A few years ago, I shared this short post from Zen Habits by Leo Babauta. And after yesterday’s conversation about contentment I started thinking about it again — and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since. It’s a different take on contentment.
In a nutshell, the post is about countering the tendency to do and have as much as possible. It’s about leaving a little reserve in the tank, leaving a little to be desired.
It’s about leaving yourself wanting more — and liking it.
Leo applies the concept to travel, exercise, food, and work. But it’s something that can be easily applied to our closets, too — and I found that so encouraging and thought-provoking right now.
During my own personal season of discontent, could it be that my “wanting more” urges could be reframed as something positive, something to be kept and savored? Instead of something that’s constantly sending me out to consume more?
Like, when you were a kid, remember the anticipation of a wrapped present? You had no idea what’s inside, and for a moment you live in possibility. You almost don’t want to open it because as soon as you do, the feeling of possibility will be gone. While it’s still wrapped, anything could be inside!
I want to start treating my “wanting more” urges like that present, and just live in that possibility for a while.
So tell me, what do you think about Leo’s post? How can we learn to savor, appreciate, and sit with our wanting — instead of immediately acting on it? I’d love to hear your perspective.
For the next several days, Aaron and I will be in Seattle to spend some time with our fam, so there won’t be a new post on Monday or Tuesday. But I’ll see you Thursday!
I hope you have an excellent weekend! :)
Photo Credit: Katie Jameson
Liked today’s outfit? You can shop it and support Unfancy at the same time by using these affiliate links:
01 | Tee by Everlane (made responsibly) | similar (under $20)
02 | Jean Shorts (old by American Eagle) | similar (made in USA) | similar (under $50)
03 | Long sleeve tee (old from Madewell) | similar (under $35) | similar in short sleeve
04 | Flip flops (old by Clarks) | similar | similar | similar (made responsibly)
Yes, if I happen to have scratcher lottery ticket laying around… which we do, for the last couple of weeks. Until we scratch it off, we’re still big winners in potentiality. When we do though…. we’ll, maybe I’ll let you know.
No, when I look at my garden with thoughts of expansion and my 99% completed home renovation. We’d just like to be done with it! But we are also happy to be 99% done with it instead of 99% UNdone!!
It’s funny, Sherry Argov’s book, Why Men Love B’s says the same regarding what attracts men and reading that caused a paradigm shift for me. Thanks to that new understanding I can credit her, to a degree, for a lasting relationship which ended in a happy marriage! I still regularly remember that is rule #1 in keeping him happy. ?
(Rule being that men thrive on wanting more so you have to make him prove his worth before letting him put a ring on it.)
Thanks for sharing this little gem with us. It’s just what I needed. This morning, I visited my physical therapist and she confirmed what I already suspected: once again I overdid it with working out, so now I’m banned from doing anything physically challenging for at least a week. It feels terrible! But somehow it also feels good. Because now I’m looking forward to the physio sessions and what I might learn about my body and how to prevent future injury. Another positive thing is that now I’ve got loads of free time to do other things (read a book! start a new Netflix binge!). Also looking forward to that! :) Have a lovely weekend!
I totally get the enjoyment in wanting or looking forward to something! I used to play a lot of video games, and the anticipation for the release of a new entry in a favourite game series was always something I relished. What features would there be? Where would the story take the characters next? I enjoyed the speculation and the excitement almost more than the release day when I’d get to play, haha.
I’m still learning to appreciate the waiting and the hunting with fashion. I try to be more selective with what I buy, but I’m still pretty bad with not waiting very long before I make a purchase.
I always want more with my life and it does make it difficult to be content. But at the same time sometimes I feel like being content is being okay with mediocrity. Because you can always be better. (I’m hard on myself and expect a lot!)
Tanya E says
Wow, nice sentiments. I am old enough to remember having to wait for things as a child, for instance, I can remember waiting for my grandma to knit our jumpers. I’m not sure we were less happy because of it! We want all this stuff because very clever marketing makes us think we want it. Sometimes things are sweeter if you have to wait, they have more value to us.
Patricia Kay says
Great article— thank you! Reminds me of a book I read “Leaving Margin in your Life”.
Having “Margin” in our lives is freeing. Transitioning into new seasons needs to be done carefully, so I appreciate your honesty of “pursuing more” being put on hold, & your taking time to breathe & ask what the “more” is really about.
I am finding that margin in my life takes me places “on time”, leaves space in my closet for my clothes to breathe, and allows me to experience peace that flows into other areas of my days, like relationships—giving them time, energy, commitment.
Discontent= like a little red flag waving & calling out: “desire the intangibles— more love, peace, joy, faith.” ?
AND your outfit is adorable! thank you.
An interesting post. I struggle with “too much” and this is a great article. I appreciate your casual, happy way of dressing. Especially like your frayed shorts. At my age not sure I want my legs to show that much, but look good on you.
p.s. the link to the Everlane tee does not work for me.
Hey Mary, it’s working on my end, so try this link: bit.ly/2rzktOr :)
The idea of leaving something on the table is very refreshing-and allows for living in the moment instead of being constantly worried about ‘missing out’. Thanks for sharing!!
i love leo babauta! he’s been an inspiration in many areas of my life.
How sheer are the everlane white tees? I’ve been eyeing them, but hate not being able to test how sheer they are
Hey Laura, this linen one is somewhat see-through. It’s such a light, airy fabric. But when I wear my nude bra, it’s not much of an issue for me. If you want an opaque tee, I’ve heard great things about this one:
Oh I think this is such an important concept! To embrace the pleasure of desiring, rather than only in getting! A funny way this played out in my personal life is in my relationship. I was single for a loooooooong time before meeting my boyfriend last year. Soon after we met and were falling quickly in love, I left for a big trip I had planned before we met. Instead of letting myself be miserable that I was missing him so much, I savored it. I really embraced how lovely it felt to have someone special to miss after not having that in my life for several years. (I also embraced being single and savored the freedom and self time I got). I still felt like I fully enjoyed the trip, plus I had the bonus of looking forward to being reunited when it was over.
I know that is very personal but I try to apply that even to things like shopping! To enjoy the process of wanting something, to think about what it is that draws me to those shoes, or that purse, or that new mascara. I even like to appreciate the aesthetic of branding, the time put into making something seem so desirable, to think about what picture they are inspiring in my head of the self I think I’ll be. It helps curb the impulse of instant gratification.
such good thoughts in a short post! There is a German saying “Erfüllte Wünsche machen klar wie schön die Zeit des Wünschens war” (Wishes that have come true show you how nice the time of wishing was) ok, not very elegant translation, but a wise thought.
I think that goes for most clothes too. Ok, there are a few that are so much fun owning and restyling them in various outfits.But for most items, craving them and hunting for them is the thrill. I often try to remind myself of that and try to enjoy my desire and see my fashion wishlist not like a to-do-list.
That’s a lovely perspective! and for me personally, when the hunt becomes less fun and I’m becoming haunted by my wish list, I know I should look inside to find the real reason I’m getting obsessed over a piece of clothing – usually insecurity in another area of my life.
Michelle Lang says
A few days before a really special vacation we took this past March I told my 5th grade daughter, wouldn’t it be kind of cool if we could just live in these couple of days before our vacation forever? Because once we go on vacation we won’t have it to look forward to anymore! She of course looked at me like I was crazy, but I completely understand where you’re coming from in this post!!
Great post last two days. In design, with our best clients, we all agree most of the time it’s the journey not the destination that we all enjoy. So here’s to always leaving us looking forward to a bit more. Maybe not “more” in the acquired sense but in the experience sense.-Laurel Bledsoe
I love this idea. Studies show that spending money on events/trips rather than things make you happier, and a lot of that reasoning is because of the anticipation of the trip itself (and later, the memories of it, of course).
Applying the ‘wanting more’ thinking could maybe play up on the triggers of anticipation happiness! I like it.
Lori Dailey says
I read your post to my 17 year old daughter this morning and we’ve been discussing it throughout the day.
I am starting a style challenge with another blogger and while I feel the frenzy of going out to shop for lots of new items that are just what she suggested, I also know that I have “enough” in my closet already. My pieces are not exact, but they will work. This gives me the freedom to “wait” for an item that is actually perfect instead of just good enough. Or I may not buy anything at all.
I did buy a dress recently and I was unsure if I should keep it. I tried it on for her this morning to get her opinion and she didn’t want to look because she thought the anticipation of not looking was more fun that actually seeing what I had bought and giving me her opinion.
Thanks for giving much food for thought!
For me, that feeling of the ‘wants’ usually means I’m needing to do something creative.
Love Zen Habits. Meditation helps me recognize and learn over and over again that feelings pass, whether you act on them or not. It’s counterintuitive. But the feeling of wanting more will pas even if you don’t get (purchase) more, and sometimes it will come back way too soon and too strong even when you did get more. So I think it’s good to try and just sit with feelings, observe them, and learn by experience that it’s not always necessary to act on them (immediately or at all).
Dana Leigh Lyons says
This is truly one of my favourite posts you’ve shared, Caroline. Resonates with my own heart – and is something I’ll share with my clients/patients. Thank you.
That’s a really interesting perspective! It can certainly feel uncomfortable to want something and not strive to have it, but just be aware and conscious of the wanting. One thing I’ve been trying is a “progressive capsule” where I’m just listing out, on a cumulative daily basis, everything that I’m wearing. It’s had the interesting side-benefit of making me very content with what I do have. It’s #progressivecapsule on Instagram, if you want to check it out, or I’m posting about it here too: http://sustainablefashionchat.com/discussion/14/progressive-capsule-something-a-bit-different
Wow this was such a thought provoking post, along with the zen article! Thanks for sharing! <3
hanna hancock says
Thanks for this, I needed to hear this today. and now I’ve started following Leo too! Awesome!
Thank you for reminding us of that post — it really taught me something. Funny that I had forgotten you’d shared his blog before when I shared Leo’s post on contentment (https://zenhabits.net/contentment/). Had you seen it? Anyway, that reminder about leaving yourself wanting was very welcome and very timely. Thank you!
Cleshawn Montague says
Caroline, thanks for sharing Leo’s post. It came at the BEST possible time for me. You are a breath of fresh air and you leave me inspired…
xx, Cleshawn | hometohem.com
I liked yours and Leo’s post on sitting with the feeling of wanting more and it reminds me of areas in my life where I could really practice that more (shopping, eating, etc.).
One area where I did start doing this: exercise. I used to go to the gym or go on a run and push myself really hard, but then I’d expect to go the next day and workout again. It didn’t happen! But if I do something more like a 45 minute workout and focus on just engaging my body, my muscles, in some way then I can workout the next day. It’s more sustainable for me though every once in awhile I still go to the gym and push too hard :P . A work in progress :))
happy to be happily discontent with you! :)
I had a little ah-ha moment about this idea just this week. I saw someone post about ways you can use up partly empty notebooks you have lying around. I thought, huh?? I couldn’t relate to the post at all.
I realized that my consumption habit for journals and notebooks is an awesome one! Most other sectors of my life do not fit this pattern at all. So here’s the deal. I voraciously use notebooks. I keep a personal journal religiously, and I also have one or two notebooks in rotation at work. I know what features I like in a notebook, and I’m willing to change it up slightly when I need a new notebook.
When I see a notebook at a store and I’m not on the market for a new one, I think, “ohhh, I love notebooks!” and I maybe daydream a little about what my next one will be. When I notice I’m coming to the end of a notebook, I start thinking, “soon, I can get a new one!” When I’m within a few pages of the finish line, but slightly before I need it, I buy a new one. I usually do this in person rather than online because I love the in person buying experience. I stockpile it for a week or two until that fateful moment when the old notebook is full, and I get to unwrap the new one. I spend good money on notebooks, and every time I pull out a notebook I get a little thrill from the color, the shape, and what makes it slightly different from the last one. My recently retired personal journal was such a pretty navy, it was so comforting. And now I’ve got a fresh soft green one.
I realized I want my clothing and cosmetic purchases to feel more like this. I want to have assurance that it’s okay for me to lust after things every now and again, but I only need to buy a new thing when I need a new thing — and make it so that the purchasing happens regularly enough that I can soothe myself with, “you don’t need a new dress right now, but won’t it be so much fun when you do?”
“Looking forward to things is half the pleasure of them.”