When we were in Arizona last year, there was a salty old man who lived in our RV park. His ramshackle 1988 Fleetwood Southwind RV was decorated in the usual way- blue tarp, duct tape trim, and the ever-present pile of cracked cinderblocks and firewood with a few broken lawn ornaments mixed in.
This guy- let’s call him Gus (his name is definitely not Gus, but I like “Gus” so we’re going with it)- is unimpressed. With everything.
He is unimpressed with the famous Tucson sunsets (“I’ve lived here all my life- they’re the same as they’ve always been.”).
He is unimpressed with the way things bloom after a desert rain (“Yup. It’s what happens.”).
And he is super unimpressed with the entire concept of “tiny house living.”
“Tiny house? On wheels? Yeah. Some of us have been doing that for years- it’s called a trailer, dipshit. The same rich kids who look down their noses at a trailer park, build their trailer out of expensive wood and take away the TV, and they think they’ve fucking invented sliced bread. Smug assholes.”
It was a pretty hilarious conversation.
Also, he kinda has a point.
The thing is, so do those “rich kids” who build those tiny homes, who spend time and effort to craft something sustainable and special, with intention and purpose (and who, just because it really does bear repeating yet again, are definitely NOT all “rich”).
They are simply looking at the same concept from two very different perspectives.
Over the last year or so, I’ve been diving deep into the world of coaching. I’ve been reading and pondering and listening to everything I can get my hands on as I flesh out my own approach to this work, my own way of structuring a program that I think can truly serve clients who really want to do their work and stop standing in their own way.
But I have to tell you- there is a LOT of noise out there. A lot of “reach your peak happiness in 60 days or less” schemes, many of which have a few useful tidbits, but tend toward one-size-fits-all generalities and rely on a few well-worn industry phrases that often leave people scratching their heads.
One of the biggies is “mindset shift.” That phrase is everywhere.
And honestly, I end up wondering if it really means anything to most people…does it? Does it really land?
So how does this relate to Gus and tiny homes and the bearded hipsters building them?
They are operating from two very different mindsets.
Gus tends to approach life in general from a sort of “been there, done that, so you can’t impress me” place. If we go with the common definition of a mindset as "the established set of attitudes held by a person," his veers into skeptical and cynical a lot of the time.
He can be quite funny and there is certainly more to his story than what I am sharing here for this purpose, but I often found myself wondering how his mindset served his life.
Defining a mindset for everyone who has ever built a tiny home would not only be a gross overgeneralization, but as such, simply inaccurate, so I’m going to usethis article by Ethan Waldmanas a representative example as he voices many of the common motivations I’ve heard repeated by members of the “tiny house movement.” At the core, the mindset at play here is about freedom and choice, and arguably, possibility. There is often an excitement around these ideas by tiny house owners that makes them eager to talk about them.
I don’t want to go down a road of comparison about which mindset is “better” or the possible whys behind them, especially when far more is at play here than housing choices.
But I do want you to think for just a minute about the idea of mindset in your own life.
What are your established set of attitudes? Do you even know?
As always, noticing is the first step.
Start paying attention to how you respond to things, most notably what your knee-jerk reaction is to (1) any kind of “big dream, and (2) other people’s big “successes.”
Here’s what I mean:
When thinking about something big you’d like in your life (“I’d love to move to France for a year” or “I want to get my house paid off before I’m 40” or “I’d like to hike the entire Pacific Crest Trail” etc), what is the first thought that follows it? Is it some variation of, “Hmmm, I wonder what would go into that? People do it…how could it work for me?” or is it more like, “Maybe someday that would be cool” or is it more like, “Ha! Yeah right. Anyway, back to reality”? Be honest as you notice this and try not to judge yourself around it- just notice where you actually are.
When thinking about other people’s big “successes” or even their ventures (“Sarah that you went to yoga teacher training with is opening her own yoga studio” or “Katie from your writer’s group just got published in The New Yorker” or “Jenny and Kyle just took three months to travel in Indonesia and start a podcast about their travels”), what is your first thought? Again, just pay attention. Does their success make you feel empowered to chase your own (“Wow! Katie just got published- that makes me want to carve out time for my own writing!” or “I wonder how Jenny figured out their travel- I’m going to ask her because that trip is incredible!”)? Do you immediately list the reasons that they could do it that are closed to you ("Sarah’s husband makes a boatload of money, so she can afford to fail at the yoga biz” or “I heard Katie went to college with one of the editors at The New Yorker”). Do you knock them (“Who the hell does Jenny think she is? Anthony Bourdain? Please. One trip doesn’t make you an expert.”)
After you spend a little time just noticing, ask yourself what the mindset that you have brings to your life.
This can be tricky and a bit loaded, so try to be honest and show yourself some kindness while you do it.
Maybe you’re one of the lucky folks who looks at their “established set of attitudes” and can say that they are moving you every day in the direction you want your life to go.
Or maybe you look closely and realize that while that’s true much of the time, sometimes you slip into a mindset that doesn’t.
Maybe you realize that sometimes your mindset is more about justifying why you aren’t really moving in the direction you want to go or why your life doesn’t look the way you wish it did.
We all get there sometimes.
We get scared or overwhelmed or we’re just not clear about what it is that we actually want. We feel less than or not enough or unsure that we really have what it takes to make something happen. Maybe we really just can’t see how to make it work.
Sometimes we’re just tired, plain and simple.
That’s okay. I swear.
But it’s not really a fun place to live in the long run.
I have a hard time believing that Gus, in his impossible-to-impress-ness, is particularly happy in his life, that he derives much joy from his day-to-day, and I don’t think it has much to do with his living situation. I don’t know what he might be carrying around from his life and I’m not saying that we should all be skipping around with dopey grins plastered on our faces in a state of mindless bliss.
I would argue that to live the life that you want for yourself, your mindset has to line up with where you are trying to go.
Next week I’m going to talk a little about what I believe is the number one way to make sure that is the case.
In the meantime, just start paying attention-
(1) How do you respond to your own dreams?
(2) How do you respond to others living theirs?
And get curious.
Think about why you might respond in the ways that you do. Think about what you might be getting out of your approach.
I’ll see you here next week!