Each year, as we continue to live larger lives with more distractions, more work, more technology, more stuff — it gets easier and easier to forget about what really matters — peace of mind, serenity, and inner joy. Instead, we keep striving to work just a bit more, to squeeze in one more happy hour, to buy one more fancy toy. More is more, right?
I propose a radical alternative to this way of thinking. I think all this stuff is standing in the way of true fulfillment. It's a distraction. What we really need to be happier is less.
To help you start ridding your life of superfluous accessories, commitments, and pursuits that might be keeping you from uncovering your true bliss, I've listed 12 things to stop accumulating this year.
It's not necessarily about going from a mansion to a bedsit, or from a jam-packed social calendar to the lifestyle of a hermit. It's about recognizing small opportunities for change and taking them. Little by little, that process will transform your life.
The more "stuff" you have, the more space in your mind is occupied by worries and strategies regarding those things and how to protect them. Look around your closets, your desk, your apartment, and your office. Theoretically, you could probably get rid of about 90 percent of the things you own, with the only difference you notice being all the space you suddenly have.
Any time you recognize that something in your space isn't serving a clear purpose, donate it or toss it. Over time, you'll streamline your space and your thinking.
The more efficient you try to be, the more you try to multitask — a trader making phone calls while reviewing two screens on his desk is an obvious example — the less engaged you are with what's actually happening around you. Multitasking is the enemy of focus. Turn off superfluous notifications while you're trying to get things done. Focus on one item at a time, putting the most important things first.
Prioritize. Stop multitasking. Be present with the task at hand.
Speaking of distractions, technology is the worst culprit of all — not to mention one of the most frequent stressors we deal with on a daily basis. Most of us don't spend more than five minutes away from a screen all day.
Try turning off your technology for an hour or two. If your job requires you to be glued to a computer, turn off one piece of tech. If you really can't do that, take half an hour to walk outside, or eat lunch somewhere with natural light. Your life should be better because of technology, not worse. And limiting superfluous interactions with it will create more space for enjoyment and inspiration in the rest of your life.
This doesn't mean turning into a slacker. It means being more strategic.
We tend to fit the work given into the time allotted. Make leaving your office by a certain time each day a priority. It will force you to be more strategic in the way you use your time, and provide more time to do the things you want to do outside the office.
It's natural to feel the urge to compare yourself to your neighbors, your colleagues, the people you went to high school with.
Regardless of how someone else's life looks, odds are they haven't figured out any more than you have. You aren't behind. You're not doing anything wrong. Focusing on your own goals and honing strategies to achieve them is much more likely to lead to success than spending your time worrying about the progress other people are making.
It's the best — and maybe the only — way to stay true to yourself and live an authentic life.
It's great to be self-sufficient. But most of us devote so much time to getting ahead that we put our relationships on the back burner. We don't prioritize family or community, though they are by far the most rewarding parts of life.
Find places you can trim your commitments in other areas and increase the amount of time you spend with family, volunteering, or working with the community. Don't prioritize based on what seems urgent. Prioritize based on what is important.
7. Social media
It wastes time and negatively affects self-esteem. Give yourself a daily limit for the number of visits or amount of time spent checking social accounts. Fill that time with phone calls to family or a coffee date with an old friend. (Introverts get much more satisfaction from one-on-one conversations than from superficial chatter or "small talk.")
It's almost never silent in our world. Music in the car, open office spaces, TV for "background noise" at home. It's even noisy in the doctor's office and in line at the pharmacy.
Find a few minutes for quiet each day. It might feel uncomfortable at first, but you'll grow to revel in it. You'll be surprised how many insights you can have in even just 10 minutes of silent reflection. Notice, too, how much more peaceful you feel after just a few minutes of silence.
Your TV, your homepage, your gas station, your iPhone — Even when you're intentionally limiting superfluous technology use, you can't escape up-to-the-minute news about what's happening in the world. And most of these stories are intentionally told from angles designed to prey on your emotions. You express what you ingest. So, practice ignoring click-bait and sob stories you see and read dozens of times a day. Like with any habit, it soon won't even require will power to just soar past.
Fill your mind with uplifting, energizing content. And if you feel like you're missing out on a certain level of information that's necessary to thrive in your world, give yourself a certain amount of time per day, from a news outlet you can trust, to catch up on what's happened. Don't let other people's perceptions of reality overtake your life. It really does make a difference.
One of the most destructive things about the tendency to compare is a reliance on judgment of others for your own self-esteem. If our lives look "better" than someone else's, we can assuage our own insecurities with a temporary feeling of superiority. It's not real, and it won't last.
Be inspired by the success of others and extend compassion to those who need it. Replace anger and hostility with empathy, compassion, and understanding.
It's really tempting to say "yes!" to everything. Committing to too many things eventually makes you unfit for everything. Yes, investing more in your family and in yourself is a commitment. But doing that well requires you to relinquish commitments that are less important in the long run.
Why not do a few things really well instead of doing everything halfheartedly?
Ask yourself what really matters to you. What do you care about? Set fewer goals and focus your attention on the handful of things you're really passionate about. Learn to let the rest go.
Do less. Be more.
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