Here’s a secret: you don’t have to. There is always another choice. Choosing can be hard and you may still pick either way, but you are not a mindless puppet on a string but a human being responsible for your own choices.
Pick what excites and scares you, and amazing things will happen.
You don’t have to…
- Work long hours: Time is your most valuable possession, so don’t let go of it too easily. Also, long hours rarely lead to improved productivity.
- Take your kids to kindergarten every morning: If you choose to live in a big house in an expensive area, and buy everything you need to fit in, you will be working all the time — and thus need someone to take care of your kids. But this too, is a choice. Do you see how things could change if you lived with less?
- Go to school: Even school can be debated. Leo Babauta’s kids are unschooled and it seems like it’s working well for them.
- Put off your life plans until you retire: What if you never do?
- Live a routine: Living every day according to the same script is not mandatory. It’s a choice.
- Buy that new Full-HD television: What was wrong with the old one? The best TV shows are great even with lower fidelity. I watch my movies from the 13″ laptop screen of my MacBook Pro. If the story is good, it will move you just the same.
- Get an iPad: It might be world changing but no one knows what they will be using it for, thinking they will figure that part out once they have the device.
- Always keep your phone turned on: People are clever: if they cannot reach you 24/7, they will come up with something else. My brother just spent two weeks alone at a summer house with his phone turned off and with no connection to the Internet, and he tells it was one of the best two weeks he has had in a long time. (And it’s good to know that if you don’t like the phone, you are not alone)
- Earn a lot of money: It’s surprising how little you really need for a good life when you become minimalist.
- Live in a big house: Not so long ago it was completely normal for two or more kids to share a room. And the kitchen table is a perfectly good place for work. Less rooms means less to clean and worry about.
- Eat out every day: Planning and cooking your own food from real ingredients is as fun — if not more — as eating it.
- Buy bread: You can make your own bread, and it can be better than what you get from the store!
- Travel far to go camping: Using what you have and a bit of imagination, you can have a great trip without traveling anywhere!
- Impress people: They are all just like you, with the insecurities and all — and they don’t care as much as you think. So, do what you feel right. Stop living for other people’s approval.
- Listen to your inner critic: If your lizard brain tells you to stop, punch it and do it anyway! That’s how great things start to happen.
- Be big: Small is good too.
- Eat meat: You can have a perfectly healthy diet without meat. And if going all the way vegetarian is hard, eating less meat is easy.
- Wear shoes when running: The Tarahumara don’t wear running shoes, yet they are some of the world’s best long distance runners!
- Create things just for the money: What if you put your soul in what you create, and try to help people instead?
These are all choices that only you can make yourself. Choose what suits you but make sure when you choose you say so. There is no such thing as “have to.”