As I sit down to write this, I have walked precisely 6,569 steps today. I know this because I have a brand new Fitbit on my wrist. It tracks my steps and my heart rate and generates detailed reports each morning about the previous night’s sleep.
It’s the first pedometer I’ve ever owned. Frankly, until a few weeks ago, I’d never even wanted one. But some sort of switch flipped in me, and I went from being altogether indifferent about Fitbits to obsessively comparison shopping. I am not entirely sure what happened, but I suspect it was this: the gadgets entered the zeitgeist; suddenly it seemed like everyone I knew had one.
Even as I eagerly unwrapped the package on my new toy, I wondered if it would be a convenient tool to keep me healthy or a fleeting fad destined for the junk drawer.
You see, I have a bit of a track record with adopting fads that aren’t always destined for longevity. I am especially susceptible to health-related trends. (Let us not speak of the juicer gathering dust in my basement, or the whole two days I stuck with a Whole30.)
It goes without saying that this particular personality quirk is not exactly compatible with my so-called commitment to simple living.
It’s not that any given gadget or program is necessarily unworthy of our time or money. Often, these things are popular for a reason. But I was supposed to learn this lesson in junior high: just because something is popular with the crowd doesn’t make it right for me.
I hereby rededicate myself to being more discerning about trends. These are the questions I’ll consider:
1. Who's recommended it?
I value the recommendations from a very small handful of writers such as Anne Bogel and our own Tsh Oxenreider, and I have a few savvy friends whose recommendations are invariably gold. I really don’t need to know what O Magazine thinks I should do this weekend or what Amazon.com’s algorithms are promoting.
2. Would this be money well spent?
We have some long-term financial goals, and the desire to be generous givers to church and charitable organizations. Does this trend move us closer or further from that vision?
3. What will this bring into my life?
Yes, my bread machine takes up a lot of space in our tiny kitchen. It also guarantees that we regularly eat fantastic homemade pizza. The FitBit has already inspired me to walk more; why walk my daughter as far as the bus stop when it only takes a few more minutes to walk her all the way to school? Meanwhile, the aforementioned Whole30 – though highly recommended by many trustworthy sources – triggered in me unhealthy anxiety about food. Ultimately, this is about knowing myself – sure, this thing/project/adventure is great for these folks over there, but what will it bring into my life?
4. Does this resonate with my life’s purpose?
The working definition of “simple living” here at AoS is living holistically with your life’s purpose. In many ways, this is the key question, and probably the hardest. To ask it with integrity, I have to have done the work to discern what my life’s purpose is.
I may not always know the answers to these questions. Still, I hope they will slow me down enough to identify why I really want to try or buy something – or, just as importantly, to discover why I don’t.