Monday, August 3, 2009

The Happy Minimalist

The Happy Minimalist
Finding Health & Happiness
By Peter Lawrence
Copyright © 2009

It is futile to do with more what can be done with fewer.
— William of Ockham

According to Greek philosopher Epicurus, the troubles entailed by maintaining an extravagant lifestyle tend to outweigh the pleasure of enjoying that lifestyle. He that what was necessary for life and happiness be maintained at minimal cost, believing that anything beyond what is necessary should either be tempered by moderation or completely avoided.

The Happy MinimalistMost people do not realize this simple truth. Over time, we have been brainwashed to think that "More is Better". It is this mindset that leads to a nation of resource guzzlers. We also harbor the misconception that a minimalist leads a deprived live, that he has to sacrifice many pleasures in life, etc. The truth is that a minimalist aims for the optimum point. A minimalist knows that too little can be inefficient and too much can be detrimental. Take your car, for example. If you drive too slowly, you are not maximizing fuel efficiency. If you drive too fast, you are not maximizing fuel efficiency either. In general, for most vehicles, the fuel efficiency is maximized at 55 mph. At this speed you get the most miles for each gallon of gas. This same notion applies to every resource we have. A minimalist is aware of this and hence maximizes whatever resources he has. A minimalist is thus a maximizer. Because he is fully aware of the disadvantages of too little and too much, he lives in moderation.

This deceptively simple concept is not only relevant for individuals, but it is also appropriate at a national level. Just look at the financial crisis we are in and the statement: "Too big to fail!" If they had only adhered to the principles of a minimalist and not grown beyond the optimum point! At an individual level, this then begs the question: How do you determine the optimum point? What is too little and what is too much? Here is where a more personal introspection is needed. We need to reflect on this with full understanding of how our ancestors actually lived and how other cultures live today. If they all can live happily while utilizing fewer resources, aren't they by definition more efficient? Being efficient and hence utilizing fewer resources not only hastens one's financial independence; it is also good for one's own health and the planet. Here are some facts to mull over:

1. You reach financial independence when your passive income is greater than your expenses. Most people focus only on increasing their income while not paying attention to their expenses. As one's income rises, expenses do not have to rise in tandem. Consider what Henry David Thoreau said: "With respect to luxuries and comforts, the wisest have even lived a more simple and meager life than the poor."
2. Studies find that a millionaire is no more likely to be happy than someone earning one-twentieth as much. Once you reach the median level of income, roughly $50,000 a year, there is no longer any correlation between higher income and happiness.
3. Anhedonia refers to the reduced ability to experience pleasure. In the book Thrilled to Death, Dr. Hart laments the fact that our continuous pursuit of high stimulation is snuffing out our ability to experience genuine pleasure in simple things.
4. In the book The Longevity Diet, the author shows that calorie restriction is the only proven way to slow the aging process and maintain peak vitality.
5. If everyone in the world consumed like the average American, we'd need about six Earths to sustain ourselves.

Finally, I wear glasses. I need glasses because I have poor eyesight. Similarly, someone who is hard of hearing needs hearing aids. A drug addict needs drugs and an alcoholic needs his booze. We usually need something, because we lack something or at least we think we lack it. The reverse of this is, if you have few needs, you are probably healthier, happier, etc. With that in mind, which would you rather be: A minimalist, or someone who needs all kinds of "toys"?

We are happy in proportion to the things we can do without.
Henry David Thoreau

About The Author

Peter Lawrence was born and raised in Singapore and currently lives in Santa Clara, California. Peter holds a Bachelor in Information Technology from an Australian University and an Executive MBA from an American University. Peter is the author of The Happy Minimalist, and maintains a website at Peter can be reached by email at

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