Do you turn the thermostat way down? Shop zero waste? Ride your bike in January? These quirky lifestyle habits can make you a better person.
You've probably heard Nietzsche's famous phrase, "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger." The underlying message is that difficulties can be important growth experiences; they fortify us for the future, make us more resilient and resourceful. The phrase came to mind when I was reading an article by financial independence (FI) blogger Tanja Hester, a.k.a. Ms. Our Next Life. In it, she asks, "What's your 'selectively hardcore'?"
It doesn't make sense right away to hear an adverb and adjective used as a noun, but what Hester's talking about is the idea that sometimes it's valuable to have one carefully-chosen lifestyle habit that may be viewed as 'hardcore' by the rest of the world, but is meaningful to you. You might not be hardcore in the other things you do, but having that one quirk teaches you important lessons and offers perspective.
Hester's own "selectively hardcore" is turning down the indoor heat to 55 degrees Fahrenheit (13 degrees Celsius), cold enough to solidify the dish detergent and to require a hot water bottle in bed at night. Being a finance blogger, she has obviously calculated the savings (approx. $250/mth x 6 cold months = $1,500/year). She says that she and her husband could afford to turn up the heat, but they don't because "it's important to do one thing consistently that tests you."
What are these benefits that warrant shivering in one's home? Hester writes (expanding on each of these points in greater detail in her original article):
- We're stronger than we think.
- Pain is temporary.
- It's always possible to learn new things or embrace new experiences.
- Comfort is a privilege.
- Gratitude is something you can feel.
"What began as a knee-jerk financial reaction has turned into this wise teacher, teaching us about life, ourselves, and not really about money at all. But we wouldn't have learned these lessons -- and certainly not felt them in our bones -- if we hadn't stuck with this stubborn idea consistently every single winter."
Not everyone will choose turning down the heat as their hardcore quirk, although I do think one grows accustomed to coolness and learns how to dress for it. My own home stays between 63-65F (17-18C) during the day, dropping to 54F (12C) at night, and my entire family wears sweaters, socks, and slippers when we're home. (We do this because we actually like it.) An informal survey around the TreeHugger virtual water cooler revealed that we're all in the same 63-66F range.
But turning down the thermostat doesn't have to be your thing. Hester's philosophy can be applied elsewhere in life. My selectively hardcore is plastic avoidance and shopping with reusable containers and bags whenever possible. My mother's selectively hardcore would probably be hanging laundry all year round, even when the clothes freeze solid and you can stand a pair of jeans on end (but then, my mom is hardcore about everything). My husband's would be his garage gym, where he trains religiously and intensely five times a week. These are actions we do over and over again, not because they're easy, but because on some level they make us feel better about ourselves.
Selectively hardcore habits might start with gusto, then peter out. Not all of them stick, which Hester points out can sometimes have comedic value. Would you say you agree with this idea -- that purposely introducing a bit of hardship has value? And if so, have you done it yourself?
Read more of Tanja Hester's inspiring articles at Our Next Life.