Changing your mindset and living your values

26 June 2013

At first, staying as motivated as you need to be to live this kind of life looks like it might be too much. I worried if I could stay on track but I had a shift in thinking and it became easier, immediately. Changing your mindset will help you stay on track too. Let's face it, when you're just starting out on this journey and your best friend invites you to go out for coffee or lunch, or to cruise around the shops together or go on a weekend away, it feels like it's just too good to turn down. You might not have a good reason to not go.

I changed my mindset - or how I looked at the common things in my life - by thinking about what I wanted out of life. Did I want to wander aimlessly though shops looking for things to buy? Did I want to remain disconnected and feeling empty? No, what I actually was to feel more alive than ever before. I wanted to be able to get up every morning knowing that the work ahead of me that day would help strengthen me. I wanted to feel more comfortable in my own home than in a shop. I wanted to find myself. I used to live in this body but I'd gone missing in action. I wanted to find my way back home.

I did a lot of thinking on my front verandah. I stared out into the eucalyptus trees and while wrens and willy-wagtails swooped through the trees, I wondered how I could reconnect with my home, how I could enable my family to live on a reduced income, how I could find happiness again. I used to be happy with the simple things in life. What happened?

On those first few days of sitting and thinking, I thought about what I valued in life. I wrote it all down so I could add to it and wouldn't forget it. I used that list in my book, and here it is again, my constant reminder:

I want my life to provide me with:
  • A reason to get up every morning
  • Interesting and productive work
  • Contentment that explodes into happiness occasionally
  • A framework in which to live simply
  • The opportunity and continued ability to learn skills that facilitate our lifestyle
  • A strong and generous family circle that supports every member of our family – during the good times and especially when it’s tougher
  • Opportunities to express generosity, kindness and empathy
  • The strength to be a role model to the younger women in my family
  • The enthusiasm and perseverance to take charge of my home and make it a place of comfort, welcome and warmth
It's quite easy to write a list like that, it's much more difficult to write a list that truly reflects your wishes and then to live by it. I'm pleased to tell you that, so far, I'm living to that list and still feel very strongly about the values I listed.

So how did I go from a workaholic who shopped, to someone who was calmer, kinder and values-driven? I changed my definition of what success meant to me. I used to measure success by the amount of money I made and spent. I had shifted from my working class roots to someone who thought that buying too much for my children would make us all happy. It gives me no pleasure typing that out and I just realised I was frowning as I typed. But everyone is capable of change and over those first few weeks, my successes were good bread, how many eggs I collected each day, having my family notice the change in me and being a much nicer person to be around. I'd stopped being competitive and negative and tried to make improvements not only in my home but in my heart as well. It felt good!

Simple life isn't just about the practical things you do every day, it's also about how you feel about yourself and those around you. When I look back, I barely recognise that old me. I'm no push over now, I say what I think and I'll stand up for what I believe in but I'm not on a crusade to convince everyone that I'm right. I'm much more tolerant and accepting of everyone's view and changing my mindset, changing my view on what success was, that did it for me. I live in a softer place now.

So if you're at the beginning of this journey or if you're not feeling quite right about how you're living, I  encourage you to take some time out, sit and think about what you want out of life. Think about what you don't like about your life and yourself and then try to picture what you want. Write down that new life in short sentences to make up your list. And do it in pencil so you can edit it and make it the refined list you'll happily live with for many a long year. I am living proof that you can change your life with a pencil and a piece of paper. All you need is the quiet time and the will to do it.

Have you had a similar experience to mine or did your change happen in a different way? I would love to read about how your changes started and it may be just the thing someone else needs to read today.