Minimalism Eliminates Excess and Creates Freedom in Your Life and Career

OCTOBER 30, 2017

“Reduce the complexity of life by eliminating the needless wants of life, and the labors of life reduce themselves.”

~Edwin Way Teale, 1899



Most pharmacists won’t ask directly, but they are wondering the same thing: How can I find work I love that pays as well as pharmacy does?


I’ve spoken to a number of pharmacists who want to leave their retail positions but they aren’t sure how.


How did we get to this place?


We’re operating under the assumption that we have to maintain a certain financial lifestyle in order to be happy. What we’ve done, in fact, is create golden handcuffs that keep us chained to high-paying, unfulfilling jobs so we can maintain our current lifestyles.


We create the very financial burdens that keep us chained to unfulfilling work.


The answer, I believe, is minimalism, the intentional promotion of the things we most value and the removal of everything that distracts us from it.


I want to be clear that having lots of possessions isn’t wrong, but research demonstrates that possessions don’t equal happiness. In fact, a 2005 study found that people who aspire to materialistic goals are more likely to be unhappy in life. Furthermore, research in the US shows that beyond $75,000 annually, there is no correlation between money and happiness. In other words, once you’ve achieved an annual income of $75,000, more money doesn’t equal more happiness.


These possessions, then, may create temporary happiness, but often we’re left wanting more. The other problem with possessions is that there are usually increased costs with having lots of them.


My wife and I recently bought a 65” television. I love this TV even more because we got the display model, so we paid 50% less than the retail price for it. Unfortunately, I didn’t know we’d need to buy a wall-mount for the set, or a cover for the wall-mount. As a result, the TV wasn’t as inexpensive as it seemed.


Possessions have that effect on our lives.


Possessions raise our cost of living, they require larger living spaces (with larger mortgage payments), and they often require extra off-site storage when we’ve outgrown the storage in our homes.


Add to that the fact that some pharmacists have created such a financial burden for themselves that they have to work extra jobs just to make ends meet. How can this be true when so many other people live such fulfilling lives on so much less?


Turns out the benefits of minimalism aren’t limited to freeing up money and space in your home. Minimalism can create the freedom you need to transition into a job that you love.

I’m reading the book The More of Less: Finding the Life You Want Under Everything You Own by Joshua Becker, and the book issues a challenge to experiment with minimalism. Choose an area that is cluttered, and begin sorting the clutter into 3 piles: trash, donate or sell, and keep.


The idea is that as you sort through your excess things, you’ll begin the move toward minimalism. You’ll get rid of things you don’t love so you can focus on things you do love.


I chose to start in my 1-car garage, which currently cannot house a car because it’s so cluttered with stuff. As I sorted, I asked myself these questions:


Have I used this item in the last year?

If the answer to that question is no, you should seriously consider getting rid of it. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you’re going to get around to it someday. If it had been important, you would have made time for it within the last 12 months. If you didn’t do it this year, it won’t happen next year either.


Could someone else use this?

At one point in time, the thing you’re holding had value, enough so that you spent your hard-earned money on it. Perhaps now the item is better suited for someone else. Perhaps someone else needs it more.


After a few hours of work, I had sorted our possessions into the 3 piles, and it was time to deal with the piles. I threw away the stuff in the trash pile and spent the morning burning the now-empty cardboard boxes in my backyard.


I tried convincing my wife that the donate/sell pile was a great way to make a quick buck that would pay for a dinner date, but I wasn’t able to convince her. She just wanted to donate it all and be done.


It’s worth mentioning, too, that giving things away does more than create freedom of space and money. It creates a feeling that can’t often be replicated in life: doing something to help someone else.


The final pile was the organize pile, which brings me to another point: Minimalism isn’t simply organizing your stuff. If you simply hold on to your belongings and continually shift them around, you aren’t creating freedom in your life.  


How will you begin creating freedom in your life? What room in your house is cluttered and needs to be emptied? What room creates stress for you because it is filled to the brim with stuff?


I challenge you to do your own experiment and report back. Let us know how you are removing the things that distract you from the things you truly love.


Take the first step toward freedom in your life, and get rid of your excess stuff. (While you’re there, put the golden handcuffs in the trash pile.)

 


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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