Tiny Luxuries

With rare exceptions, I prepare every meal I eat. I’ve done this for almost two years, now.

Being able to take the time, not just to learn to cook, but to prepare myself something nice, to acquire the right ingredients, to spend a half-hour or more on preparation, to sit with my food and enjoy what I’ve made—I consider this to be a luxury. It’s something I haven’t always been able to afford to do, time-wise, but I’ve very consciously set things up so that I’m able to, today.

I can sit down and read a book whenever I like. This has actually been a lifelong goal of mine, to be able to just indulge in a book, even when it’s not a weekend or a holiday. To have the time to feed my brain, to entertain myself, to enjoy the words for their own sake, and to do so till I’m ready to stop. It’s not a monetarily expensive habit, but it’s a luxury.

I absolutely love that I get to play guitar throughout the day, whenever I like. I typically sit down for four or five, 15-minute sessions in between other activities; learning new songs, but also playing whatever feels right in the moment.

I frequently take long walks with no destination in mind, allowing myself to follow whatever catches my attention. Sometimes I end up at a coffee shop I didn’t know about, sometimes I discover a little nook of a museum and explore that for a spell. Sometimes I just meander through an unfamiliar neighborhood, mentally mapping that part of town, fleshing out my sense of place and context.

When I sit down to work, I get to throw myself into unusual projects, take strange intellectual side-paths, and follow my curiosity wherever it leads me. And I get to share what I find with millions of people around the world—some of whom reach out and say hello, tell me about themselves, and share some of their own interests, discoveries, perspectives, and passions with me.

We’re trained from an early age to associate the word “luxury” with the spending of money; with gilded extravagance and overconsumption.

But the world, life, is full of tiny luxuries: indulgences of the sort that are easy to overlook if you’re not seeking them out and paying close attention.

It’s in the interest of people who want to sell you things, of industries that must sell you things to survive, to convince you that the world around you, the people around you, and you, yourself, are not enough. That you must coat these things with gold dust and expensive vestments if you want to reward yourself for all the time and effort you invest, all the energy you expend, all the work you do that isn’t of itself fulfilling, but which will—you’re told–pay off in the end.

Not everyone will be so immensely pleased by reading, playing guitar, and taking long walks, but most of us have an abundance of potential interests, of activities, of intellectual and physical enthusiasms with which we might joyously fill our lives, if we could only steal some time away from the pursuit of rewards we’ve been offered by entities with different goals from our own; and from the work we do to achieve those pre-packaged goals.

I’m absolutely not telling you that expensive alcohol, yachts, and high-end clothes can’t be fulfilling.

But I would argue that most of us are leaving low-hanging luxuries to rot on the vine, and instead expending massive amounts of time, energy, and other resources pursuing things we’ve be trained to want, but which we may not actually benefit from owning or experiencing. Not enough to balance out the price we pay to acquire them, at least.

Just as minimalism isn’t about owning as little as possible, but rather owning exactly the right things and no more than that, the idea here is to identify what’s actually important to you, what actually makes you happy, what actually feels luxurious to you, and to pursue those things with the same ambition you might typically reserve for an expensive sports car or flashy new gadget.

Most of us, for many reasons, aren’t brought up to pay proper attention to these sorts of things, so it can take time to identify our actual, right-sized, us-shaped luxuries.

But that time investment is worthwhile. And even if you don’t already know what might fulfill you in this way, it’s never too late to learn.

Experiment broadly, take note of the things you’d like to explore further and the little passions you’re keen to cultivate, and allow yourself to periodically indulge in the smaller, simpler, strangely enjoyable aspects of life. Then, begin to assess which of your goals aren’t really your goals: look at them one by one and allow yourself to consider that they may be inherited ambitions, rather than something you, yourself dreamed up.

This process isn’t about denigrating conventional milestones and traditional symbols of achievement, it’s about rewiring your internal reward systems, your desire to grow and accomplish and flourish, so that they better align with your actual priorities and inclinations, rather than someone else’s.

I’m going on a speaking tour around the US and Canada: learn more and get tickets here.

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