we pass on to our children is more than the material possessions or the financial assets outlined in our will. It also includes the legacy we leave and the example we set. In this way, inheritance is more than what we usually think about.

This is an important perspective—and the ramifications are significant.

Interestingly, the very definition of inheritance includes this reality:

inheritance
noun

: something, as a quality, characteristic, or other immaterial possession, received from progenitors or predecessors as if by succession.

The inheritance we leave for our children extends beyond the material things in our attic or the zeroes in our bank account. Our inheritance also includes the example we live, the moral compass we set, the character we develop, and the name we build for ourselves and our family.

This is important to remember, first of all, for those with little financial wealth. Regardless of the dollar amount contained in your will, you can still pass on to your children (and their children) a valuable inheritance by living a life of character and decency focused on the things that matter most. This inheritance, by the way, is more valuable in the long run than a dollar figure anyway.

This truth about immaterial inheritance is also relevant and challenging to those with financial means. When wealth is added to the equation, it becomes very tempting to define and focus only on the material possessions that we desire to pass on: the house, the land, the bank accounts, the businesses.

But relatively speaking, these assets are less important than the character traits and the life model we will inevitably pass on to our children. For our kids’ sake, it is shortsighted to spend our lives focused too much on financial wealth, rather than character development.

Regardless of your net worth, if you have family, you will pass on an inheritance. Let’s remember the gifts we can leave to our children extend far beyond material possessions. And work diligently to focus on the most important.

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Editor’s Note: This is a guest post from Angel (and Marc) Chernoff of Marc & Angel Hack Life.

Recently one of our course students, Monica—a recovering victim of a very recent and debilitating car accident—was smiling from ear to ear the minute our FaceTime coaching session began.

“What has you in such good spirits today?” I asked her. “I’m thinking differently about things…about how lucky I am to be alive,” she replied. “I thought the injuries I sustained in that accident signified the end of life as I know it, but now I realize they signify the beginning.”

All details aside, Monica decided to begin again, in her mind first and then in her life. It’s taken her several weeks of healing and practice, but she has consciously let go of the “shoulda, woulda, coulda” attachments in her head about her circumstances, and she has stepped forward with grace and determination. Her new beginning has everything to do with her new way of thinking.

Truth be told, no matter when we look at the calendar, today is really just the beginning, for all of us. And we can prevent the wrong thoughts and beliefs from getting the best of us as we move forward with our lives. We can train our minds to make the very best of the present moment, even when our circumstances are far less than ideal. All it takes is…

Practice. Daily practice, every morning.

The morning is vital. It’s the foundation from which the day is built. And that’s why we have to be mindful of how we speak to ourselves when we first wake up. What we tell ourselves first thing in the morning is a big part of what we hear for the rest of the day.

Positive morning reminders are honestly one of the simplest and most powerful tools for mental growth.

It’s all about keeping the right thoughts top of mind from the get-go every day, so they’re readily available on those hard days when you need them most.

For Monica, that has meant sitting down quietly with herself every morning after breakfast and reflecting on precisely what she needs to remember. She reads quotes (many of which are now excerpts from our new book) like the one below to do just that. Some people call them affirmations, or prayers, or convictions, but in any case these positive morning reminders keep Monica on track by keeping peaceful, productive thoughts and perspectives centered in her mind, even as she struggles to cope with her injuries.

She has ultimately learned that peace does not mean to be in a place where there is no chaos, trouble, or hard realities to deal with—peace means to be in the midst of all those things and still remain mentally and emotionally centered.

This is one of our favorite morning reminders. Our challenge to you is to spend 60 seconds every morning this Summer reciting it to yourself as soon as you wake up, before you begin your day. See how doing so affects your mood and disposition throughout the day…

Look around,
And be thankful right now.
For your health,
Your family,
Your friends,
And your home.
Nothing lasts forever.

Try it now.

Take a deep breath and read it out loud.

And as you say the words health, family, friends, and home, pause briefly and visualize each of them.

Think about what gifts they are, even if they’re imperfect.

Be grateful for them just as they are.

Instead of focusing on what you’d change about them, focus on what you love about them and how much value they add to your life.

As you repeat this reminder each morning, pause the same way you just did. Many of these everyday gratitudes are too easily forgotten. And they are critically important!

In our new book, Getting Back to Happy: Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Reality, and Turn Your Trials into Triumphs, we explore gratitude as a fundamental daily ritual for creating happiness.

This is an active practice of taking life day by day and being thankful for the little things. It’s about not getting caught up in what you can’t control, but instead accepting it and making the best of it. Because, when you stop worrying about what you can’t control, you have more time to change the things you can control. And that changes everything.

This book represents the culmination of hundreds of hours of work with course students like Monica, and lots of one-on-one work with each other, too. Made up of small lessons and tiny, life-changing daily rituals, we have seen these exact practices change lives time and again.

We’re excited to share Getting Back to Happy with you, so we’re also giving away some bonuses (including the One Day at a Time 60-day Workbook) to Becoming Minimalist readers that order the book today. You can get details here.

Above all, what you need to remember is that it’s ultimately your choice…

Yes, it’s your choice.
YOUR choice.
You are choosing right now.

And if you’re choosing…
to complain…
to blame…
to be stuck in the past…
to act like a victim…
to feel insecure…
to feel anger…
to feel hate…
to be naïve…
to ignore your intuition…
to ignore good advice…
to give up…

…then it’s time to choose differently.

But, let me also remind you that you are not alone. Generations of human beings in your family tree have chosen. Human beings around the world have chosen. We all have chosen at one time or another. And we stand behind you now whispering:

Choose to let go.
Choose to be present.
Choose to be positive.
Choose to forgive yourself.
Choose to forgive others.
Choose to see your value.
Choose to see the possibilities.
Choose to find meaning.
Choose to prove you’re not a victim.
Choose to practice thinking better (and living better), every morning.

And of course, if there’s anything else Marc and I can do to assist you, please don’t hesitate to leave a comment below.

***

Angel (and Marc) Chernoff are the creators of Marc & Angel Hack Life, which was recognized by Forbes as “one of the most popular personal development blogs” and the authors of the new book, Getting Back to Happy. Through their writing, coaching, course and annual live events (where Joshua Becker has spoken twice), they’ve spent the past decade sharing proven strategies for getting unstuck in order to find lasting happiness and success.

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Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Louis Chew of Constant Renewal.

Not long ago, I tried assearing some of my possessions. It didn’t go well.

As I went through some old books and notes from school, I wondered to myself if I’d ever use them again. Deep down, I knew there was no chance I’d ever read the same books I enjoyed as a teenager. Still, I kept them. I reasoned with myself that maybe someday someone I knew would need them.

It’s safe to assume that it’s extremely unlikely that someday will ever arrive. The truth is I don’t need those books anymore. Neither did I want them anymore. Yet, I still couldn’t get rid of them. It just feels right to keep those items in my life.

I’m probably not alone in this. This thought process is something that most of us go through whenever it comes to our possessions. Some call it sentimental value. But the better answer is probably found in economics and psychology.

The Endowment Effect

In the 1970’s, psychologist Richard Thaler noticed a weird pattern.

A man who bought a bottle of wine for $5 a few years ago was offered $100 by the wine merchant to buy the bottle back. This was a fair price that the bottle would probably fetch in an auction. But the man declined to sell. When offered a chance to buy a similar bottle from the wine merchant for $100, the man also refused. The man didn’t necessarily appreciate the wine, but he was still unwilling to sell at that price.

This wasn’t an isolated incident; in fact it’s all around us. The Economist recently published an article that surveyed how much people were willing to pay for legroom in an airplane. When told they did not have an automatic right to decline, but would have to negotiate for it, the recliners were only willing to pay $12 on average for this comfort. But when asked how much they would need to be paid to give up their own legroom, they required on average of $39.

The inconsistency is revealing. Psychologists call this the Endowment effect: it’s the tendency for us to overvalue things we own. It explains why we are so unwilling to give something up once we have ownership of it.

At first, the researchers thought that this was a classic case of loss aversion, where we feel the pain of losing something more strongly than the pleasure of gaining something.

That sounds logical, but there’s a more insidious reason. Psychologists have also concluded that this overvaluation may stem from our sense of ownership itself. We value something more simply because it is ours. If we own a car, laptop, or watch of a certain model, we would similarly overvalue that same object owned by someone else because we own one ourselves.

Fighting The Endowment Effect

The Endowment Effect often goes unnoticed by us in most scenarios. What can we do then to counter this phenomenon? Here are three strategies you can apply:

Ask yourself: how much would I pay for this if I didn’t already own it? More often than not, you’ll find that the answer is nothing. If that’s the case, it’s a clear sign you value an item not because of its extrinsic or intrinsic value, but simply because of the endowment effect. 

Consider the utility of the item. How much do you really need this item? The 80-20 principle holds true for our possessions as well: 80% of the utility we get comes from 20% of the possessions we own. Is this item adding value or simply creating clutter?

Borrow and don’t own. Luxury brands often offer customers a fitting, trial, or a test of their product. We take advantage of this offer because it’s free. But what we don’t realize is that the endowment effect is already beginning to influence our decisions: we feel like we own that dress or car we’re trying out.

It’s little wonder we walk out of stores with new possessions and less money in the bank more often than we like. If you want to try out a product, borrow it from a friend. This way, the obligation to return the borrowed item will prevent you from holding onto it indefinitely.

The endowment effect takes a larger psychological toll on us than we realize. Every year, we go through the same process of cleaning and figuring out where to store our possessions. Don’t let this happen to you. Take the time to solve this problem once and for all. It’s far better to de-own than declutter.

The cost of ownership is often greater than we think. But that’s not all. The cost and value of things become great only because we own it. And the more we recognize this, the more we’ll feel the liberation of less.

***

Louis Chew blogs at Constant Renewal where he inspires others to overcome mental barriers and fears to live their best life.

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It’s 7:43pm and you’re at mile 25 of your daily parenting marathon.

The finish line is in sight. So far, you’ve hosted a play date, dragged Halloween costumes out for dress-up, played at the park, supervised finger painting, and judged a Lego competition (which you determined to be a tie—naturally). Dinner is done and the children are bathed.

After your spouse reads a story to the kids and makes sure their teeth have been brushed, you seal the day with a kiss on their foreheads. You begin looking forward to a calm evening watching some television or catching up with your spouse.

Unfortunately, before you even have a chance to sit down, you quickly realize the day’s work isn’t done just yet.

While the children have “technically” cleaned up after themselves, your home still feels a bit chaotic.

Costumes are falling out of the king-size plastic bin you swore would solve all of your organization headaches. Kids’ and adult sneakers and flip-flops are scattered beside the shoe shelf you built beside the back door. The kids’ art easel is blocking the laundry closet, which is bulging with its own clutter. And while the kids did pick up most of the Legos from the floor, their favorite creations are still being displayed atop a stack of unread women’s magazines on the coffee table—the same coffee table you were hoping to rest your feet upon.

By the time you go to bed, the house is “mostly” back in order. But in the back of your mind you know the following evening you’ll be facing the same clutter once again.

Maybe It Doesn’t Have to Be This Way

Ten years ago, after a conversation with my neighbor, my wife and I sold, donated, or discarded over 60% our possessions. We removed clothes, furniture, decorations, cookware, tools, books, toys, plus anything else we could find in our home that was not immediately useful or beautiful.

At the time, the concept of purposefully owning less stuff was foreign to our worldview—especially being raised in a society that relentlessly promises happiness and fulfillment in our next purchase. But, for some reason, the idea of owning less sounded oddly attractive.

I had been introduced to the world of minimalism. And I was drawn to it.

Today Americans consume twice as many material goods as we did fifty years ago. The size of the average American home has nearly tripled in size over the past 50 years and now contains about three hundred thousand items. Our stuff has even spilled outside our walls. Due to our garage clutter, 25 percent of people with two-car garages don’t have room to park cars inside and another 32 percent have room for only one vehicle! And I haven’t even mentioned the 10% of us who rent offsite storage.

We are drowning in a sea of possessions—and we feel it almost every day. We’re tired, stressed, hurried, and financially strapped.

The most popular solution to our battle against clutter seems to be “just implement better organization”—or at least, that’s what we’re told is the solution. So we’ve bought colorful buckets, bins and baskets from the same good folks who sold us the costumes and the Legos and the magazines and dryer sheets. But in the end, although the storage solutions we’ve bought promised to solve all our woes, they’ve only packaged them differently.

But there’s a solution that’s even more effective than organizing.

The surprising solution you’ll never find in an Ikea catalogue, plastered on a billboard or featured on a Google banner ad is to own less stuff.  Owning less results in less cleaning and organizing and managing and repairing.

But the benefits go far beyond that: Owning less sets you free to pursue your dreams and become the person you desire to be.

The Unlikely Way

When you choose to live more lightly—both releasing some of what you have and choosing to add less to what you already do have—doors to pursuing your dreams begin to open. I’ve seen it in my life and you can experience it in yours.

Because when you own less, you’re freed up for what matters most.

My friend Marjorie had kept a jar of coins her grandfather had given her for about ten years. When she moved homes, she’d hauled the jar to a shelf in her new closet. They weren’t precious coins that could be sold for a profit; they would be worth whatever the screen displayed when she dumped them into the sorting machine at her bank. Marjorie had promised herself that she and her kids would do something special one day, like visiting a waterpark. But they never did.

When Marjorie’s heart and mind were captured with the more of less, she finally took those coins—and all the others she’d scraped out of junk drawers, couch cracks and purses—and cashed them in. After they’d gone to the waterpark, Marjorie had money left that she was able to donate to a local charity.

Similarly, Sarah recently told me her story of always wanting to do mission work overseas. When her church announced a weeklong trip to Haiti, Sarah began dreaming of going with her teenage daughter. Inspired, Sarah and her daughter made the connection between all they owned and what they hoped to be and do. Together they gathered and sorted much of the stuff in their home they no longer needed or used.

Sarah’s daughter made $325 on Craigslist and eBay selling electronics they no longer used. Sarah held a yard sale where she sold their extras and welcomed donations to purchase supplies for orphans in Haiti. Sarah and her daughter were not only able to raise the money for their trip, they experienced benefits they’d not even anticipated. Their clutter-free home didn’t accumulate more clutter each day because they were living with less. The space was pleasant to live in and they loved the extra time they gained by caring for less stuff.

These are real stories. And I hear more and more almost every day. Stories of people who have begun to live their dreams, because they chose to live with less stuff.

Just Do It

If the stuff you own is keeping you from pursuing your dreams—dreams for your family, dreams for yourself, dreams for others—then you can begin to embrace those dreams by taking a few simple steps to live with less. And while these baby steps begin with decluttering—which is, admittedly, not so glamorous—the ultimate purpose is to put yourself in a position to fulfill the dreams you have for your life.

So before you leave this article, I want you to write down your dream. If you use a journal, go get it. If you tape notecards to your bathroom mirror, grab a notecard. If you post sticky notes on your computer, go get a pad. Keeping in view the bigger picture of why you’re reducing the amount of stuff you own will help as you purpose to reduce the amount you own.

What is your dream?

If you keep your eye on the reasons you’re aiming to live with less, you’ll have more energy to do the work before you.

Now that your motivation has been articulated, here are a few tips to help you get started removing the excess from your home:

1. Start Small. Focus on easy battles, scoring quick wins and establishing momentum in your decluttering journey. Don’t make hard decisions. Just grab an empty bag and remove everything you can easily part with. Put them in the bag and set them aside for you. You can sort them later.

2. Start Easy. A bedroom, bathroom or living room will be easier to begin with than an attic or kitchen. Plus, if you remove what you don’t need from these frequently used spaces you’ll experience positive effects almost immediately.

3. Start Noticing the BenefitsTake a step back, look at what you’ve accomplished. Are you experiencing more peace, more calm, less distraction, and more peace? Notice the practical ways owning less improves your life—and use that motivation to tackle harder spaces in your home.

As you begin to declutter, experiment to discover what makes the process most satisfying for you. Is it offering scooters and baseball mitts to the younger kids next door? Is it seeing a once-crowded shelf become usable once again? Is it setting goals of gathering 100 items each weekend and relaxing during the week? Every person’s process is different, so find what works for you.

Live the Dream

Remember that index card on your bathroom mirror? As you choose to own less you’ll free up time, money and energy to be who you want to be. When you shop less, you spend less time driving from store to store and spend less money on what you don’t need. When you release what you don’t need you spend less time organizing and cleaning all you own. Don’t let those gains go to waste.

Purpose to take practical steps to realizing your dream:

  • Spend 30 minutes each day working at your craft
  • Mark your calendar with the day you can volunteer locally
  • Devote three hours next weekend to developing a business plan
  • Start a bank account to save for a mission trip
  • Enroll for a class at your local city college
  • Enlist your kids in collecting canned goods for a local food pantry

You have been gifted with a desire for abundant living. As you choose to own less, you’ll discover time, money, and energy that can be used to make it a reality.

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There’s more to life than buying stuff.

There are many wonderful people pursuing and promoting simplicity. Fortunately, some of them are gifted in communication and choose to encourage and inspire us with their words. I enjoy reading their unique perspective. I’m sure you will too.

So fix yourself a nice warm cup of coffee or tea on this beautiful weekend. Find a quiet moment. And enjoy some encouraging words about finding more simplicity in your life today.

Scientists Find Clever Way to Help You De-clutter Your Home | Science Daily by Jeff Grabmeier, Ohio State University. Researchers found that people were more willing to give away unneeded goods that still had sentimental value if they were encouraged to take a photo of these items first.

How To Tell If Your Kid Is Too Overwhelmed By Their Toys | Romper by Lindsay E. Mack. Plenty of adults love the idea of simplifying their lives with fewer possessions, as evidenced by the popularity of the minimalist movement. But can the same idea apply to kids as well?

Former Buccaneer’s Center Putting NFL in Past by Hitting Road for Epic 48-State Journey | ESPN by Jenna Laine. “If it doesn’t fit in my van, I’m giving it away.”

Four Simple Steps for Spring “Curating” | No Sidebar by Colleen Mariotti. As you approach Spring cleaning this year, think of it in terms of curating what you choose to keep versus getting rid of excess.

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Nearly 40% of millennials overspend to keep up with friends, according to a recent survey.

Digging deeper into the numbers, 73% of those who went into debt to keep up with their friends typically keep it a secret. And two-thirds of respondents feel buyer’s remorse after spending more than they had planned to on a social situation.

Those are important insights on millennial spending habits. Of course, this is not unique to any one generation.

According to Stephanie M. Tully and Eesha Sharma, researchers and co-authors of Context-Dependent Drivers of Discretionary Debt Decisions: Explaining Willingness to Borrow for Experiential Purchases, this is not a millennial-specific phenomenon. As they said, speaking of overspending to keep up with friends, “We actually don’t see any differences across age in our data. It seems to be just as pronounced among older generations as younger generations.”

Interestingly enough, and vitally important to point out, this is also not a socioeconomic phenomenon. You cannot outearn this temptation.

According to Robert Frank in his 2007 book, Richistan, “20 percent of households with between $1 million and $10 million in assets in 2004 spent all their income—or more—in a frantic race to keep up with their newfound friends: those with more money than them.”

Regardless of generation and/or net income, the temptation to overspend in an effort to keep up with our friends and their spending habits is common to all of us. No doubt, many of you have felt the same temptation in your own life.

How then, do we overcome this temptation?

Here are 8 Helpful Steps to Stop Overspending With Friends

1. Set your budget. Or better yet, create a spending plan. Be very specific on the amount of money you set aside for dining, experiences, and travel per month. Then be vigilant in keeping it.

2. Keep in mind the big dreams you have for your life. When creating your budget above, remember that your budget is not a restrictive device. Just the opposite, your budget is a roadmap to the life you desire: free from debt, financially focused on your values and most cherished pursuits.

3. Be honest to your friends. Surprisingly (or maybe not surprisingly), some of your friends feel the same way you do. According to the same survey, 36% of respondents doubt they can keep up with their friends for another year without going into debt, but nearly 30% don’t feel comfortable being the one to say “no” when one of their friends suggests an activity they can’t afford. Break the trend in your friendship group by being the one to initiate the conversation.

4. Look for cheaper alternatives while out with friends. Of course, entirely changing your friends (or hoping to change your friends’ interests) is not the only option. The next time you are out, look for less expensive alternatives: rather than ordering an expensive meal on the menu, order something more reasonably priced; skip the snacks and drinks at your next movie; or order a cheaper drink at the club.

5. Cut costs elsewhere. If spending time with friends and having the financial margin to do so is important to you, look for other spending areas in your budget that can be cut: buy less clothing, don’t upgrade your phone, pack your lunch for work. Minimalism is the intentional promotion of the things we most value by removing anything that distracts us from it. If applying minimalism in one area frees up more money to be spent with your friends, then that’s exactly the point of it.

6. Be clear on your reasoning. When speaking openly and honestly with your friends, also speak in clear, reasoned terms. Share with them why you want to spend less. Is staying out of debt important to you? Are you working hard to pay off a student loan or build up an emergency savings fund? Maybe generosity is something you want to leave space for in your life? Be clear that your reasoning isn’t just “I don’t have enough money,” there is usually a deeper reason and motivation behind it.

7. Suggest less expensive ideas. Friends spend time together—this is true. But that doesn’t mean everything they do together needs to cost a lot of money. Sometimes it just takes someone to offer up some less expensive ideas: Frisbee in the park, an afternoon on the beach, a hike, or a Redbox rather than a theater.

8. If you lose them, it’s okay. I understand the fear that if you don’t keep spending the money to be with your friends, they might stop being your friends. And that may be the case. But ask yourself, if that’s true, isn’t it eventually going to happen anyway? Can you keep overspending and going into debt indefinitely just to be with them? Of course not. At some point, something will need to change—either how much money they spend or how much money you spend.  Besides, if you need to spend lots of money in order to impress your friends, you probably need new ones.

9. Remember, there will be other opportunities. One thing I know to be true of life, it goes on. Opportunities come and opportunities go. And sometimes bypassing an opportunity today means I can enjoy a different one tomorrow—when I’m in a better stage of life financially. Taking a step back from overspending to keep up with your friends doesn’t mean you’ll never be able to spend money with friends. Just the opposite. It’ll help put you in a more financially stable place, so you can do even more of it in the future.

Having friends doesn’t mean you have to go broke. You can have both friends and money. It just might take some intentional decisions to get there.

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Note: This is a guest post from Jay Harrington of Life and Whim.

After a long, brutal winter, it feels great to be outside again in a t-shirt, even if the temperatures aren’t climbing much beyond fifty degrees here in northern Michigan. In our community, which was recently buried in snow, people are out in force, combing beaches for rocks, riding bikes, hiking trails, cruising on paddle boards, and celebrating spring’s arrival. In addition to short sleeves, lots of people are wearing beaming smiles on their faces.

Happiness is in the air. This is true despite the fact that the weather hasn’t even been that great—it just seems great relative to what we’re used to.

Come fall, however, after a long, hot summer, we will start longing for cool, crisp air, and even (for some of us) the first snowflakes flying which will signal the coming ski season. The cycle of expectations and adaptation will then repeat.

As humans, we are always chasing rainbows. We want something—be it different weather, a better job, or a bigger house—but shortly after getting it, we want something different. We adapt to our circumstances, they become the “new normal,” and we want more.

This phenomenon is called “hedonic adaptation.” It’s a term coined by psychologists Brickman and Campbell in the 1970s to explain our tendency as human beings to chase happiness, only to return back to our original emotional baseline after getting what we want. We run on a hedonic treadmill, and get nowhere, despite exerting massive effort along the way.

A belief that “bigger and better” leads to more happiness results, paradoxically, in less of it. We work really hard because we want more. We obtain more, and the shine soon wears off. So we work harder, in pursuit of even more, and become less happy as a result. The beat goes on.

It’s clear from the science that the acquisition of bigger and better things won’t make us more happy. So what will?

It’s the Journey not the Destination

In his book Happier, Harvard lecturer Tal Ben-Shahar defines the “arrival fallacy,” which is a corollary to the concept of hedonic adaptation. He describes the arrival fallacy as: “The false belief that reaching a valued destination can sustain happiness.”

I’ve certainly fallen victim to the arrival fallacy, having felt at first elated, then almost immediately letdown, following job promotions, raises, and new car or home purchases. I wanted these things so badly, but the reality of obtaining them was far different than my expectations.

In an interesting study from the 1970s, researchers studied the happiness levels of two different groups of people: lottery winners and accident victims. The surprising result of the study was that, once the initial elation of winning the lottery and shock of the accident wore off, both groups returned to their original levels of happiness. Over the long-term, these drastically different external events—one seemingly positive and the other negative—had no appreciable impact on happiness.

If winning the lottery won’t make us happier, what will? Ben-Shahar suggests that it is not reaching a particular destination (metaphorically speaking) that makes us happy, but rather learning to appreciate the journey toward the destination:

Attaining lasting happiness requires that we enjoy the journey on our way toward a destination we deem valuable. Happiness is not about making it to the peak of the mountain nor is it about climbing aimlessly around the mountain; happiness is the experience of climbing toward the peak.

In this sense, ambition, itself, is not a bad thing. In fact, it’s a very good thing. If humans did not want for more then we’d still be living in caves, without access to basic, modern human necessities such as electricity and clean water, nor marvels of human ingenuity such as modern medicine, art, and technology.

Problems arise when we allow the unending pursuit of growth and acquisition to inhibit our pursuit of happiness. Both ambitions—happiness and growth—can coexist, but only in balance. Growth can crowd out happiness if you’re not careful.

One of the most important and growing costs of the modern way of life is ‘cultural fraud’: the promotion of images and ideals of ‘the good life’ that serve the economy but do not meet psychological needs, nor reflect social realities. —Richard Eckersley

I would, of course, never presume to suggest that I know what makes you, or anyone else, happy. We all have distinct visions, preferences, and desires for our lives. But years of scientific research suggests that certain things make most of us happy. In particular, happiness is not derived from attaining outward signals of success (bigger and better in order to “keep up with the Joneses”), but rather seeking satisfaction from new and novel experiences in pursuit of a life well lived.

10 Ways to Cultivate More Happiness

What types of experiences pay the biggest happiness dividends?

I recently attended a conference in New Orleans and the keynote speaker was University of Amherst professor Catherine A. Sanderson, author of Science of Happiness. She is known as “The Happiness Professor.” Sanderson explained that there are 10 ways to increase your everyday happiness, according to decades worth of scientific research:

1. Make little changes in your daily routine, such as getting more sleep, exercising, getting out into nature, and meditating.

2. Read more books. Read books to learn—research suggests that lifelong learners remain healthy and engaged, and live long lives. Read books as an escape from your everyday life, Read books—it will make you happy.

3. Find your right fit or match, both personally and professionally. If you love what you do and who you are with, you’ll position yourself for personal happiness and professional success.

4. Be grateful. Sanderson suggested two specific activities to help foster a greater sense of gratitude. First, keep a daily gratitude journal. Second, pay a “gratitude visit” to someone from your past who has had a significant impact on your life, and let them know how you feel.

5. Smile more—even if you don’t feel like it. Research shows that the simple act of smiling can trick your brain into a happier state.

6. Relish simple, everyday moments. Appreciating life’s small moments, such as a beautiful, sunny day, green shoots sprouting from the ground, and skipping rocks at the beach, teaches you to be more grateful for what you have, especially during moments of stress and angst.

7. Perform random acts of kindness. Do good deeds. Volunteer. Be charitable. Shop (for someone else!). Numerous studies have shown that you can help yourself by doing good for others.

8. Spend money on experiences versus things. Studies have shown that buying an object—a car, handbag, or kitchen gadget—can quickly lead to buyer’s remorse. On the other hand, investing in experiences—a concert, a camping trip, music lessons—leads to greater happiness. Experiences create “happiness residue,” and our perceptions of them often get better over time.

9. Avoid comparisons. Whatever you may think of someone else’s life, particularly as viewed through the phony, filtered lens of social media, it’s almost certainly messier than you imagine. It’s easier to embrace, and learn to love, your own imperfections, if you don’t conjure up myths about how perfect everyone else’s lives seem.

10. Build and maintain close relationships. According to Sanderson, having a small number of tight, meaningful relationships is one of the highest predictor of happiness.

Don’t feel bad if you lose sight of some of these happiness priorities—we all do. We have to battle relentless marketing and societal expectations that suggest that the path to happiness lies elsewhere.

People are exposed to many messages that encourage them to believe that a change of weight, scent, hair color (or coverage), car, clothes, or many other aspects will produce a marked improvement in their happiness. Our research suggests a moral, and a warning: Nothing that you focus on will make as much difference as you think. —Daniel Kahneman

Don’t over-complicate your pursuit of happiness. As the research suggests, it’s the simple things that matter most. Make happiness a habit that is within your control, rather than seeking it from external sources. Life is nothing but a series of moments, both big and small, and the key to happiness lies is living each one with purpose and intention.

***

Jay Harrington is a “reformed lawyer” turned author and entrepreneur, and blogs at Life and Whim where he helps people find purpose and live big through small moments. You can also find him on Facebook.

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Minimalism is the intentional promotion of the things we most value and the removal of anything that distracts us from it. It requires a conscious decision because it is a countercultural lifestyle that stands against the culture of overconsumption that surrounds us.

The world we live in is not friendly to the pursuit of minimalism. Its tendencies and relentless advertising campaigns call us to acquire more, better, faster, and newer. The journey of finding simplicity requires consistent inspiration.

For that reason, I hope you will make an effort this weekend to find a quiet moment with a cup of coffee or tea and enjoy some of these hand-picked articles to encourage more simplicity in your life.

I Had the Picture-Perfect, Unhappy Life | Yahoo News by Jesica Ryzynski. I’m not interested in keeping up with the Joneses. And I have a very good reason for that.

I Gave Up My Credit Card for a Month — And Learned a Lot About My Spending Habits | NBC News by Emily Pandise. The way some people can’t resist trying the latest workout craze, trendy fashions or exotic superfoods, I can’t find enough ways to challenge myself to be better at budgeting.

8 Audacious Ways The Women’s Clothing Industry Is Scamming You | Fashion Bean by Anna Cherry. Don’t let the (overpriced imitation) wool be pulled over your eyes. Read on to learn the eight sneaky ways the clothing industry may be scamming you.

15 Ways Life Is Easier For Minimalists | Break the Twitch YouTube (3:16) by Anthony Ongaro. While minimalism looks different for everyone, there are some small details that really add up when you choose to live with less.

Uncluttered. If you’re looking for help trying to declutter your home in order to live a better life, our 12-week online course will help you accomplish that and much more. It begins this Tuesday, May 01. But registrations ends on Sunday, April 29—so sign up now.

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I have significantly less stress in my life and more self-control. Most importantly, I’m becoming more like the mom and wife I want to be.” — Caryn Seney

Uncluttered

Uncluttered is a 12-week online course designed intentionally to help you own less, live more, and discover the life you’ve always wanted.

We offer the course only three times each year. And today, we are launching the Spring Edition.

If you want 2018 to be the year you declutter your home, own less, and get ahead financially, this is the right program for you.

The course includes…

  • Videos with step-by-step instructions
  • Interviews with thought leaders in productivity and minimalism
  • Live webinars tackling specific tough-clutter topics
  • Live Q&As for members to ask questions
  • Weekly challenges
  • And perhaps best of all: accountability and encouragement from a super-engaged community.

If you are drawn to the idea of owning less, but need some extra help getting there, this course is perfect for you. Uncluttered will provide just the motivation you need to declutter your home and start living a better life. By the end, you will have decluttered every major living area in your home and begun changing your spending habits.

Uncluttered Preview - Vimeo

Every Monday, you will receive a video from me, an exclusive interview with one of the brightest minds in the simplicity movement, and/or written content prepared exclusively for the course. You will receive a weekly challenge to complete. And opportunities to engage with the community in a private Facebook group and with me during live webinars and live question and answer opportunities.

The course offers everything a book or blog post cannot: community, accountability, and opportunity to ask questions.

The Uncluttered plan will help you celebrate your progress as it provides helpful answers on where to start and how to stay motivated.

To find more information about the content and the subjects covered, click here.

New, Expanded Material for Families

I am also excited to announce that we have added new, family-based material to the course!

Because of the high number of people with families who register for the course, we have added a special family-specific section with tips and strategies for getting your family and kids onboard with the process. The new section includes a family-specific webinar to answer your questions, a free Children’s ebook to read with your kids, and a Couple’s Discussion Guide to spark conversation with your spouse or partner.

We want you to find the most success during the 12-week course and we are confident these resources will help you do that.

The Results

Over 15,000 people have gone through the course. Here are just a few of the responses:

The term life-changing gets thrown around a lot, but this course really is. I went into it with a lot of shame and anxiety. Joshua gently guided us in a way that made lasting change seem possible. My home is much improved, but my mindset is also clearer. —Kathryn Wagner, Los Angeles, CA

The power of this shared experience is hard to explain to people, it is so overwhelmingly positive. It not only provides the incentive to keep going, but reminds you there are good people out there. You find yourself rooting for complete strangers. Together, there is a momentum that drives you through the course. It was completely unexpected and so overwhelmingly helpful. —Tanya S, Webster, NY

I am a better mother, a better wife, a better housekeeper, a better budgeter, a better teacher, a better neighbor and a better friend. I’m still a work in progress, but it feels good to be where I am at. —Pam L.

My credit card statement came today. $1,000.00 under my typical monthly balance! Thank you Uncluttered community. I’ve been at this for years; however, it’s clear I truly needed this group to get to that next level. —Cheyanne Morris, St. Paul, MN

The Details

We offer the course three times each year.

The Spring Edition begins on Tuesday, May 01. Registration is open now, but only for the next 9 days — ending April 29.

The cost is $89. But you can find a 25% off discount code in the back of The More of Less: Finding the Life You Want Under Everything You Own. The book is not required—but the course is based on it. And it’s cheaper to buy the book and use the discount code than it is to pay full price—the option is yours.

I am personally involved in every aspect of the course. Helping people live more by owning less is what I am passionate about. I created the videos and the content. I host the webinars. I answer questions in the Facebook group. And I host live video chats over the course of the 12 weeks. My goal is to help and cheer you along. I have come to understand how essential community, accountability, and ongoing encouragement is for people. And I work hard to craft that culture for the Uncluttered Course. 

When you join Uncluttered, you’ll receive lifetime access to the course. That means you can take it as many times as you want (or need). I know life can be busy, and the unexpected can happen at any time. But we’re here to help you succeed. And if you ever want to do the course again, or just enjoy a decluttering refresher, you’ll be welcomed back.

Uncluttered is a 12-week online program with videos, interviews, webinars, articles, weekly challenges, accountability, and community. It is strategically packaged for one purpose: To help you unclutter your home, own less stuff, and find space to live the life you want.

Visit My Becoming Minimalist to register.

Make this the year you rediscover the home and life you’ve always wanted.

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Minimalists come in all sizes, ages, genders, races, nationalities, social classes, and religions. It is a growing movement that continues to invite others to live with less and define their lives in greater ways than by the things they own. Yet despite its recent growth, it continues to be misunderstood by a percentage of the population.

With that in mind, I think it would be wise to personally address some of the common misconceptions about minimalism in case you are thinking any of them.

Minimalists Are Boring

A minimalist life is not void of excitement or entertainment. In fact, minimalism reduces many of the mundane tasks (organizing, shopping, cleaning) that rob us of daily excitement. And when unnecessary possessions have been removed, minimalists are free to choose for themselves what things will define their lives.

Some will choose to travel the world, find a new hobby, appreciate nature, get involved in their community, or spend more time with friends.

Minimalists Don’t Own Nice Things

Actually, one of the greatest unforeseen benefits of owning less is the opportunity to purchase possessions of higher quality. For some reason, many people don’t correlate owning fewer things with owning nicer things. But the truth is, they go hand in hand and are directly related.

When a commitment is made to buy fewer things, our lives are opened to the opportunity of owning nicer things as well. In fact, one of the key thoughts behind minimalism is it is far better to own a few, quality things than a whole bunch of junk. This relates to technology, clothing, furniture, sporting equipment, and countless other areas.

Minimalists Are Not Sentimental

Less is different than none. Personally, my family finds more value in sentimental belongings if we keep only the most important pieces and place them in a significant place. As a result, rather than a box full of sentimental things stuck in the basement or attic, we display the most important sentimental pieces from our past somewhere in our home—again, promoting the things that are most valuable to us. Minimalism doesn’t mean we had to throw away all of our sentimental belongings.

Minimalism Is Too Hard

In a world that seeks to own more and accomplishes that by encouraging others to do the same, minimalism is countercultural. It is a lifestyle that goes against the mainstream belief about what constitutes happiness. In that way, it is difficult. It requires trust, intentionality, discipline, and frequent readjustments. It forces us to define our values and choose what is most important in life.

But it is not so hard that you can’t do it. In fact, if my typical family of four can do it, so can you. There’s nothing special about us. The only difference between you and me is that somebody took the time to introduce my family to a new way to live life. We removed our possessions, discovered the joy that can only be found by living with less, and have never looked back.

No wonder minimalists come in all sizes and shapes. And no wonder it is a growing movement where countless people are deciding to own less and define their lives in greater ways than by the things they own. They find freedom because of it.

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