There is a route to happiness that a lot of people miss, as they’re hurtling down the highway of life at breakneck speed. The route is a quick right hand turn, partially covered in vines. It’s a little dirt road that’s easy to miss. It is called “Self Reliance.”
When you turn off that main highway, you are withdrawing voluntarily from the giant traffic jam that is modern life. You will find that at first it’s really difficult. It is a rough road with a lot of potholes in it, because it’s not paved and kept up like the big highway. But, the pace is a lot slower and pretty soon you learn to go around those potholes and find yourself looking more at the view. Then you can mosey along, smelling the flowers and listening to the birds using whatever method you choose.
What Direction is Your Life Going?
Metaphors aside, it’s time to seriously consider changing the direction that life is going. Instead of being propelled along by everybody else, it’s time to take responsibility for your own life. It’s time to think hard about the decisions that form the basis of your day-to-day life and be sure those decisions are ones that actually reflect you. You want your life to reflect your morals and values, not the ones that the latest television shows promote.
The first step towards this life that reflects who you are is to focus on self-reliance.
Reliance on one’s own capabilities, judgment, or resources; independence.
It really is that simple. Instead of waiting for the government, an employer, or a manufacturer half way across the world to do something for you – you take the initiative and do it for yourself.
- If you want food, you grow it instead of wheeling a cart around a store.
- If you want something to help get rid of a tummy ache, you pick some mint and make a tea instead of reaching for a plastic bottle of chemicals.
- If you want to be entertained, you engage in a book or play a game, instead of being passively entertained in a Beta state by the television.
- If you want bread, you bake it instead of buying a squishy cellophane wrapped loaf at the store.
When you make changes like this, suddenly, your appreciation is deeper. I call this the “Loaf of Bread Philosophy.” Think about what really, truly goes into the making of a loaf of bread.
- You till some soil.
- You plant some wheat.
- You nurture the wheat all summer long.
- You harvest it.
- You mill the wheat berries into flour.
- You sift the flour, separating out the crunchy wheat germ.
- You add some yeast to water, then mix in your flour and other ingredients.
- You allow it to rise.
- You shape it into a loaf.
- You bake it.
If you go through all of those steps to make your bread, trust me when I tell you, that bread will be the most delicious bread you’ve ever eaten in your life. You will taste little nuances that remind you how incredibly fresh and natural it is. It will make you think of the earth, the rain, and the warmth of your kitchen. It becomes an accomplishment, rather than just merely something to stave off starvation. Can a loaf of Wonder Bread-like substance even come close to comparing?
There are benefits to self-reliance that go far beyond personal satisfaction. Those who can depend on themselves tend to be fiercely independent in all aspects of their lives, and this includes financially.
Unplug Yourself From the System
To be truly self-reliant, you have to disengage from “the system”. This means you cannot go into debt. If you are indebted to someone, whether it’s a relative, a bank or any other provider of credit, then you are, in effect, relying on them rather than yourself. Being debt free means that you can make dramatic changes, if you so desire, without having to figure out how you’re going to pay your credit card bill, car payment, and mortgage. It means that you have fewer monthly expenses to shuffler around. It means that if economic disaster struck tomorrow, you could get by on far less money than most people around you, and for much longer.
Your footprint on the world is much lighter when you live a self-reliant lifestyle. Let’s take garbage, for example. I live in the country and we don’t have garbage pick up here. You notice your garbage far more when you have to haul it to the dump.
My first month here, I was taking 2-3 bags per week of garbage to the dump. Now, after nearly a year, it’s down to 2 bags a month, if that. Why? Because we repurpose and use things over and over. Some food scraps can be composted to add richness to the soil. Other scraps can be fed to livestock. Because most of our food is either grown here or purchased in bulk, we have no packaging to throw away each week. Newspapers, flyers, junk mail, papers from school – all of those are burned in the woodstove, as are random pieces of cardboard. The ashes from the wood stove are used to melt snow in the path down our drive to the road. The odd bits of plastic (like the container holding organic strawberries last week) can be used for starting seeds and like other purposes like organizing some art supplies for my daughter.
Living self-reliantly allows a lot more time for reflection, and through this comes peace and satisfaction. In the corporate grind, you’re essentially spending your day making money for someone else. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with having a job – don’t get me wrong. But we all need time to reflect on our needs and to meet those needs ourselves. We need to spend time learning the skills required to take care of ourselves and our families if things go south and that job (and paycheck) isn’t there anymore. The ability to meet your own needs will keep you afloat while others in the same situation are sinking. The ability to be satisfied and happy with what you have created to meet your needs will put you even further ahead.
There is a peace of mind that comes from driving off that highway and dodging the potholes of that crazy, hand-dug, gravel road. That’s because you created that road – and it’s yours, every bump, lump and curve. Even if it isn’t smooth like the highway where everyone else is bumper to bumper, it’s yours. You aren’t just one of those wannabes who talks about simplicity – you are walking the walk.
So, ditch your debt. Ditch your need to consume, and with it, your need to earn. Stop buying things and start creating them. When you need less, you live more.