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Best Decisions: Accepting Only High-Quality Experiences

by Gip Plaster on February 28th, 2012

While most of my Best Decisions series will focus on real, tangible changes I’ve made in my life since moving toward the minimalist lifestyle, this post is about something less tangible and more esoteric: accepting only high quality experiences.

This is the second post in a 10-part series about the best decisions I’ve made so far on my journey toward a simpler life.

This post is about an attitude change that means I accept less nonsense from the people, businesses and systems with whom I interact, and it’s working very well for me. By shedding the things in life that are more annoying than useful or uplifting, I’m focusing better on the things that really matter.

I really didn’t do a very good job writing about my new insistence on accepting only high-quality experiences from life when I addressed this topic in the post called, appropriately, Accepting Only High Quality Experiences on August 30, 2011. I felt like I never actually made my point.

Let’s try again.

Accepting Only High-Quality Experiences

Here’s what I mean by accepting only high quality experiences: I no longer take actions that lead me down a path toward inevitably unenjoyable, time-wasting, energy-sapping incidents.

For me, that means I don’t go to lectures by boring speakers or order season tickets to a theatre hoping the plays they produce will be good. I don’t do work I don’t enjoy, and I don’t do business with companies that don’t respect my time, my requirements or my approach to life.

Of course, this is only a goal so far, but I’m moving closer to this reality every day.

I sometimes must mow the yard (something I dislike very much), and when the faucet in the bathroom needed changing, I learned how to change it despite preferring to do something else. I’ve sat through a few talks and performances that weren’t that good, but I’ve also waited in the hall while the people I with whom I attended a tedious event finished being polite and staying in their seats.

I’ve eliminate many of the services and utilities than once weighed me down, but I still have electricity, car insurance, a cell phone and some other pieces of silliness. I deal with them as little as I can and look for simpler alternatives at every opportunity.

Righteous Arrogance About A Lifestyle That Works

In my previous post, I mentioned the term “righteous arrogance”. For better or worse, I sometimes feel an arrogance about my increasingly simple, no-nonsense life, but I don’t apologize for that. My lifestyle works for me, and it would be unkind of me to keep its gloriousness from others, wouldn’t it?

Today, I’m focusing my life on interesting work toward lofty goals and on making a better living too. They’re goals that can easily go together.

One commenter to the August post expressed dissatisfaction with “constant evaluation”, saying that she finds “happiness and peace to realize that not everything has to have a point”. Everything we do, however, adds to or subtracts from our lives. I prefer to have experiences that add to my life, making it as rich as possible.

We’ll get back to more practical advice and look at the third of my best decisions toward a simpler life next week, but I felt compelled to discuss this topic again.

Perhaps it’s more practical than I thought. What do you think?

Are you willing to settle for less than the best today? While it’s a goal more than a reality some days, but my goal is to accept only high-quality experiences and reject the rest.

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12 Comments
  1. You’ve captured something here that I’ve been trying to put into words over the past couple months. My mom, for example, puts up with crappy cable TV providers and crappy TV programming and complains about them all the time–she never considers that she could just live without cable (like I do). Sometimes I think I’m a quitter by refusing to push through things that annoy me to try to change them into things that don’t annoy me or to build character. Sure, I’m willing to fight for something I truly believe in, but only something that I think will give me a return on my interest.
    Domestic Kate recently posted Stitchin’ and bitchin’

    • Thanks for commenting, Kate. I’m glad you like the post. Paying for low-quality experienes is just silly, but lots of people do it.

      I think it’s important to know when a battle is worth waging and when it isn’t. Pushing through a rough patch when there is evidence of brighter days is one thing, but settling for a less-than-perfect life because you can’t think of a better way is something else entirely.

      Thanks for being first to comment!
      Gip

  2. I remember when I realized I didn’t have to finish a book just because I started it. I’ve always read a lot but now I only continue reading those things I am enjoying for one reason or another. That freed up a lot of time and made me happier.

    • That’s a good point about books, Linda. There isn’t any requirement to finish something just because you’ve started it. The book might get better and become worth your time, but it might not. If you’re under no obligation to read it, you can put it down if it isn’t meeting a need. If you’re waiting on someone in a doctor’s waiting room, the poor-quality book might be a better experience than nothing to read at all, so in that case it becomes a good choice again.
      Gip

  3. Type A Minimalist permalink

    I read your initial post on this topic last year and it has stuck with me ever since. This way of thinking helps me to distill down to what really matters in every moment of my life, from which road I will take to run errands (always the one past the green meadow, through the elm trees or over the river as opposed to the loud, soul-crushing highway), to how I will travel in the first place (first choice by foot, second by bike. last resort by car), to what I will purchase (only the best quality I can reasonably afford on my salary).

    Because I share your intolerance for silly annoyances I no longer have a cell phone, my family only has one car (far fewer insulting experiences with repair shops or the DMV), and we seek out inspiring experiences on the weekends like hikes, free performances, and tours of gardens or museums instead of malls, crowded sporting events, or expensive hobbies.

    As a result I have found much more serenity. I have also found that this way of looking at the world leads me to bring my own best, cheerful, positive self to each interaction, and this is much easier when you’re buying food from your local farmer rather than the corporate shopping arcade, when you’re banking with your neighbor rather than the suits at Wells Fargo or strolling through my community rather than zooming past it in my car.

    In fact, I would have to say that out of the hundreds of simple living blog posts I read last year, this is the one I remember every single day. I thank you for that!

    • That’s quite a compliment, and I appreciate it. This topic is probably the most important one to me too, and it it informs and shapes all of my other posts, interactions and experiences.

      I completely agree about “insulting experiences”. We have one car that we must use frequently, but my cell phone is prepaid so I have far fewer hassles with it (I’ll talk about that cell phone in another “Best Decisions” posts) and I try to avoid many of the same things you avoid. I’ve found that dealing with less silliness on a regular basis makes me more able to deal with the small amount of it I can’t avoid, and that saves a lot of stomach aches.

      Again, thanks for the very nice compliment!
      Gip

  4. Too bad there isn’t a way to predetermine which experiences will be “high quality” and which won’t. I suppose the best we can do is to not repeat the “low quality” ones, just like if you didn’t like a particular brand or product, you wouldn’t buy it again. I guess the more challenging part is remembering that it’s ok to cut your losses and bail out once you’ve determined you are wasting your time.

    I think it’s been drilled into us since we were little kids not to be “quitters” and that makes it take a conscious effort to allow ourselves to quit.

    For that matter, I even have to remind myself that it’s ok, and NOT wasteful, to throw out that box of cereal that I took a chance on but didn’t like, even though I had to force myself to finish the first bowl.
    Mike | Homeless On Wheels recently posted Caution: Email BCC (Blind Carbon Copy) Not Always Blind

    • Good points, Mike. I’ve also found it hard to decide not to go to something that I know will be good that’s inconvenient for me. For example, if a favorite band is playing a free show but I don’t need to be out that late on that night, I find it hard to say no. But attending that high-quality event often makes whatever’s happening the next day lower quality…

      Gip

  5. Gip…I haven’t dropped by for a while, though I’ve been lurking and read your stuff.

    Shedding the burdens really does free up your time, clear your mind and focus your energy. That combination makes it all worth it, even if you get the “deer in the headlight look” from friends, family and strangers when you explain to them that you are not interested in getting “just any old stuff” and reject offers.

    It’s refreshing to focus on your few favourite (yep I’m a Canuck) things and eliminate the rest…say goodbye to shirt and tie (as one example).

    The stuff we have should be what we want to maintain, not what is expected. The experiences we pursue, should be the ones in our bucket list, not someone elses.

    Quality is congruent with luxury and when you have less it’s important to have the right tools and spend your time wisely.
    simply stephen recently posted what if less really is enough

    • Thanks for commenting, Stephen. That’s exactly right: our stuff and experiences should be exactly what we want, not what others expect. My bucket list contains very few “daredevil” type things as some people expect. I don’t want to jump out of plane or climb a mountain, but I’d like to visit Seattle and London, for example.
      Gip

  6. Carol permalink

    What a great post, Gip! I’m right with you on this one. I think we all owe it to ourselves to seek out the best experiences we can have, which usually aren’t ones hyped by advertising & media.

    Most of the activities/products that are promoted by media will not improve my life in any meaningful way. And, they will usually cost me significant money if I choose to participate in or buy them.

    I’ve gotten very good at keeping myself out of situations that are not going to be high-quality. And, in the rare occasions that I get stuck in something low-quality, I can usually get out of it pretty quickly and without much pain.

    Always trying to keep activities simple goes a long way to ensuring you have a high-quality experience.

    • Thanks, Carol. Simplicity is usually the key to getting the most from an experience. I think some of my readers still don’t understand what I mean by accepting only high-quality experience even after I’ve presented this topic twice, but it sounds like you understand.

      It’s good to have you here.
      Gip

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