The Minimalist Warrior

ghost of sparta god of war kratos minimalism Zen zen habits

As I've played through the game, I've been struck by how remarkably minimalist it is compared to a lot of other games, and how little the main character carries. He is able to use his body to overcome most obstacles, which creates an interesting connection between personal competency and the ability to rely on fewer external sources of empowerment. Basically, minimalism necessitates competency, and competency can inspire minimalism.

Do Less to Do More

One thing I've learned about life is that doing more, owning more, and socializing more are not always associated with success, happiness, or achieving our goals. Sometimes, these things just get in the way. I've known this for a while, but sometimes we need to remind ourselves. Case in point: my life right now is definitely not minimalist. I just bought a set of really nice Art of Shaving hair care products. Why? Somehow I got it in my head that I needed all-natural shampoo, conditioner, and hair gel. Very unlike me, I know, and I feel pretty dumb about it (not that I need natural stuff, but that I need hair care at all). Spending too much time in New York. My professional life isn't very minimalist either: I work at CrossFit, as a bartender on weekends, and at Forbes. Clearly, this is not very minimalist. My Google Reader subscriptions have ballooned from 10 to over 50.

True, there is a certain thrill to having a full plate. You feel useful, because you're busy. You feel important because you're always rushing around, and your time is a rare commodity. But it is important to look at ourselves to determine if we're really being useful, or if we're simply performing busy work.

Returning to the Source

I have to think back to what inspired my start down this path in the first place. It was a blog, actually, called Zen Habits. The author wrote about developing a set of personal habits to inspire and enable success, based on simplicity and centerdness. His blog was so awesome that it got me through my second two years of college, and inspired me to start my own blog. Since then, I've kind of gotten off track I think, taking the principle of self-development and trying to do too much.

If I think back to how my life was when I was the most minimalist, I realize that not only was I a lot less stressed out, I was also really effective. I did fewer things, but I got a ton of work done, and it was really high quality work. What's more, I had time to enjoy life, rather than rushing from one thing to the next. As a result, I grew faster. It's kind of like in weightlifting: if you lift everyday, you won't actually get stronger. You get stronger if you lift two to three times a week and sleep a lot. Less is more.

I also had more free time, so I actually ended up doing just as much as when my schedule was full. I would use my free time to do activities I enjoyed, but because it wasn't an obligation, I could be fully engaged, and it didn't feel like it was a burden on my time. It was "me" time, and just having that label helps make an activity less onerous.

Returning to our friend Kratos the Spartan, his whole life is "me" time at the moment. His only commitment, since losing the title of God of War, is enacting his personal vengeance on Zeus. This is something he wants to do, and it takes up all his energy. Nowhere on his to do list or daily schedule does he have commitments to others. Thus, he can focus all his energy on his quest, and make it a good quality effort.

I'll admit that Kratos is unbalanced in other ways (like being consumed by rage, anger, and the need for vengeance, as well as his blatant love of brutally murdering monsters and people), but his basic mentality of "What I've got now is all I need" holds a lot of value for us less violent warriors. Also, I like deriving philosophical messages from video games.

How does minimalism fit into your life, if at all? Do you wish you could take a step back and cut your committments? If there's a lot of interest, I might write some how-to posts...Leave thoughts to the comments.


Kratos and the God of War game series are trademarks of Sony Entertainment.

Image courtesy of State Library and Archives of Florida on Flickr