Chasing joy and finding minimalism

I’ve been chasing joy for 2 years and 2 months. The decision to do so was easy. The follow through has been the hardest, most vulnerable, raw and rich experience of my life thus far. 

For years I lived on autopilot. I had the right job, the right clothes, the right car. I fit the corporate mold. I was happy enough. 

This lifestyle was part luck, part diligence. My parents bankrolled college, making it a financially stress-free experience. I’m an achiever and a pleaser so I got good grades. One afternoon late in my college career, sitting in a large lecture room waiting for class to start, I planned my life out in chunks of 5 years. I was 21 at the time. First I’d learn a foreign language. Then I’d get a job for some real experience. After that an MBA. And as the years went by I crossed those things off that list. 

In 2006 my husband Randy and I moved from Michigan to Colorado. I had been recruited by an advertising agency in Denver. The challenge of my shiny new role excited me. I threw myself into that job and worked long hours. I ignored my husband. I ignored the plethora of mountain bike and hiking trails 15 minutes from home. As the years went by I jumped from company to company, while managing to squeeze in the births and toddler years of my two young boys. 

Things shifted. My clients’ budgets were cut. There wasn’t enough work to spread evenly across the workforce. I hoped for layoffs that didn’t happen. Being corporate was what I knew, but it no longer felt right. I knew what I wanted to do, that part was easy. For decades I had been living with multiple debilitating autoimmune conditions. Through intentional diet and lifestyle tweaks I experienced a massive improvement in my health and wellbeing in the period of a few short months. Thrilled with my comeback, and as an eternal optimist, I wanted to coach others to achieve similar results.

The only thing that felt wrong was not doing it, not taking the leap. Living for the weekends and for a few weeks of vacation a year was no longer good enough for me. I knew I needed to go off-plan in order to live a life of greater purpose.

The year before I walked away from my last corporate job I put some things into motion. I hired a business coach. I did some soul searching. I went on an equine vision quest. And then I gave my two weeks. 

Chasing joy has unintentionally awakened the conscious consumer in me. Two years and two months in, knowing what I know now, I’d have done things differently that last year. I’d have gone on a massive spending cleanse. No more weekly impulse clothing purchases. No more spending $100 a week on work lunches and chai teas. No $5K weekend trips to Mexico. I was using all of those distractions as a band-aid to cover up my discontent. Randy tried to reign in my spending, but I ignored him. My learning from these last 2 years and 2 months? I was so busy hiding behind purchases that I didn’t realize it’s the depth of experience, not evermore stuff that creates happiness. 

Today I make health simple for my clients. We talk about the obvious components of wellbeing—nutrition, fitness, and sleep. We also discuss the not-so-obvious, like finances and relationships. The more in synch my clients are with their partners regarding their financial dreams and goals, the happier they feel, freeing them to connect to those they love on a deeper level.

Are finances a hurdle to your happiness? If so, here are 5 simple ideas that have helped Randy and me in our own money maneuvering:

  1. Co-create a big picture blueprint. This is a clear vision of the life you want and a plan on how to achieve it. You and your partner may start off feeling divided. So take it slowly. Agenda items could include desired retirement age, when the mortgage gets paid off, and how much to put in college education funds. These life decisions tend to be rife with emotion, so give yourselves a few months to get on the same page and create the plan. Once completed, the hard work will pay off in tremendous peace of mind. 

  2. Connect authentically about money once a week. Every Tuesday at 8:15AM Randy and I sit down for a ‘state-of-the-state’ meeting. We follow an agenda, which keeps this potentially tense conversation from derailing. It also ensures that we don’t carelessly discuss money during the rest of the week. We are both self-employed with nothing guaranteed so we talk about what we’ll owe on credit cards, what’s in our pipelines, and how optimistic we’re feeling. Having a weekly standing meeting allows us to operate off of the same information. It reminds us that we’re on the same team and playing this game of life together. 

  3. Unite through free-play, not cable. Randy and I have a standing date Thursday mornings after we drop the boys off at school. We mountain bike together. It keeps things lighter and rekindles our like for each other. On our last ride Randy voiced out-loud that this intentional time on our bikes together was the secret to our marriage. On the other hand, cable, it’s price-tag, and all of the sports that came with it, was not. Once Randy gave it up, it opened up time for him to do other things. Like watch all of Netflix. ;) 

  4. Eat at home. My clients are pleasantly surprised when they realize they’re saving money by staying away from restaurants even though they are spending more money at the grocery store buying better quality organic foods. Meal planning makes it possible. When we buy only what we need nothing rots and goes to waste.

  5. Really root into the challenge. The longer you dedicate yourself to a financial challenge, the greater your results. Sometimes we fall into our former habits and need a fresh start. That’s okay. There’s no failure, just trial and correction. Simply remind yourself of your highest aspiration, your big picture, and be open to continuous self-discovery. 

My journey of chasing joy led me to minimalism. It’s created a closer connection between Randy and me. We’re on the same page—we create experiences for our 2 boys rather than bribing them with new toys. We’ve weeded out our closets and lives knowing that we’ll be much more selective about what enters. Walking away from my corporate paycheck may make it appear as if we’ve gone backwards, however our minimalist lifestyle has propelled us forward.

Although we've had our ups and downs, we know that we’re rising to our potential, together and more united than ever, with grateful, undistracted hearts.