Many people feel joy and relief because a new year has begun and we can say goodbye to 2016. With every year’s turn, the final week brings a floodgate of social media negativity and complaints of the wrongs of the last 52 weeks, and messages of hope for the new year. However, I don’t believe that a year can be summed up as either all positive or all negative; a 365-day period brings a wide spectrum of events, happiness, despair, frustration, joy and hope.
In the coming month would like to reflect on some of the positive things and the lessons I’ve learned through experiences in 2016.
2016 was a year of awakening for myself and my family. It was a year where we began to uncover points of friction in our lives, let them go a little more and get a little bit closer to the true source of joy and peace of mind.
I hope in sharing these lessons learned, others will have something to chew on and perhaps my experiences can bring about some fresh ideas on how to approach 2017. I’ll keep it simple and brief, and I would encourage anyone who wants to have a chat about any of my experiences and lessons learned to post a comment or reach out to me directly.
I’ll start today with lesson one which is at the core of the awakening.
Lesson #1: Less truly can be more
The best lesson of the year. At the start of 2016, my husband and I made a very difficult decision to move to the next life phase. Something which had been an ongoing discussion in our family for many years found its way to the front burner, and with a rolling boil. After spending nine years focused on my husband’s career, we took a very hard look at what it was actually giving us as a family. We lived in a 2,800-square-foot townhome in the center of town—a hop, skip, and jump from the best attractions in the city. With our joint incomes, we took vacations without thinking about how much it cost, we owned three BMWs for two drivers, we went out for steak dinners on a Wednesday night without batting an eye, my husband had a front-row seat to every Cowboys game at Jerry World and we regularly got tickets to other events around town. By most measures of The American Dream, we had made it.
But we weren’t happy.
Because, you see, to have all of these things, other things had to give. In our case, my husband’s work took first priority, and the stress of his high-pressure job trickled down to the rest of us. He made great money and had a highly sought-after position, but the kids sometimes went days without seeing him. I felt like I lived on an island, with no family nearby to lean on. The lifestyle required a lot of effort to maintain. It left us without much brain-space for joy. And, we didn’t have peace of mind, either. To sum it all up, I was lonely and he was stressed much of the time. What looked good on paper, on the surface, did not really get us closer to our happily ever after.
We decided to make a move back to our hometown, the place where we met, the place of my birth, the place my near and extended family calls home. We decided that I would continue to work and provide income, and that my husband would take some time off to focus on the kids and begin to build his own business. We downsized to a 2-bedroom apartment, sold two of the extra cars, redid our family budget and started decompressing. Nearly a year later, we are still in the process of ridding our lives of excess “stuff”.
What we have found is that the smaller space brings us closer together as a family, and the kids are happier in our apartment than they were in our larger home. We realized that we use the same rooms that we used in our larger home and rid ourselves of square footage we rarely used and never needed. With less income, we think about our purchases more, and it makes us more appreciative of where we do choose to spend. With fewer material goods and square feet to maintain, we have more time to relax and experience joy. With less pressure to keep up with the lifestyle, we have more peace of mind.
Here’s my tip for 2017: Go through your own space and find things that are ready to go. Look at the things you’ve accumulated both physically and mentally and ask yourself if they add to your life in a meaningful way. You can start slow, taking just 30 minutes each day, but work toward letting go of the things that are bringing you more stress than joy, causing you more work than they are worth, or taking up your brain space. To quote something my father used to say to me, ask yourself “Do you really need it?” Donate goods to those less fortunate. If you have children, stress the importance of being charitable, especially with things you don’t truly need; show how others can benefit from your own good fortune.