I’ve found that you can do two things well, and one thing really well. With two focuses, you won’t be as concentrated, won’t learn as deeply, but it’s doable. With three or four focuses, you won’t do anything well or learn anything deeply or serve anyone exceptionally.
So start paring down to two things: figure out what the most important two things in your life are, and cut out the rest. Be ruthless.
-Leo Babauta, writing at Zen Habits
Growing up, my mom taught me to appreciate small things like a trip to the library or a walk around the neighborhood. So I knew you didn’t have to do extravagant, expensive stuff in order to have fun and enjoy life. But I never heard of minimalism or voluntary simplicity or anything along those lines. And I guess I watched too many movies and TV shows or something because I definitely had it in my head that more was better. If you weren’t doing twenty things and being amazing at them and looking great while you did them, you might as well not count. You might as well be nothing, a loser. Which was too bad for me, because I never seemed to have the kind of energy or ambition required to do a lot of things, no matter how hard I tried :(. As a result, I always wound up feeling bad for getting tired when I’d take on too much, and for being so…well, slow.
It seems to take me a long time to do most anything well: read a book, cook a meal, walk around the grocery store. I can force myself to speed up for a while, but I can never sustain that for very long, and then afterward I am exhausted.
So when I started learning about minimalism and such, it made me really happy. It felt like someone finally gave me permission to feel the way I do and to live the way I want. That probably sounds stupid to people who have always done exactly what they wanted to do, but…apparently I could not figure out for myself that this was okay. I needed a ton of minimalist authors and bloggers to open my eyes :).
Now that I know better, I’ve reduced my activities a lot. I sometimes feel weird (and guilty) about scaling back so much because it seems I’m traveling in the opposite direction from most other people. Instead of looking for more things to do, I’m trying to do fewer. Instead of adding, I’m steadily subtracting. While everyone else is talking about how busy they are, I’m really…not.
But you know what?
It feels great.
I am happier and more focused than I’ve ever been. And it turns out I DO have energy and ambition — for the things I actually care about! I think in the past I got caught up in a lot of stuff that wasn’t a good fit for me because it was what other people were doing, or because I thought I “should” be doing it. Duh. 😦
Anyway, if you’re reading this and you feel too busy and stressed out and you haven’t heard this before (or need to hear it again today), I just want to say to you what I wish someone had said to me when I was a kid:
Not everyone is wired the same way. Some of us might only be here (as in on this planet) to do one or two or a few things and that’s fine. Figure out what it is that you’re supposed to be focusing on (not on what everyone else thinks you should be focusing on) and then go for it. Pour your heart and soul into what matters to you most, cut out the rest, and see what happens.
Go ahead and do less.
If you decide you don’t like being so minimal, it’s super easy to start adding things back into your schedule and life. Probably too easy!