Not so many years ago, our ancestors lived very different lives. Even though they had far fewer choices than we do, they were content. They used what they had, however meager, without even a thought of the possibility of having more. Their homes were much emptier, but their lives were full. Families ate together around the table, without distractions. They went to bed early and slept soundly because they were gratifyingly tired from doing what they needed to do to survive. There was no room for laziness and no time for an idle mind. Everyone pulled their weight, and a family was, by necessity, a team, in which each member knew their part and played a valuable role in the mechanics of everyday life. Times were hard, but a rare sense of accomplishment and productivity made it all worthwhile.
Pleasures were simple back then. It was a treat to have a glass of lemonade or something sweet to eat. Summer evenings were spent with adults seated in rocking chairs on front porches watching barefoot little ones chasing fireflies. Winter nights were spent indoors reading, studying, playing music, and singing around an old cookstove or fireplace. Genuine hospitality was the norm, and visits from neighbors were a welcome reprieve.
Oh, for the simplicity of days marked with such clarity! Looking around today, we see no resemblance to the primitive, yet peaceful lives our ancestors lived, but what if we discovered that the chasm between their lives and ours isn’t as wide across as it seems? What if we dug deep, through the external layers of excess, busyness and modern-day expectations to find that their courageous, inventive spirit still remains and is the very bridge that will span the gap and lead us back to where we long to be?
Sure, we can’t turn back the clock and land ourselves in the day and time in which our ancestors lived, nor am I implying we should start washing our clothes on a washboard or living life without the convenience modern inventions provide (though it would certainly help to cure some of the issues resulting from the sedentary lifestyle they encourage!) But, what if we could come closer to living through the lens of their mindset? What if we could tap into their resourceful spirit, transform the way we live our lives, and annihilate stress? What if we dared to swim upstream and refuse to get caught up in the fast-moving pandemonium that pervades modern society?
Here are seven simple two-word steps to renew our minds and breathe new life into the steel-resolve, improvising spirit of our ancestors buried deep within every one of us.
1. Slow down.
Defy culture. Life may be moving at lightning speed around us, but who says we must participate? Look for ways to reduce debt and expenses so you don’t have to work so much, even it means selling what you have to pay what you owe. Quieten noise. Unplug. Turn off. Step outside, stargaze, and listen to nature’s symphony. Sit still. Give thanks.
2. Spend less.
Challenge yourself to find contentment in what you already have. Don’t bring unnecessary clutter and useless junk into your home. Rein in the urge to splurge, limiting luxuries to rare occasions like they did in the olden days.
3. Give more.
It is far more blessed to give than to receive. Give lavishly of your time, energy, excess possessions, talents, and resources. Reach out to others from a place of authentic concern. Your excess is someone else’s bounty. Instead of buying things you don’t need, give the money to someone in need. Pay a debt you don’t owe. Buy groceries for a widow. Mow your neighbor’s lawn. Pay a college student’s car payment. Pay a compliment to a struggling child. Breathe hope into the life of an underprivileged teen. Spend an afternoon listening to the stories of a neglected grandfather. The fulfillment of benevolent goodwill far outshines the cheap thrill of self-indulgence hands down.
4. Realign priorities.
No matter what we accomplish or how much we accumulate, it means nothing if the price to acquire and maintain it requires the sacrifice of what matters most. Clear your schedule of all that is preventing you from nourishing and pouring your energy into relationships with the ones you love. Say no to all that is unnecessary. Time is a limited commodity, and every window of opportunity has an expiration date. Prevent tomorrow’s regrets by making wise choices today.
5. Release excess.
Clear your home of anything that vexes your spirit. Keep only what you need, use, and love. Be content with the basics. If you have two of something, give one away.
6. Remove temptation.
Our ancestors lived within their means out of necessity, yes, but it was also due to limited shopping opportunities and little to no credit temptation. They lived without credit cards, and we can, too. Cut up every credit card you own. If it isn’t in your wallet, you won’t be tempted to use it. If self-restraint is an issue, avoid window shopping. Throw catalogs away before even looking at them and go to stores only when necessary.
7. Be kind.
We all have at least a few skeletons in our closets when it comes to some not-so-nice branches in our ancestral family tree, but even so, an overall spirit of human kindness was a whole lot more prevalent in their day. The golden rule was still taught in school. A deep sense of underlying conscience produced honesty and caring interaction with others. Children were raised to know that respect of parents, elders, and others was a natural, non-negotiable part of life. What if we tapped into that spirit of kindness and began to allow it to flow into every, single thing we do? What if we dared to forgive and love everyone?
Who knows? Maybe the good old days are still ahead of us.