This is a guest post from Karl Staib.
A few months ago, J.D. wrote an interesting review of Voluntary Simplicity, a book dedicated to living a stress-free life. What I found most interesting was not the review, but J.D.'s introduction:
For years, one of my goals has been to achieve a “pastoral lifestyle”. This amuses my friends, but it's true. By “pastoral lifestyle” I mean that I want to create for myself a life that flows at a slower pace, a life removed from the concerns of the day-to-day world.
This paragraph really made me think. Who exactly lives a “pastoral lifestyle”? Is it someone rich who doesn't need to worry about money? Or is it someone who doesn't care about money, but who doesn't have any worries?
When I look at American society, it's easy to find examples of “rich and famous people” who aren't happy:
- Owen Wilson's attempted suicide
- Paris Hilton's sex tapes and wild parties
- Lindsey Lohan's messy life
These are just drops in the bucket of angry, depressed, and lonely celebrities.
Looking for perspectives from the other extreme, I went out and talked to a couple of local homeless people. “It's hard out here,” one of them told me. “I'm going to tell you like it is. I need money for some beer. Do you have any spare change?” It's funny, but as I thought back to all the homeless people I've talked to in Philadelphia, London, Baltimore, and Austin, I realized that I've never met a homeless person who didn't like to complain.
It's not money — or the lack of it — that brings happiness.
I used to believe that the only way you could remove yourself from daily concerns was to not care. For me, that was impossible. What about my wife? My friends? My family? I put “my” in front of everything as if I owned it. That's the key! Stop creating separation between yourself and others and accept everything as a part of you. It's not about removing yourself from needing and wanting, but about seeing the splendor in all of it. I've been trying to grasp on to life instead of creating an inner “pastoral lifestyle.”
It's not just me writing these words. It's my fifth grade teacher, my mom, my wife, you, oxygen, the food I eat, and everything else. If everything is helping me do what I do, then I can't create a separation. I need to open my perspective to create the lifestyle that fits me. By tweaking the perspective that I have on money, relationships, career and the other things I struggle with, then I can create inner simplicity.
You can create a “pastoral lifestyle” by finding the right combinations of thoughts to make it happen. It has nothing to do with how much money you have or how many people rely on you, but how you perceive the data around you. J.D. uses his knowledge to help others get out of debt. Jerry Seinfeld uses his abilities to make others laugh. Others seek meaning elsewhere. You can look at life as a burden, or as an opportunity to make the world a better place.
What it all comes down to is: you! You can create the “pastoral lifestyle”, or you can keep searching for answers through money, relationships, or your career. But I don't think these answers exist outside of yourself. You can look within and adjust your perspective — you can voluntarily see each moment as simply divine. Then your perception of wealth is no longer measured by dollars and cents, but by your ability to enjoy the life that fits your needs.