“The objective is not to fill the container to the brim, but to make sure that the big rocks are there and that the container is not so full it can’t accommodate conscience-directed change.”
1. What do you choose to own and what is merely passing through your life?
2. Which items that you own (clothes, technology, books, CDs, DVDs, ornaments, pictures) have you not actually used, remembered or appreciated in any way in the last year? Who else could make better use of them now?
3. What are you hoarding? (things)
4. What are you hoarding? (regrets, resentments, grievances )
5. What is the simplest, healthiest, most enjoyable way for you to feed yourself?
6. What is the simplest, most attractive and enjoyable way to clothe yourself?
7. What is the easiest, simplest, and most effective way for you to honour your body through exercise?
8. If you had to evacuate your home tomorrow and could only take one suitcase with you, what would you put in it?
9. If you were to die tomorrow, how easy or cumbersome would it be for others to sort out your affairs?
10. What do you value about yourself, other than what you have and what you have achieved?
What is the ultimate aim of downshifting?
- Living within our means?
- Living with fewer material possessions?
- Cutting our costs whilst maintaining our quality of life?
I would suggest it is all of these things and, ultimately, to manifest in our lives what matters most to us.
How do we do this? Answering the important downshifting questions above can help us to orient our thinking in the direction of simplicity and authenticity. If we assume that our actions follow the route highlighted by our thoughts, then it’s our thinking that we need to be aware of.
Nester worked for an insurance broker and was raising her two children single handed. She was in the office every hour her children were at school and more and had very little time to herself for relaxation or to plan for the future. She was exhibiting signs of stress – irritability, low energy and insomnia. She knew she wanted to simplify her life somehow but couldn’t see how she could achieve that when to her it seemed like she couldn’t possibly maintain a decent standard of living without working as much as she was. What was she to do?
In coaching sessions we discussed what a decent standard of living meant to Nester and she mapped out what a desirable quality of life would be like for her and her children. What she most longed for was family time – time to just “be” with her children – and also a greater sense of close community. She also dearly wanted to find more time for herself and renew some of her keenest interests. There were a couple of creative arts courses that she’d had her eye on for a while, but couldn’t see how she could possibly find the time to take part in them. Then, her sister’s father-in-law died, leaving vacant a 2 bedroom annexe attached to her sister and brother- in-law’s home.
Nester would not have recognised this event as an opportunity before, but with her focus now on her priorities and values, she offered to rent the annexe from her sister for a 6 month downshifting trial. This reduced her living costs to the point where she could afford to reduce her working hours. She also came to an agreement with her sister over childcare and house maintenance that allowed her to participate in one of the creative arts courses that she felt drawn to.
By asking ourselves some important questions and reflecting on our answers, we can focus our thinking and our actions. Then downshifting becomes an easier process as we begin to believe that the obstacles in our way are surmountable and to recognise the opportunities that can serve us.