Less is Better

I said I would write about three powerful ways of practising intelligent simplicity. “Less is better” is one of them. Since it is very wide-ranging and can be applied to all aspects of your life and work, I will just give you a general sense of it here.

For me, it is the necessary counterforce to the popular belief that “more is better”. Quite apart from the belief that it is always desirable to have more money and things, the belief that “more is better” applies to all aspects of our lives and work, for example:

Doing more is better – a lot of people do too much. They are constantly busy or moving. They seem unable to sit still. This is usually counterproductive

Saying more is better – the internet and mobile phone have given us email, texting and the ability to call each other all day, every day. I think we say far too much, and this doesn’t help us

Having more is better – while it is obviously true that many people do not even have the basics of life, many of us have much more than we need, and we want even more! One of the most damaging epidemics of our time is “affluenza”

Rushing more is better – there is nothing wrong with speed itself. Speed is neutral. It is the application of speed that can be problematic. When speed is driven by anxiety, as it often is, then we call it “rushing”. The fact is that we rush too much, and this bring many problems with it

Trying more is better – a lot of effort and energy is expended uselessly. I will talk about the Law of Reverse Effort in moment

Controlling more is better – we live in a world that is overcontrolled and overcontrolling, and this is causing huge problems

All this said, there are clearly times when more really is better – when more needs to be done or said; when those without the basics really do need to have more; when more speed really is needed; and when more effort or control really are necessary. All this is self-evidently true. However, I stand by my belief that, on balance, we would all benefit from the application of “less is better” in our lives and work.

It is not as easy as you might think to introduce “less is better” into your life. It takes time and perseverance to change the habits of a lifetime. I suggest that you start small and gently.

Doing less – all you need to do is pause a couple of times a day. Take some breathing space, some time for literally doing nothing. It may turn out to be one of the most useful things you ever (don’t) do!

Saying less – if you feel you have to text or call or email, try setting aside certain times of the day for this. Otherwise, keep your phone where it belongs – out of sight! And trying to say less when you speak to anyone. Just fewer words! You will be amazed at the difference this makes

Having less – if you have anything you really don’t need or will never use again (such as a book you will never open again) think about giving it away. This may be difficult at first – after all these are your possessions! – but once you start experiencing the feeling of having less, it is very liberating. It clears spaces, both literally and metaphorically

Rushing less – this starts inside you, in your mind. You rush, normally because your mind is rushing. It is anxious. This is chicken and egg, in the sense that when you deliberately slow down (such as when eating, or driving, or working), your mind starts slowing down too. It becomes calmer…and this becomes a virtuous circle

Trying less – we live in culture where “hard work” is considered a virtue, and where the belief that trying harder leads to greater success. Yet the fact is that “masters” in any field – sports, crafts, music, spirituality – practise the Law of Reverse Effort. The use minimum effort to achieve optimum output. As a mountaineer, I am very familiar with this. When we “throttle back” and get “into the zone”, this is when we are at our best, and sometimes achieve great things

Controlling less – as with rushing too much (and doing too much and wanting too much) this has its roots in anxiety and insecurity. The fact is that there is almost nothing that we can control…except ourselves. So, if you feel the need to control anything, start with yourself. Self-control eventually leads to self-mastery, and self-mastery is one of the finest forms of intelligent simplicity that I can think of!






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