Despite the fact that minimalism has risen exponentially in popularity over the last several years, it’s still hard to avoid the overwhelming mainstream consumer culture. It seems like everywhere we go we’re bombarded by advertisements with images of perfect lives that we might be able to capture if we just had that one more thing.
And that’s right where they want to keep us—just one more thing away from having it all.
This pressure to consume can come from all directions, not just from companies wanting us to spend on the goods they have to offer. Sometimes other people in our lives can apply similar pressure, through certain expectations of what a successful life might look like to them.
Here are some thoughts to help reduce the pressure of consumer culture, so you can better live a life based on your own values and definition of success.
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1 / Reduce Media Consumption
This is a big one, because there are so many different types of media. Amy and I don’t have cable TV and choose not to watch it even when it’s available. I’d highly recommend avoiding the 24-hour news networks on cable.
I had an oddly clarifying experience the other day that affirmed my decision not to watch it.
I was running on the treadmill at our gym, which has the typical setup of TVs in the front. There were two different news channels and they happened to be reporting the exact same news event. But both channels were reporting the story in completely different ways, with intentional spins on the news. Instead of presenting the information, both chose to provide an angle on the story that would best suit their intended audience.
This is the kind of media that is designed to get a rise out of you—either anger or fear—or to simply confirm deeply rooted beliefs that you already have. It is media that is simply designed to get you to keep watching as long as possible. If you can avoid it, it will remove a big source of insecurity and fear that often leads to consumption.
2 / Family and friends
What a successful life looks like can be quite the moving target—and most everyone that wants the best for you is going to apply their own vision of that to your life. While others can give well-intentioned advice, some of it might not apply to what you actually want—and that’s okay.
If your desired life differs greatly from what might be the mainstream version of “success,” the following might be helpful:
While it is tempting, it is not your responsibility to convince people that what you’re doing is the right way. There is also no need to convince people to change their own lifestyles—even if they’re trying to do the same to you.
The best evidence of success is being living proof of what is possible.
Live in the way that best suits you, and let your life be an example of how others can live if they choose to. When you live in alignment with your values, the contentment and joy you exude will have people wondering what’s your secret.
Remember that this is a long game, not a short one. These are choices and actions that add up over the course of a lifetime. While the tough conversations with friends and family can be hard to have, the changes don’t need to happen overnight.
3 / Create the space you need
While I don’t think it’s necessary to “declutter” every aspect of your life, it’s beneficial to create space for yourself to flourish. Creating the space you need will enable you to better focus on what’s truly important. The space will provide intentional friction and pause—giving you more of a chance to break the twitch and resist the pressure from consumer culture.
Whether you need to take a break from social media, implement a shopping ban, or remove other distractions from your life—take the actions you need to make it happen.
Creating space until you balance the intentional habits and lifestyle will enable you to thrive over the long-term.
4 / Find community that shares your values
Having the support of a like-minded community can make all the difference when the going gets tough. Whether online or through local meetup groups, find people that can relate to your particular goals.
A like-minded community can support you when you’re feeling isolated, and provide advice and inspiration when you encounter challenges.
When you interact with others who are aligned with your values, it can be remarkably refreshing—especially when you’re surrounded by colleagues, family or friends who are living in the opposite way. Having that community makes it easier to learn and grow in your own pursuits.
Hopefully these thoughts will help you better navigate an alternative to the mainstream consumer culture pushed by many.
As you make more intentional choices on living your life, you’ll find that the results speak for themselves. As time goes on and you show up in the world as a happier, more fulfilled person, more people will start accepting your choices. And at some point, people will start asking you on what your secret is, and how they can do it too.