Advanced Minimalism: This is How to Go Beyond the Basics
Minimalism is an incredible philosophy to incorporate into, and nurture in, your life because it tackles one of the major drivers of modern-day suffering: unmet desires.
In “The Problem of Desire,” Psychology Today states:
Humans have an innate desire to survive and thrive, but living in a capitalist society that values growth above all else leads to a perpetual state of wanting that often does more harm than good.
When desire leads to dissatisfaction you experience more pain than pleasure. That’s because it’s an intense emotion that, as Psychology Today once again reports in “Why It Can Be Hard to Stay Happy,” indicates an inability to be at ease with your current lot in life.
This constant yearning puts you in an agitated state which can potentially lead to conditions like depression.
As I discuss in “How to Simplify Your Life Right Now,” there are easy ways to adopt principles of minimalism to help manage excessive want and downgrade your lifestyle so you can find contentment.
However, if you‘re a seasoned minimalist and are seeking ways to go beyond the basics, here are five advanced tips for doing so.
Have some non-negotiables
The rule-of-thumb “everything in moderation, including moderation,” typically attributed to Oscar Wilde, is a reminder to avoid extremes (even in your attempt to avoid extremes).
However, there is an exception to this rule: treat your values as doctrine and be unwavering in upholding them.
If you constantly revisit and reconsider everything you believe in then it will be impossible to stand for anything.
It’s okay to be curious, open-minded, and receptive to feedback from others. But sometimes you just have to put your foot down, declare your views, and don’t budge.
Your values are a set of principles that support your overall purpose in life, as outlined in “Yes, You Need to Find Yourself. This is Why and How.”
Relentlessly pursue them on a daily basis and consult them before every major life decision. It’ll be much easier to make choices when you only have to determine whether the options are in line with your values or not.
The human brain likes consistency as Simple Psychology explains in its summary of the Cognitive Dissonance Theory. It also doesn’t have the capacity to constantly make choices and decisions without taking a break.
When you establish your values as non-negotiable you‘re able to fall back on a decision that has already been made and avoid going through an exhausting back-and-forth debating it.
This relieves stress and takes the burden off of your mental processing allowing you to free up that capacity for making progress on other areas in life.
Switch on your tunnel vision
Depending on the context, tunnel vision is a phrase that’s often regarded negatively. That’s because when you tunnel you have a narrow perspective. You are fully focused on one thing at the complete neglect of everything else.
But being in this state of mind is not always bad. There are times when you should purposely tunnel.
It doesn’t matter if there’s a particular idea that you want to foster or work that you really need to focus on at the expense of something else, tunneling can come in handy when considering alternatives makes you inefficient and ineffective.
Taken within a more positive context, it’s really just about prioritizing what’s important and disregarding what’s not. It’s about giving your undivided attention to something that can’t be nurtured or developed half-heartedly.
If you want to take minimalism to the next level then, at times, you have to ruthlessly cut out things that don’t matter — either in a particular moment or in life more generally.
Leverage mental models
Mental bottles are strategies for making decisions and solving problems. Consider them to be ways of thinking, practical pieces of advice, or simple frameworks for navigating tricky situations in life.
The great thing about having a repository of mental models that you can rely on is that when you’re faced with tough choices or complex issues, you can resolve them more easily.
To make traction on a particular problem you only need to sort through your toolkit for an appropriate item and apply it.
As a personal example, when it comes to managing negative feelings I heavily rely on Stoicism as I discuss in How to Think Like a Stoic. These principles act as mental models that I use to help ease back into a more logical way of thinking when my emotions are out of control.
One way that you can go about building your repository of mental models is by assessing all of the different themes in your wheel of life and reflecting on some of the common challenges that tend to come up in each area.
Then, actively seek out ideas or tactics that you believe could be applied to these situations.
I typically pull my mental models from philosophy, psychology, and business books such as “The Art of the Good Life” by Rolf Dobelli. Books like these, with well-researched personal growth and professional development strategies, can be a rich source of ideas.
Rely on your intuition
Humans have a conscious and unconscious mind as I touch on in “How to Overcome Procrastination by Embracing It.”
Your conscious mind is the thinking you’re aware that you’re doing, and is more rational and calculating. It also takes up quite a bit of your mental capacity when you’re working, making decisions, and actively solving problems, for example.
The unconscious mind is a bit of an enigma and scientists are still trying to figure out exactly how it works. What is known is that it chugs along in the background, processing and logging all of your life experiences then retrieving them when they can be useful in the present moment. It typically exerts control via your emotions.
Both the conscious and unconscious mind have their pros and cons, and both can lead to positive and negative decisions. But both are necessary for your ability to survive and thrive.
If you find that you overly rely on calculating thought, you may want to consider trusting your intuition more.
When you trust your intuition, you relieve your conscious mind of the overwhelming burden of decision-making. This allows you to make decisions quicker and with a stronger sense of conviction.
Experiment with asceticism
Asceticism and minimalism are on the opposite spectrum of simple living and these words should not be used interchangeably as I address in Minimalism is not Asceticism.
However, if you are looking for ways to practice more extreme forms of self-denial then you can selectively borrow from aesthetic practices and see how it works for you.
This experimental phase doesn’t mean you suddenly need to become a monk, but it may mean you try out a seven day silent retreat. It doesn’t mean that you need to give away all of your clothes, but it may mean that you choose not to shop for three months.
If you desire to test the bounds of your willpower or are curious about the benefits of extreme deprivation, there are a range of activities you can engage in over the short-term to get a sense of this lifestyle, such as:
- Fasting — going without food
- Abstinence — going without intimacy
- Sobriety — going without alcohol
- Altruism — giving up significant resources (time, money) for others
- Sustainability — drastically reducing your environmental footprint
- Pilgrimage — going on a spiritual (or moral) expedition
Many believe this level of self-discipline leads to profound enlightenment. These activities are acceptable to engage in so long as you understand what you are doing and why you are doing it — and don’t foresee negative effects on your physical, psychological, or mental well-being.
Your simplicity journey is your own and it doesn’t take exceptional effort to live with intention. Nevertheless, I wrote this article for a handful of readers who specifically expressed interest in going beyond the basics.
I believe advanced minimalism is a noble pursuit if doing so is driven by your own desire for personal improvement versus blindly following unreasonable simple living fads.