Day after day, year after year, I’ve strived to always do more. In school when I was assigned a paper on an “ism” I wrote it on “Moreism.” My first book was titled, Learn More Now. I’ve not aspired for more goods, rather more experiences. As to why, I have more theories than time.
My life was complicated by running forward without recognizing I’d tangled my path.
When starting something new I rarely asked myself, “What will I take off of my schedule?” I’d never aggregated my actions: looking at all I was doing, observing my patterns, let alone considering my bounds.
Then something changed. No single event gets credit, rather more small events than I should have required. It’s as if the more light has gone out. In it’s place a faint glow that puts everything else in perspective.
Each day I ask myself these questions:
What is it time for?
What is it time to let go of?
Is there even more to let go?
Although some mornings I catch myself trying to separate or avoid the answers, I find these questions as intertwined as learning and life.
Asking them works. Change comes more easily. My capacity to make clear decisions has soared.
There is less on my do-list and there will be fewer experiences to reflect on come years’ end. But I’m learning (if not more than ever) at least as much each day as I did when life overflowed. And I feel brighter and lighter because I have the mental space to focus on what matters most.
How to reach less in 4 not-so-easy steps
1. Pause. Before reacting to what’s going on around you, making a quick move because of others’ expectations, take a moment to breath deeply, stretch or walk around the block, consider a wider perspective and what it’s time for.
2. Downshift. Take time each day to open your imagination and reflect on what you’ve learned. If you always seek more outside sources, or keep a go-go-go routine, you may be too exhausted to tap the tremendous source of knowledge and understanding you have within yourself.
3. Rest. Sleep every chance you can. Clear thinking, physical health, and your power to let go comes from your ability to be present with yourself — and that requires enough rest.
4. Allow for serendipity. Instead of being more organized or controlling in your approach, allow for serendipity. Happy accidents happen when you look side to side or up, not always forward. Don’t stop planning. Rather step out of the tunnel. Put yourself in situations that allow for the unexpected. Life is situationally driven. Learning happens in context. Be ready when opportunities arise. The more space you’ve cleared in your life for something new, the more right things will happen. More or less.
Originally published in Fast Company by Marcia Conner.[photo credit: Singapore April 2012, Remko Tanis]