Courtney Carver returns to the show today to talk about some of the ideas in her new book, Soul Simplicity: How Living with Less Can Lead to So Much More. Many people think of minimalism and un-stuffing as merely a way to get rid of stuff, but there is actually a very important tie between how much excess stuff we own and pursue, and how much room we’re making for the things that matter. Charlie and Courtney explore these relationships, and provide a handy way to get back to the heart of what matters.
[3:00] - Courtney received her wake-up call when she was diagnosed with MS, and that was the start of her changing her entire life. A little over a year after her diagnosis and she began making her initial changes, she realized the common thread of all those changes was simplicity.
[5:07] - It seems that most life changes are based on some sort of wake-up call or pattern interrupt. Some of the ones Courtney often hears about are health scares, losing a family member, or the beginning or end of a relationship. They are usually pretty major wake-up calls, and sometimes it takes something big because we don’t always pay attention to or act on the little things.
[6:55] - Minimalism is so often focused on stuff, but it’s broader than that. For Courtney, it was about figuring out how she was going to live well with MS. All her research came back to eliminating stress. She started with her diet, and then focused on debt. Shopping gave her an outlet blow off steam, but it was leading to more debt and more clutter, both of which led to more stress. Letting go of her stuff relieved more stress than she imagined, because she was getting rid of things that didn’t add value to her life.
[9:40] - The shopping high (or whichever outlet you choose) can placate us into thinking we’ve done something about whatever problem we’re trying to escape, but the problem is still going to be there. Courtney talks about the myth of ownership, and how we feel like we need to buy a certain thing so we’ll be a certain type of person. We also shop to relieve boredom.
[13:15] - In times when Charlie has ended up in “accidental consumerism,” he takes time to evaluate why he’s making the purchase and make sure he’s not acting on a stress stimulus. This extends to any of the vices we turn to when we’re bored or frustrated or stressed. How can we be curious about why we’re bored and what might make us less bored?
[15:40] - It is okay to be stressed or frustrated or bored. It’s definitely okay to feel our feelings, but one reason that change doesn’t stick is because we’re not willing to feel uncomfortable. Charlie finds that as people, we are selectively uncomfortable about certain types of discomfort. There are some situations where we’re okay being uncomfortable, and other situations that we can’t be in. It is important to identify what types of things make you uncomfortable, and not use discomfort as excuse to miss out on an opportunity for growth.
[19:17] - Sometimes it’s hard to get ourselves to do the things that are going to make us better, like working out or meditating. Once we do them, we usually don’t feel worse after. Courtney’s rule is just to show up - get to the gym or the place where you meditate - just make the effort to show up and go from there.
[24:40] - Courtney has a practice/exercise to help people figure out where to start or what to let go of. She closes her eyes and literally puts her hands over her heart, as if she’s holding it. From there, she either listens or she asks questions - as she listens for the response, sometimes she writes them down or engages further. The message she gives herself is that she trusts herself and has confidence in her decisions. This exercise gives you permission not to be in your head.
[28:50] - Many people get stuck when they look ahead from where they are now to a future state that’s dramatically different from where they are. Focusing on small steps that will push you closer to the future state can help with progress. Small, tiny changes make for huge, huge changes.
[31:42] - Busyness is just as pervasive as clutter in terms of stress and discontent. Often times we try to prove who we are by what we do, sometimes in a way that has negative consequences. This business can affect relationships or leave us feeling overcommitted and overwhelmed. It is important to be intentional about how we’re spending our time.
[36:55] - We often get caught in the busyness trap because we conflate hard work and value - we think if we work harder we’re a more valuable person, and a lot of times this isn’t true. You may reach a point where you realize that working harder isn’t going to solve the problems, but is contributing or creating more.
[38:01] - As Charlie mentioned, it’s smart to schedule our non-work events with the same intention as our work times. If you’ve set aside time to spend with family, it’s important to focus on the family, rather than than doing work stuff. This allows you to figure out what it means for you to be fully engaged.
[44:47] Courtney’s invitation to you is to try the practice of putting your hands on your heart. Take five minutes and sit down and put your hands on your heart; take some deep breaths, and see how that feels.
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