16 November, 2019
Many people believe that minimalism is just about owning a small number of things. The result of minimalism is not neccessarily what's important, it's the method behind it. It's about the thought required to arrive at your answer. The fundamental reason why minimalism has made an impact on my life is because it requires me to really explore things that matter to me and understand why they matter. Once I've accomplished this, it's rather easy to eliminate everything else without feeling like I'm missing out. In order to figure out what things have value and why, I am often forced to think about the difficulties and challenges in my life; problems to solve. But that's only one piece of the puzzle. After identifying things and practices that will solve these problems, I have to ask myself 'why'? Why do these things solve the problem?
The answer to this question attempts to understand how and why things work. Often there are parts of any given solution that are worthless or even dehabiliting or preventative in actually solving the problem. This is what we want to minimize. This probably sounds confusing, so I'll give an example.
To understand why this works (if done successfully) we must first understand how weight works. Well we know there is indeed some genetic component to our wieght, but most of it comes down to the way we live our life. If we are overweight, it can more or less be simplified and attributed to the fact that we eat too much and move too little. This can be solved by going to a gym and changing your diet quite simply because we are making an effort to move more and regulate our eating habits, usually eating less. But you should have noticed my disclaimer at the beginning, "if done successfully."
There is actually more to the equation than just eating less and moving more. It's the ability to do both of these consistently because results will only be achieved over a long period of time. In fact, this is the most deciding factor on whether we succeed or fail. Joining a gym can work, but it requires too many variables that may be outside of our control decreasing the likelihood that we'll actually follow through with it. We often only focus on the value or results achieved from using something or doing something, failing to recognize the associated costs that may come with.
Think about it. In the given approach, you are dependent on access to a gym, the ability to pay for it, or access to workout equipment. We may even begin to think we need treadmills, squat racks, or dumbells to acheive a good workout. These are unnesseccary barriers to entry, but more importantly we allow these things to become excuses.
"I had a long day at work and the gym is 45 minutes away."
"I'd start working out if only a gym were closer."
"I can't workout. I don't have the right equipment or shoes or clothes."
Also, due to the cost of a gym membership it's likely that once you've achieved your goal of losing your weight, you may no longer see the need to continue paying for the gym. Your work is done. This is a big reason why I think a lot of people are able to lose weight, but they end up gaining it back. This method only works for some, and it's not a sustainable approach for the few it does work for. Alternatively, you may falsely believe that sinking money into a gym membership may make you more likely to be held accountable. Let's be honest, we often sign up and pay for things we rarely use.
Now, let's analyze a different approach. Think about how a boxer trains. Maybe we've never been a boxer or we're not even a fan of boxing, but many of us have seen the Rocky movies, or a Muhammad Ali biopic, or Hajime No Ippo. Notice how none of these guys lift weights or use treadmills. They have gyms, but the gyms often lack equipment. There's no doubt that guys like Ali or Mike Tyson are some of the most physically fit people. It's because their workouts are simple. There are no barriers to entry.
Their workouts mostly consist of cardio and bodyweight exercises. Before we were just following a method or doing what people do without understanding how or why it works. This blinds us to the reality that the same result can often be achieved in a much simpler way. Treadmills work because they promote cardiovascular health while simultaneaously burning calories. But simply going for a jog or jumping rope or doing the boxer's shuffle has this same effect. Except here we are no longer reliant on a large-scale industrial society to produce a complex piece of machinery that is often expensive or hard to access, such as a treadmill. Normal excuses don't work here. Our expectations of what we need to get in a proper workout have drastically lowered making it far more accessible.
The same is true about lifting weights. Lifting weights build muscle because it follows the basic principle of time under tension. When we put our muscles under tension, they break down and weaken, but when they recover, they come back stronger. Simple bodyweight exercises can accomplish this goal. Your bodyweight combined with gravity creates the tension that acts upon your muscles. This is what happens when we do pushups, dips, or pull ups.
Now that we understand how and why working out improves our health, we are free to choose the most minimal approach possible, void of the overhead, dependence, and barriers to entry. It's actually really simple. To get in a good workout we need:
This is such a low baseline that no matter how busy our lives may be, anybody can accomplish this. It's important to have a low barrier of entry to anything we do because often just getting started is the most difficult part. We are now free from the costs and committment of gym membership or workout equipment ownership that were holding us back. If you want to increase your chances of succeeding from here, you can find a workout buddy to hold yourselves accountable, or read more about calistenics and bodyweight exercises as there are a ton of fun and creative exercises out there.
If you're someone strapped for time, you can even apply this notion of less is more to account for this. Often times workouts that are low duration, but high intesity produce the same or even better results than workouts that are high duration, but low intesity. It is possible to spend less time doing something, but produce more as a result.
Alternatively, the issue of working out to remain healthy is often one created ourselves because of the lack of mobility we naturally get throughout the day. If were more active in our day-to-day lives, the issue of remaining healthy largely wouldn't exist. In this case, workouts could just be a hobby for some of us because we enjoy it. We wouldn't have the burden of trying to consolidate small blocks of our day to working out just to remain healthy. It would just happen.
I believe this process can be applied to any problem of our lives. Remember:
Using a smaller amount of more valuable things that focus on directly solving a problem or fulfilling a need are often more effective than larger or more complex solutions. This is because many of our problems, in our personal lives at least, are rather simple, but we tend to overcomplicate them with imaginary constructs about the things we truly need. This same principle can be applied to not only to what we do, but the things we own and the amount and type of information we consume.