We live in a culture where more is honored – more work, more status, more money, and more things. The message of limitlessness may sound freeing, but it can be just the opposite. Nicole Leatherman describes it as, “shackles with a chaser of stress.”
There is a different way of being in the world that is both simple and profound. It offers the opportunity for more peace, more clarity, more love of self and others, and more life satisfaction. This is the transformation that can happen when we intentionally give our precious time to more of what truly matters, by doing less of what is unimportant. A daily check of our priorities is helpful. We need to pay attention because our lives are full of change, so, as challenges present themselves, what truly matters can change.
Marc Lesser describes it this way, “You may, in fact, be no less engaged, but you will be less scattered and distracted, and you may accomplish more of what matters to you, more of what aligns with your deepest purpose and intention, more of what brings you satisfaction and connection with others, more of what you believe really needs to get done.” When we align our actions with our values, we become peaceful because our choices have been thoughtfully made. This leads to enjoying life more and stressing less.
Here are a few suggestions for zeroing in on doing more of what truly matters. Let’s begin by reminding ourself that we’re the only one keeping score, so we need to eliminate our habit of being self-critical. When we criticize ourself our stress response is triggered which, if it becomes a habit, can lead to inflammation and illness. We are not in competition with anyone, including ourself. Instead of focusing on the times we’ve messed up, let’s focus on what we’ve done well, knowing we’re capable of doing more things well.
When we’re clear on our nonnegotiables, we intentionally promote what we value most. Letting go of everything that distracts us from focusing on our top priorities will naturally lead us to doing less of what isn’t important. Keeping the big picture in mind will help us avoid getting caught in minutia which can eat up hours, disturb our peace, and distract us from our main focus of the day. Our phones are especially good at this. By identifying and reducing unnecessary activities, we can let the small stuff go. This is especially true if we’re dealing with a crisis in our health, finances, or relationships, and need to focus all our resources on problem solving.
If we’re paying attention to what’s most important, we bring greater awareness to every activity, conversation, and interaction with others, making our connections more meaningful. This means choosing to single task so we are completely present, and in between tasks we can give ourself a deep breathing break, meditation time, or a restorative nap. Doing absolutely nothing is also good for renewal. Giving ourself a break increases our emotional health, lessens stress, promotes serenity, and boosts creativity. This is how we recharge for what really matters.
We need to say “no” strategically, even to good ideas. Doing what is right for us means we’ll be selective, so our focus stays on what is most important. Choosing to do less improves the quality of our endeavors. Quantity is not the goal.
Releasing ourself from perfection helps us focus on what’s essential. Perfection produces stress, and diminishes life satisfaction by sucking the joy out of our day. Its high demands can keep us from loving ourself and others. And, it eats time that could be used to enjoy doing something well that matters most. For many things good is good enough. Not everything needs to be great, so let’s save our best efforts for what truly matters.
Forcing ourself to do what we can’t fully embrace, because it isn’t top priority, can leave us feeling like we’ve been drained by an energy vampire. When we reduce the unnecessary, we also practice clarity. We accomplish more of what truly matters when we give ourself fully to the values and goals that renew us, and fill our life with meaning. Let’s do more of what truly matters together.
Until Next Time – Sylvia