How Pharmacists Can Embrace Minimalism to Pursue Their Passions

OCTOBER 25, 2017
If I offered you the perfect job, that paid $20,000 a year less than what you earn now, would you take it?

Many pharmacists wouldn’t. Or couldn’t.
Why? Many wear golden handcuffs, meaning that they are stuck in pharmacy jobs that they can’t leave because they can’t give up their paychecks. They are living up to or beyond their income levels, which leaves them enslaved to debt and tied to jobs that they don’t love.
The situation is so bad that some pharmacists reach the end of their careers without any savings, so the golden handcuffs follow them into retirement.  
At the heart of this is a flawed belief that if we have more stuff, we will be happier.
Psychologist David G. Myers, author of The American Paradox: Spiritual Hunger in an Age of Plenty (Yale University Press, 2001), disputes that notion. “Compared with their grandparents, today’s young adults have grown up with much more affluence, slightly less happiness, and much greater risk of depression and assorted social pathology,” he wrote. “Our becoming much better off over the last 4 decades has not been accompanied by one iota of increased subjective well-being.”
There is an alternative to this heightened consumerism, however, and it can free up our passions and potentially help us find new careers by helping eliminate our extraneous possessions.
It is called minimalism, and it is defined as the intentional promotion of the things we most value and the removal of everything that distracts us. It means living with only the things we need and getting rid of the things we don’t.
Those who are tempted to believe that they are already living as minimalists should look inside their garages and ask themselves how much of the stuff in there they actually need.

Looking inside my garage, I can
definitely say that we haven’t used a lot of the stuff in a while. It is more a storage place for things we don’t need. My own garage has prompted me to consider simplifying.

Here are eight benefits to minimalism:
1. Minimalism increases contentment.
Although capitalism is the best economic system, we have to admit that marketers own us. They consistently convince us that we need more things in order to be happy.

The television show Mr. Robot
tackles the idea that capitalism is evil because it constantly vies for our attention in an attempt to get our money.
People tend to resolve feelings of discontent by spending money on material possessions.
Edward Diener, a Ph.D. and research expert in materialism and well-being, says that such behavior actually has the opposite effect. Put simply, he claims that consumerism promotes unhappiness because it detracts from the parts of our life that could truly make us happy: relationships with family and friends.
Buying things never relieves discontent but only leaves us seeking to buy more. Conversely, eliminating items we bought as a result of impulse or emotion frees us to appreciate the things we truly do enjoy.
My wife recently got rid of about 50% of the DVDs we had. We enjoy the ones we kept much more now because they are the ones we truly love. It is worth noting, though, that I will never get rid of The Lord of the Rings extended edition. That movie is a national treasure.  
2. Minimalism sets a good example for our kids.
Kids are often a perfect example of impulse buying. They see a commercial and immediately want what they saw. I think we can all agree that none of us want our kids to grow up saying, “I want that,” all the time.
Pharmacists make plenty of money, but money can’t buy happiness. Although money does allow us to buy things like jet skis, jet skis don’t equal happiness.
Minimalism prevents us from buying things impulsively. As a result, we accumulate less stuff. If we adopt minimalism, our kids will see us prioritizing relationships over possessions, and they will internalize the same priorities for themselves.
What we really need are deep relationships, and if we prioritize those, our kids will, too.
3. Minimalism reduces environmental damage.
I am not typically crazy about being environmentally conscious with my purchases. I realize, though, that buying fewer things means consuming fewer things, which reduces waste.
When we reduce our consumption, we reduce our footprint and make a positive impact on society as a whole.
4. Minimalism improves the quality of our purchases.
During college and then residency, I spent most of my money on crappy things: a couch, food, and an entertainment system. Nothing I owned was very valuable, which often meant that I had to re-buy crappy things because I was buying poor-quality items that didn’t last.
When we buy fewer things, we can afford to pay more for quality things. Because we are making fewer purchases, we are spending less money and have more opportunity to buy quality items that last longer.
5. Minimalism creates space in our lives.
The average home has 300,000 items in it.
Additionally, the United States has 2.3 billion square feet of self-storage space. According to the Self Storage Association, that is enough space to physically house every American man, woman, and child at the same time.
Excess stuff creates a need for excess space. Unnecessary possessions enslave us financially, mentally, and spiritually. Paying for a place to store extra stuff can drain us financially. Worrying about how and where to store extra stuff can drain us mentally and spiritually because we are plagued by the need to deal with it: “I really need to clean that room,” or “I need to clean out the garage.”
Getting rid of excess stuff creates space for other things.
6. Minimalism reduces stress.
Every possession in our lives increases our stress levels.
Jack Feur’s study for UCLA Magazine found that there is a distinct link, especially for women, between clutter in the home and stress levels.
Imagine preparing to adopt the practice of meditation and choosing between 2 rooms. One is cluttered, disorganized, and messy. The other has only a chair and a bookshelf. Which room would we choose?
7. Minimalism reduces our financial obligations.
I spoke to a pharmacist once who owned 9 cars. In order to house them, he had to rent facilities and build an additional garage onto his home. Assuming that he was insuring them all as well, the expense of that many cars was unnecessary. Although he had the resources to do it, he didn’t really need the extra cars.
Getting rid of the extra cars freed him to divert his financial resources elsewhere.
8. Minimalism helps us achieve freedom.
Many pharmacists are trapped in their jobs because of their lifestyles.
Selling possessions we don’t need will generate extra money we can use to pay off debt, invest, or transition into a job we love.
9. Minimalism improve our lives.
Eliminating excess in our lives will free us from consumerism and the golden handcuffs of a pharmacy job. Even for those who are happy in their jobs, minimalism will allow them to have more money and time and less stress.

Yes, minimalism matters.

Ridding our lives of unnecessary possessions can help us free up our passions by creating more resources.
Minimalism helps us enjoy life more and potentially even find new careers by allowing us to remove things we don't love from our lives so that we can focus on the things we do love.
Minimalism isn’t an occasional purging of our homes. It is a mindset that runs counter to the consumerism in our culture, so it will necessarily have to be a conscious effort.
We are all paying a high price for our stuff. It is time to decide whether the price is too high.

Alex Barker, PharmD
Alex Barker, PharmD
Alex Barker is the founder of The Happy PharmD, which helps pharmacists create an inspiring career, break free from the mundane "pill-flipping" life. He is a Full-time Pharmacist, Media Company founder, franchise owner, Business Coach, Speaker, and Author. He's also the Founder of Pharmacy School HQ, which helps students get into pharmacy school and become residents.
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