"Less but better" - Sharing my 4 steps to simplify my life
My journey started when I moved to New Zealand 8 years ago. I moved here with all my belonging pack in a 20kg suitcase. And that was everything I need to start my life in Auckland. I thought I had a pretty good start! I arrived here feeling so light, baggage free. Then 4 years later, I found myself moving home (for the 3rd time) with 10 times more of that original 20kg suitcase. I had to go back and forth at least 5 times with my car and my friend with my stuff in his car as well. Everytime I move house, I realize I have had more stuff than the last time I moved even I did get rid of things when packing for a new place. So, that was the stuff I owned. In within that 4 years, I also stuff my life with a lot more roles, more responsibilities, a lot more chores. Having a full time job, then giving meditation classes around Auckland with my spiritual group, doing volunteering every weekend for my spiritual group, and I started running long distances, training everyday and joining races pretty much every month. My day started from 5am to meditate, then work, giving meditation classes, spiritual functions, volunteering, training for my running race til 9 pm at night, that when I have a little bit of me time - I had to also watch some youtube, read some books, or draw for fun til 11 pm at night. I thought I was living a very fulfilled life - doing all the things that seems super important to me and to the world. But some thing doesn't feel right. I had a draft of my dream life since quite young - which was having fun, drawing, running around, working at home, maybe being a house wife who makes art at home then hang out with her girlfriends whenever she wants.
My life was far from that dream. I felt like I was living up to others' expectation too much til one day I burned out. I just couldn't say yes to anything anymore. I left my spiritual group. Moved house again. This time I got rid of 90 percent of my stuff. I felt great , fresh and light. I started to draw a lot more as now I don't need to dedicate 50% of my time to all the self-less service activities in the spiritual group. But then slowly I started to accumulated stuff and hustle again. I notice I have this pattern of wanting to accomplish more, do more, be super busy otherwise I would feel like I am not doing enough, am missing out on life.
In 2020, I quit my 9-5 job to start my own art business, to do art and meditation full time for a living. Starting living my dream life rather than just dreaming about it. This time the focus is already very narrow. Spiritual Art! That's it! Also meditation, running and yoga as they come together with my art. Then I am living my housewife life now, I want to cook every meal as well, making holistic meal, keeping the house tidy and clean, plus being an artist and an amateur athlete who needs to train for her ultra marathons. I have broken down so many times just because I was overwhelmed with my schedular and my own expectation. When we had to go in lockdown, yoga studio shuts, races cancelled,... I actually felt a lot better simply because I had less option, less things to try to achieve. I actually felt relieve. So, looking back at everything has happened. I see a clear pattern in my life and also an obvious solution. The pattern is owning more and doing more - or the hustling culture push me to the edge of burning down and depression. And the solution is "less but better" - owning less, doing less but focusing on what matters most and what truly brings me joy.
I came across this book named Essentialism by Greg McKeown which describes exactly my situation and the way out. I felt so happy to find this book as it was lonely battling with these things. Looking around us, social media and our world has been celebrating the hustling culture, buy more, own more, do more, please more people, please our customers, please the company and end up abandoning ourselves. It is easy to live by default but the price we need to pay is way too high, and sometimes we need to pay several times that price to learn that we actually can live by design.You might have heard of this 80/20 rule. It simply means that there is a 20% of your activities that actually produces the 80% of the result and contributes to 80% of your happiness. Also the same to stuff, to the relationships. There is 20% of your clothes that you wear 80% of the time. Then there is 20% of the people in your life that influence you, inspire you, make you feel great the 80% of the time. When we look at 80/20 rule, what we want to do is to find that 20% thing and focus more on that, eliminate the rest of the thing that takes up your time and energy but doesnt contribute much to your wellness, your happiness, the direction you want to head to.
So, I have come up with the 4 steps to simplify my life based on the concept of essentialism and the 80/20 rule that I d like to share with you as they might be benefical to you as well.
1. Get clear on what is essential and what is not. The majority of activities and things are non essential. Very few things are actually essential. Do this by asking these questions:
-What matters most to me? What I want my life to be all about? What is a fulfilled life look like to me?
2. Track the activities, track the stuff that I use. Take notes, notice how many things you take on each day. Write them down to review by the end of the day or the end of the week. See which ones is non essential so you can eliminate them later.
3. Eliminate everything that is not supporting your goal or the direction you have chosen. Remove all things that aren't align with your core value. This is actually a fun exercise to do everyday. It helps me saying no to things that I don't want to do so easily. And the interesting thing about it is people trust me and respect me a lot more. So sometimes it is not very obvious to know what is not essential. I have recognized my pattern and that my vision sometimes is clouded by these things.
- wanting to please others,
- trying to prove my worth to others,
- compering myself to others,
- trying to impress others,
- fear of failure, rejection, and so on...
I found this step is so important as quite often I caught myself identify myself with certain thing and doesnt want to let go. For example: I caught myself almost say yes to partner with my friend for an architecture project even I know that direction is no longer align with my goals. Just because part of me still doesnt want to let that identity go. So, checking in with these questions to eliminate what is not essential is to create space and energy for the most important tasks.
4. After removing all the non essential. Do not replace them with other non essential. Most of the time when we clear or agenda, we start to add on more things without even thingking if they are really gonna help us on our long term goal or not. So, don't replace. Focus all that energy and time into the essential things and our most important asset - our selves, our well beings. In Essentialism, my favourite parts actually are the part when Greg, the author mentioned about the benefit of play, letting our inner child out, and the importance of sleep. More often than not, we forget that resting, relaxing, doing fun things are as important for our growth as working and studying. Just imagine we as a rubber band, whenever we stretch the band, and release it, it is actually become a little larger. It expands. But if we keep stretching it, it will eventually break. So to sum up, it is good to push ourselves, to challenge ourselves but remember to release, let go, step back a little, find that sweet spot. This way, we can move faster and steadier towards our goals and perform at our bests while feeling content and fulfilled on our journey.