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Why Doing Less Helps You Achieve More

As the year end approaches, I feel pressure to accomplish “all the things.” Tempted to fall into the trap that more is better, I take a peek at those trendy 90-day challenges. I read through the long list of requirements which include: drinking extra water, getting up an hour early, daily gym workouts, detoxing my diet of all sugar and processed food, supplementing with a veggie shake and enrolling in an underwater basket weaving class. This list goes on. And, I feel really tired.

Sometimes I wonder, am I wrong to not want a long list of things I "should" do? I don't know about you, but that pressure leaves me with more stressful energy than I know how to handle. While I always seem to start off strong, the demands feel overwhelming and I throw in the towel.

Succumbing to a long list of “should dos” reminds me of old attempts to lose weight. There was a time in my mid-twenties when I weighed about 30 pounds more than I do today. During those early attempts, I branded them as a New Year's Resolution and launched every tactic in the book. I started daily trips to the gym, threw out junk food, and bought a healthy cookbook along with vegetables I couldn’t pronounce. I’d pop the latest and greatest fat burner pill product and hoped all of these tactics would help me reach my goal weight - fast.

The problem is that none of it actually worked. In response to all the changes, my ego couldn’t handle the total system shock. I was trying to create too big of a lifestyle change all at once, causing me to fail again and again. The only way I actually lost weight was very slowly and consistently over time. And in fact, the first thing I did when I decided I was finally going to make a lifestyle change after a disappointing dressing room moment at Target (nothing fit) was this. I went home and I changed nothing.

The step I did take was to write down what I ate that day to build some awareness. This awareness helped me set realistic goals and envision where I wanted to be one year from that day. My strategy followed a similar framework I have my participants use to reflect at the end of my training courses. It’s three simple questions. What will I stop doing? What will I start doing? What do I do well, and will continue to do?

Get Intentional Toward What You Want to Create

Instead of trying to take the next 90 days to cram everything in and heading into the holidays with added frenetic energy, what if we took a step back and got clear and intentional about what we wanted to create? What if we defined and communicated our values and priorities? And then, said no to everything else that wasn't that? This approach feels counterintuitive because the messages we hear in our culture are hustle, hustle, hustle - say yes to everything. Opportunities are limited. If you don't say yes, this opportunity might never come back.

This counterintuitive strategy of doing less and saying no more often always seems to work better than cramming in as many activities as possible.

What will you stop doing? Given your intentions and values, what do you need to dump or delegate? This sometimes means dropping habits that make us feel comfortable, but no longer serve us. Perhaps, it’s saying no to the activities you’ve said yes to over time, and you’ve kept doing because they keep the peace, but also work harder for someone else’s goals over your own.

What will you start doing? What have you been putting off because you've been so busy working hard for others’ goals, and now you will get intentional about saying yes to yourself? It’s never too late to start self-care activities or implementing something new you’ve learned. What you start doing isn’t always about adding to your plate, it can mean you are taking the first step at dropping the meaningless in favor of the meaningful.

What will you continue to do? This is a compassion and creativity booster. What things do you do well that you will continue to build on that are serving your higher purpose? So often, we overlook what we do naturally well. Activating gratitude for what’s already working helps us fuel our momentum toward what matters. Happiness researchers agree – gratitude is the fuel for joy and creativity.

Every quarter in my business, I reflect and ask these three questions. It always amazes me how many activities I slowly accumulate that don’t align with my business strategy. Amidst all the hard work, it also provides pause to reflect on what’s gone well – a practice many self-critical, high achievers overlook. Remember, none of this should feel like hustle. None of it should feel like stress. I keep this reminder on my computer, "When we force it, it fails us. When it arises from the heart, it fills us.”

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