Take a moment, write down your 10 most expensive material possessions from the last decade. Things like your car, your house, your jewelry, your furniture, and any other material possessions you own or have owned in the last ten years. The big ticket items.
Next to that list, make another top 10 list: 10 things that add the most value to your life. This list might include experiences like catching a sunset with a loved one, watching your kid play baseball, eating dinner with your parents, etc. Be honest with yourself when you’re making these lists. It’s likely that the lists share zero things in common. What if, instead of focusing the majority of your time, attention, and energy on the 10 most expensive material possessions, you shifted your focus towards the 10 things that added the most value to your life? How would that make you feel? How would your life be different a month from now? A year from now? Five years from now?
But then we stopped taking it at face value and asked, “What is an anchor?” That question led us to an important discovery about our own lives: an anchor is the thing that keeps a ship at bay, planted in the harbor, stuck in one place, unable to explore the freedom of the sea. Perhaps we were anchored—we knew we weren’t happy with our lives—and perhaps being anchored wasn’t necessarily a good thing.
In the course of time, we each identified our own personal anchors—circumstances keeping us from realizing real freedom—and found they were plentiful (Joshua catalogued 83 anchors; Ryan, 54). We discovered big anchors (debt, bad relationships, etc.) and small anchors (superfluous bills, material possessions, etc.) and in time we eliminated the vast majority of those anchors, one by one, documenting our experience in our book, Minimalism: Live a Meaningful Life.
It turned out that being anchored was a terrible thing; it kept us from leading the lives we wanted to lead. No, not all our anchors were bad, but the vast majority prevented us from encountering lasting contentment.