Documenting The Journey Of A Man On A Quest For Mindfulness, Peace, and Joy

Category: Gratitude

Choosing a Life of Mindfulness, Authenticity, and Less, and Letting Go of the Culture of More

It’s official! As of yesterday, I am no longer an employee.
 
I am now simply an untethered, wandering organism of the planet. After 7.5 satisfying years selling TV and Digital advertising for KARE 11, and after a total of 15 years selling advertising for a living, I’m getting out of the game.
Why?
  • Because I am accepting that what I have is, for now, enough.
  • Because life is too short and can end at any moment.
  • Because life is made up of chapters, and a new chapter is starting right now.
  • Because all my children want me to do right now is play with them.
  • Because I don’t believe in striving for more, more, more, just for the sake of having more.
  • Because I want to do more to make the world a better place for future generations.
  • Because I believe in listening closely to and trusting my instinct.
  • Because there is value in living slowly.
  • Because times change, and I’m not the same person I was when I was in my late teens and early 20’s and chose Marketing and Sales as my career path. 
  • Because, and let’s just be honest here, do any of us really believe deep down that we need *more* TV commercials in our lives?
Ok, so… What now?
 
Along with my partner, I am embarking on a 2-year mini-retirement. A sabbatical. A reshuffling of life’s typical timeline, where, as opposed to allocating all my retirement years to 65+, I am time-shifting two of those years to right now. Exactly what we’ll do with this time, and when, is largely unknown. What we do know is that we are going to attempt to strip our lives down to the essentials and reassess, from the ground up, how we want to live our lives.
 
What else do we know?
 
We know that in summer of 2023, our plan is to move to the beautiful country of Costa Rica, indefinitely. This gives us a little over one year to take all the necessary steps to get us from Twin Cities suburbs to Playa Flamingo, Guanacaste. It’s exciting, it’s overwhelming, it’s a dream, it’s a wild and crazy adventure that I’m feeling all the feelings about, and I’m thrilled to be able to share our plan with the world!
 
How am I able to do this?
 
I freely admit I am a beneficiary of privilege. I’m a white man in America. I come from a supportive family. Things have generally been working out for me. But I do believe that taking a break, even just a small break, from the minutiae of Corporate America is viable for more than just the super-rich.
 
My process has mainly involved asking myself hard questions in a journal and not walking away until I’d written down some answers. Questions like, “How much is enough?” and “What do I value above all else?” and “What visions do I embrace?” It was in the reflective process of answering tough questions like these that I realized I value the simple, fundamental things life has to offer, many of which don’t require material wealth, like: spending time with loved ones, being out in nature, exercising, cooking a nutritious and scrumptious meal from scratch, meditating, and creating stuff. When you value low-cost/no-cost activities, you don’t need as much.
 
The consumerist culture we live in is designed to convince us we have many more “needs” than we actually do. Part of my quest is to shed wanting and embrace a mindful, minimalist life.
What’s the Goal?
 
One of my top priorities for this time is to put my privilege to better use, to harness and hone my true inner super powers to unleash their maximum value for the benefit of humanity. My intent and hope is that the world sees a net payoff by me pointing my best strengths to the things I care about and value most.
 
Also, my partner and I believe that spending time as a resident of another country will be an informative, enlightening, and enriching experience for ourselves and our children. There are ways to live a great life that are different from the “standard suburban America lifestyle,” and we want our family to gain this perspective. We plan to do our best to learn the culture of Costa Rica, honor the land and its people, and foster a strong connection with our new community. 
What else is on the top of the priority list for the next few months?
  • Declutter (physically and mentally). Strip away all but the essentials. 
  • Live each moment as mindfully as possible, being present in that moment and feeling grateful to be alive to experience it (even if that moment is washing dishes).
  • Practice high-value activities, which for me are things like: hiking, learning Spanish, playing volleyball, running, cooking, and creative projects (music, writing, podcasting).
  • Invest time and emotions into my relationships with family and friends. When I’m going to bed at night, if I’ve spent quality time with loved ones at some point during the day, it feels like I’m closing out a high-value day. I want more high-value days! And the days feel even juicier when I’ve opened up, been vulnerable, and gotten into my feelings with someone I care about, so… more of this too! 
  • Develop consistent practices that align with my values and bring me joy, excitement, and contentment. Daily or weekly practices of meditation, Spanish, guitar, piano, exercise, and others. These practices will compound over time to bring me to a new state I could not achieve without a steady commitment. It will take some trial and some more error to hone the balance of practices that feels right, but then again, it’s an ever-evolving journey that will shift over time, so trick is to also practice tuning in to my mind, body, and spirit to hear what they need. 
  • Regularly ask myself, “What would truly excite me right now?” And then do it. 
 
I’ll be publishing more about this journey in the days and months ahead. I look forward to sharing it with you.
 
“The formula of happiness and success is just being actually yourself, in the most vivid possible way you can.” – Meryl Streep

Self Improvement vs. Self Acceptance – Can You Do Both? (Hint: Yes.)

In the personal development universe of books and blogs, two overarching schools of thought bubble to the surface as the kingpins, yet they seem to be in direct contrast to one another. 
 
On the one hand, you have “following your passion” and all of its variations. Acting on your true calling, the things that make you feel “expansive versus contracted” (as Marie Forleo puts it). Many experts say acting on your inner calling is the key to unlocking happiness. “If you’re truly passionate about what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life,” as they say. 
 
On the other hand, you have gratitude. Acceptance. Some say the key to happiness and inner peace is accepting that what you already have and who you already are is good enough. Dr. Robert Holden says, “No amount of self-improvement can make up for any lack of self-acceptance.” Being authentically happy starts with the realization that you are both the source and the cause of your well-being. 
 
I believe in both of these ideas. But, doesn’t it seem as if they are in competition with one another? I feel pulled to be better, do better, create more things, make a positive dent on the universe, invest more in relationships, and learn more every day. But at the same time, if I meditate or do a gratitude exercise I’m reminded to be thankful for what I already have. 
 
How do you navigate the drive to be better than you were yesterday with acceptance of things as they are? 
 

Self-Acceptance is different from Self-Approval

It’s possible to accept your reality and completely let go of the desire to change your reality, while still not be in approval with yourself about your current trajectory. 
 
Say you have an entry-level job at a company you like just fine, but aren’t head-over-heels in love with. After a few months or years in that role, you may start to yearn for something more or different.
 
You might start thinking things like: 
 
  • “Do I really need this job?”
  • “I don’t believe in my company’s mission with my heart and soul.”
  • “They should have promoted me instead of that other guy.” 
  • “I’m realizing I don’t want my boss’ job.” 
 
These are normal thoughts. You aren’t alone in thinking them.
 
In the case of realizing you don’t want your boss’ job, you are feeling a lack of self-approval of your current trajectoryyou don’t like the idea of where things are going if they play out as-is. This is a great motivator to work on improving this aspect of your life and find a different job and/or employer that better suits your future vision. 
 
But that doesn’t preclude you from also feeling a sense of self-acceptance, focusing your energy on appreciating what you do have. This job you’ve come to not like so much, it’s served you well up until now, hasn’t it? You got your bills paid, forged new relationships, created some happy memories, and learned some things. At the very least, you learned about yourself and uncovered a path you now know you don’t need to go down ever again in your life.
 
There are always things to be grateful for.
 
You made your decisions along the way to the best of your ability with the information you had on-hand at the time. Accept yourself and be confident that your younger self was doing the best it knew how. 
 

Come to Terms With Your Limitations

No one is great at everything; don’t try to be. We all have strengths and weaknesses, and some self-improvers get frustrated when they just don’t seem to be able to make progress on developing a skill. 
 
For example, I am terrible at making any kind of hand-made art. You give me a blank piece of paper to draw something on, and all my brain sees is a blank piece of paper. When I do try to draw something, it looks like a third-grader put in about 40% effort. Now, I could take drawing classes, watch YouTube videos, and practice every day to try to improve this skill, but I have come to accept that this type of creation is just not how my brain and body are wired. It’s not for me. I’m not going to be that kind of artist. I am, however, pretty good with words, so I can work on honing that skill and express myself that way. 
 
Let the improver in you play to your natural affinities. 
 
Let the accepter in you be at peace with your weaknesses. 
 

Conclusion

I’d like to say I’ve come to a conclusion on this topic, but it feels like I’m still writing this chapter in my own improvement/acceptance mental framework. 
 
Suffice it to say… you can do both! 
 
The drive to improve is a good instinct. Nurture it. Get after it. And accept that just because you aren’t where you want to be today, doesn’t mean you are in need of anything. 
 
 
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Have you ever struggled with the same mental tug-of-war these two forces play with each other? How else do you make peace with these ideas on your path to self-betterment? It would really help me out to know in the Comments, I could use the tip! 

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