Practice Voluntary Hardship

It is so easy to get used to the nice things, new cars, latest gadgets, great job, good attitudes etc. It is so easy to take things for granted, and start thinking its the way it SHOULD and always be.
More money, more possessions, more attention, more love, more-more-more…. Like an addict, a hamster in a wheel, you run faster and faster, constantly trying to increase the dose to stay happy and satisfied.

Too many people I know are stuck in a rut. They’ve dug themselves a narrow, comfortable routine, and with every passing year they become further entrenched.

We take the same exact commuting paths day in and day out for years. We become numb to it all, not really seeing. Sometimes we don’t even realize that we’ve arrived. Have you ever seen the movie called Groundhog Day with Bill Murray in main role? If you didn’t, I highly encourage you to watch it. You might find a lot of commonalities with the main character. †

A screenshot from the movie Groundhog Day.

For how long can you continue living this way? What if you lose the source of income that allows you to live the life you made yourself believe is necessary to be happy?
Unfortunately for a lot of people the only way to recognize and start appreciating what they’ve got is to lose everything.

Do we really need to lose it, to appreciate it? Is there is another, healthy way of reminding yourself of how lucky you are to have what you have, to live how you live? Yes, I believe there is.

One of the ways to build your Self Discipline is to practice voluntary hardship. Voluntary Hardship means constantly testing ourselves by making our life routinely uncomfortable in some way.

Simple voluntary hardship examples:

  • Skipping a meal
  • Taking a cold shower
  • Not smoking for a day
  • Sleeping on a floor
  • Leaving your jacket at home, knowing it’s cold outside
  • Donating 80-90% of your clothes to charity and leaving only a few items to wear (the worst ones)

Do it long enough and you will understand you can live without it if needed. It cultivates appreciation for life, for the things you’ve been blessed to own and things that make your life comfortable.
Also, I believe you should practice loosing or living without a thing you afraid to lose the most.
It may sound that I promote sadism, but I am not. Rather, I’m promoting cultivating self discipline, delayed gratification, control and fear-mastery.

Practice Poverty

Coming to Pittsburgh for work, I was always staying at some of the best hotels in town that offered the best customer service, amenities and comfort. This trip was different.

Instead of Hilton, I went to Airbnb. Instead of view on downtown skyscrapers I chose the view on a brick wall. I booked the cheapest room I could find that was available for my dates.
One week stay Mon-Fri costed me $279.67 unlike the typical ~$1000-1200 at fancy hotels. Not to mention, since it’s a business trip, accommodation costs are usually covered by the company I work for. I had no personal financial gain from paying less.

I lived like a poor man for a week. To make it more real, I’ve decided I will also be eating like poor, the cheapest but still healthy foods I could find at the local grocery store. Plain oatmeal, some vegetables and the cheapest meat from local Giant Eagle supermarket (low cost local grocery store).

I did it for a several reasons:

  • After living in a shithole like that I will celebrate being back in my house with all the comfort and nice things I’ve been taking for granted.
  • Eating so cheaply will make me more appreciative of all the clean and fresh foods I am able to afford.
  • I will get an estimate of what’s the minimal amount of money I need to be living comfortably and what’s my comfort threshold.

I did not like living there. I did not want to come back to that place after a long day at work.
I could not wait until I am back home. I really anticipated going to the grocery store and treating myself to a pile load of fresh veggies and a chunky piece of salmon.

What kind of Voluntary Hardship will you practice?