The 30-Day Vacuum

As we are cruising through our lives, we get attached to certain things.We start believing that we simply cannot live without those luxuries or commodities and without them, our existence will become incomplete. Here’s an experiment that I wanted to suggest to get rid of those invisible crutches that we start relying on over time, and be able to detach from them.

The experiment that I have designed is called the 30-day vacuum, and I do one such experiment every quarter. This is similar to the custom of ‘Lent’ practiced by Christians before Easter.

To begin with this experiment, start thinking about the things that you feel you really want or need in your day-to-day life, things that you may even feel slightly addicted to.  It may be things such as your home internet, morning coffee, cheese, wine or even your Netflix membership. Choose one of those precious things and give them up for 30 days. (Yes, you read it right. Give it up for a month straight!)

This is an experiment that I have designed for myself and I do one such 30-day vacuum every quarter. The simple reason is that I don’t want to get addicted to something external. I want to develop my inner strength and I don’t want myself to be depending on something which when taken away from me may affect my emotional well-being.

In addition, some advantages of the 30-day vacuum are: (a) weeding out things that may be getting in my way of reaching my full potential and becoming the best version of myself and (b) a good chance of finding a better creative, cost-effective, and even healthier alternative to the thing that I have given up.

By scheduling such vacuum, I want to build resilience and prepare myself in advance so that I don’t experience feelings of lack and negative emotions when the things that I love are not readily available to me.

The goal is to develop self-reliance and learn detachment.  Once we develop an attachment to external things, we lose our power. This may cripple us in focusing on the more important aspects of life.

Along with this month-long experiment, I have adopted a 5-day vacuum as well that I subject myself to once every month, mostly the last 5 days. I got inspired to perform this mini-experiment after watching the TED Talk: ‘Why you should define your fears instead of your goals’ by Tim Ferriss. In this talk, he explains how Stoicism encourages that we teach ourselves how to live and survive with the bare minimum essentials for a certain time.

Seneca, the Stoic philosopher, advocated everyone to go through the psychological exercise of being able to live in the worst circumstances and ‘practicing poverty’ for a while.

“Appoint certain days on which to give up everything and make yourself at home with next to nothing. Start cultivating a relationship with poverty. For no one is worthy of god unless he has paid no heed to riches. I am not, mind you, against your possessing them, but I want to ensure that you possess them without tremors; and this you will only achieve in one way, by convincing yourself that you can live a happy life even without them, and by always regarding them as being on the point of vanishing.” 
― Seneca

 Another event that really encouraged and inspired me to start doing this 5-day mini-experiment was when I had an internet outage in my apartment due to the after-effects of a recent hurricane.  During those days, I was completely miserable, because let’s face it, all our lives are highly dependent on the internet these days; it’s analogous to a basic necessity and need right now in this digital age.

In spite of the fact that I had completed an experiment three years back where I did not have home internet for a good amount of months, I still felt powerless and hated every minute of my internet-deprived existence. Hence, after going through these two lessons, I started scheduling the 5-day vacuum in addition as well.

My suggestion for you is to plan any five consecutive days of every month when you can give up something important to you and/or live an ordinary existence. Some things you can give up are your home internet connection, car, cable/TV, your dishwasher or oven, hot water or anything that can be considered as a luxury. As an alternative, you can experiment with living in poverty such as wearing old, low-quality T-shirts or the same jeans for 5 days straight, or eating either ramen noodles, rice and beans and/or cheap canned food as your meals.

Through these mini-experiments, you will be training yourself to adjust and adapt to worst case scenarios, and hence prepare yourself to face uncertain situations with fortitude. Adaptability is like a muscle, and we need to train it consistently.

When things go wrong, that is when our true strength and confidence emerges. We need to do these small experiments not only for ourselves and for building self-reliance within us but also for our loved ones.  We need to be in our best mental and physical faculty when we are faced with challenges.

So, I recommend you to work on these two mini experiments and see how you feel about them. Personally, I think it’s a great way to reclaim your inner power. These experiences add a little shock in our daily lives. We need to be alert and aware of the situation around us and when we experience these small shocks, we train ourselves to navigate in these kinds of tough situations when things are not in our favor.

We need to detach from the daily luxuries and comfort that we experience in our day to day lives and become used to facing hardships. Along with the above-mentioned benefits, these mini-experiments also prove to be useful in a couple of ways:

  1. They add spice to our routines and hence break the monotony of life.  
  2. We start expressing gratitude for the little things that we have in our life that we have taken for granted.  

I hope you find these mini-experiments useful and end up learning some valuable lessons from them. Because the goal is not only to live a comfortable and rich lifestyle, filled with relevant luxuries,  but it is to grow our character and build the inner strength to go through the storms of adversities that may come our way and be better equipped to ride the unforeseen rollercoasters of life.


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