Simpler Living For a Happier Planet

Could getting back to basics solve many of the problems we face?

Laurence McCahill
Jun 28 · 6 min read

“If you want to change the world, go home and love your family.” Mother Teresa

Like a growing number of people, I’m becoming increasingly concerned about the grim news filtering through on a daily basis.

You‘ve probably seen the headlines — global temperatures are rising at an unprecedented rate each year, the ice is melting way faster than previously thought and the natural world is in a state of collapse.

Billions of lives are now at risk in the next decade.

In short: We’re doomed.

Life as we know it on this planet is about to change very soon (and it has already for some).

“I am plagued by visions of starving people seeking to escape from grey wastes, being beaten back by armed police. I see the last rich ecosystems snuffed out, the last of the global megafauna — lions, elephants, whales and tuna — vanishing. And when I wake, I cannot assure myself that it was just a nightmare.” George Monbiot

A nice graphic painting a grim picture — and this is just the start via Show Your Stripes

However, when we’re faced with such depressing news on a regular basis it’s easy to become hardened to it — or get so overwhelmed that it can seem pointless doing anything at all, given the work needed to deal with the monumental problems we face ahead of us.

But one thing has become abundantly clear.

If we’re to have any hope of creating even a slightly happier ending than the one projected, then we need to re-think almost every aspect of our lives — from food to energy, travel to education, work to business, the list goes on.

But as I know from 20 years of working with individuals and companies, behaviour change rarely happens overnight — and making decisions from a place of fear can often do more harm than good.

While movements like Extinction Rebellion are doing amazing work causing a ruckus in the media and political arena, I’m interested in the small changes we could each make towards a bigger systemic shift at a micro level – changes that could make us happier and perhaps even slow down some of the trajectory we’re on.

“Let go of this society slowly and by your own volition (its better than being forced to do it quickly)” Mark Doll

Inspired by Max St John’s post and many conversations I had with peers at Alptitude about this topic, I felt compelled to do something.

Not in the expectation that this would fix anything, but to create a glimmer of hope that something good can come from a bad situation (or maybe that’s the optimist in me).

This post is the start — my contribution to a conversation that, for many like me, has just started.

Could a simple life be the answer?

“Simplicity is not an alternative lifestyle for a marginal few; it is a choice for the mainstream majority, particularly developed nations.” Duane Elgin

I’ve been on a quest for a simpler life for a few years now. I moved away from the city, tried to strip back possessions (I’m not Marie Kondo, but I try). I’m trying to work less hours, carve out more time for family and our community, and make more conscious choices.

Despite all this I’m far from perfect and face a constant battle, like many of us, with being trapped in a system that makes it almost impossible at times to do the right thing.

All I do know is that I want to move away from a society that is slowly killing us, to one that rebuilds community, the climate and our own wellbeing in the process.

So what does Life on Earth 2.0 look like? Do we need to make sacrifices or dare I ask — could it be better, more wholesome, even more fun?

Could working less mean we slow down? In turn needing less and gaining more? More of what makes life worth living.

“You have succeeded in life when all you really want is only what you really need.” — Vernon Howard

A ray of hope

Here are the key areas where I think life could be better if we were to really think about it, themes I’m hoping to cover in future posts — looking at some tiny ways we can start to make a big difference. Reasons for hope — a north star amongst the bleak, gloomy headlines:

I’ve taken inspiration from the book There is No Planet B, where author Mike Berners-Lee shares his vision for a better world:

The air is fresher. Life is healthier, longer, more relaxed, more fun and more exciting. Our diets are varied, tasty and healthy. More of us get out as much as we want to, both socially and physically. Travel is easier — but we spend less time in transit. We feel freer to live life in whatever way seems meaningful to each of us at the time, in negotiation with other people’s equal right to do likewise. There is less violence at every level. Cities are vibrant whilst the countryside teems with wildlife. Our jobs are more interesting, and the pressures are more often self-imposed. We expect, insist on and get higher standards of trust and truth, in politics, in the media and in fact everywhere. We are better connected to the people around us and to our sense of the global community. We give more of our time and attention to others and we notice and enjoy more of what is going on around us. We might compete with each other for fun but where it really matters we collaborate better than ever before.”

Having a vision is one thing, how we get there is another.

I can’t say I have the answers, but look forward to exploring this with you — maybe at Happy Startup Summercamp in September?

I’ll be joined by Max St John, who’ll be giving a talk on this topic, plus we’ll also be creating space for conversations and workshops around similar themes — check out the full programme here.

Hope to see you there — or if you can’t join us, get exclusive access to videos, live streams and conversations from camp by becoming a member.

The Happy Startup School

Build a life and business rich with purpose

Laurence McCahill

Written by

Co-founder The Happy Startup School. Building a global community of heart-shaped entrepreneurs and leaders, one event at a time.

The Happy Startup School

Build a life and business rich with purpose

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