Making Space to Follow Your Dreams
Making Space will take you behind the scenes with people who are making space in their home, budget, and calendar to do what matters most to them.
By nearly every measure, people are definitively better off today than the richest king 200 years ago except for one: happiness. Global stats compared to the year 1800:
Less than 10% of people live in extreme poverty today, down from 95%
85% of people are now literate, up from 15%
Child mortality (dying before age 5) is down below 3%, previously over 40%
Life expectancy varies widely between countries but has generally increased to 60+ years, up from 40 years
Even freedom has improved—the population living in a democracy is now over 50%, up from 0%
Happiness is hard to measure
Almost all of humanity’s quantifiable performance indicators are improving. But what gets measured gets improved, and some things are hard to quantify. Despite having more leisure time than previous generations, it’s not clear that we’re happier than they were. Happiness, like pain, is subjective, relative, and volatile—making it hard to quantify at scale. While there isn’t a single metric that can be reliably tracked, we do seem to all agree on the basic ingredients of happiness. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs covers the ingredients well: physiological, safety, belonging, esteem, and self-actualization. As you move up the pyramid, the happier you are.
Happiness happens through connection, passion, and purpose
So my question to you is: are you working your way up the pyramid? Now that you have the bottom two covered, are you working to develop the top three? Or are there things that are unnecessarily holding you back from happiness?
Maybe you don’t have time to work on a passion project because you’re working to pay for a house that’s bigger than you need. Or your free time is spent on the yard you don’t actually use. Or your extra money goes to an expensive car when you could easily take public transit. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m a firm believer that the economy is not equitable for all and that we have a lot of work still to be done. But most people are also guilty of falling into the “more is more” mentality where they shop with their emotions, measure success by their clothes, and live in more space than they need.
Instead of more stuff, what you might be missing is real belonging and connection—not the kind found on social media which often produces feelings of envy. Or you might be missing purpose—not the materialistic kind that society seems to perpetuate. Or you may be missing self-actualization that comes from passion. Passion being the need to do something, regardless of permission or reasoning.
Your dreams don’t have to be all or nothing
Finding and cultivating a passion is an important part of moving up the pyramid. If you’re not sure what you’re passionate about, childhood dreams are a great place to start. Those dreams and plans were rooted in interest, not responsibility. Now of course, becoming an astronaut at the age of 50 with no science education is unrealistic. But your dreams don’t have to be all or nothing and it’s not too late to make versions of those dreams happen. Not being an astronaut doesn’t mean you can’t get involved with space. Just because you aren’t playing sports on a professional level doesn’t mean you can’t show up to a pick up game each week. Just because you didn’t make it to Broadway doesn’t mean you can’t audition in local productions.
A few years ago I started pursuing old passions. I studied tap dancing, joined a band, and started learning piano. Then, in April 2019 created Small Space, Big Taste to share how minimalism has made me happier, healthier, and wealthier. I can tell you with certainty that creating something original is incredibly powerful. Working on something you are passionate about fosters internal satisfaction and sharing it creates meaningful connection with others.
So get started! Make space for creativity. Make budgets for adventure. Make time for relationships.
Making Space Mad Lib
This mad lib is part of my free 14-Day Guide to Live Large With Less
Introducing the new series: Making Space
Making Space will take you behind the scenes with people who are making space in their home, budget, and calendar to do what matters most to them. We’ll be hearing from musicians, actors, entrepreneurs, and more about how they shunned the status quo to make space for their dreams. Hopefully their stories will inspire you to make a little space for your dreams.
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