How doing less feels like doing more

December 11, 2015

We’re now two weeks from Christmas and three weeks from New Year’s Day.  The slow run that began in early November is now a full sprint into parties and gatherings, wrapping up the end of the year, planning for the new one.  


I hear many colleagues and friends list all the things they have going on in the next two and three weeks, and I hear their exhaustion already.  What I don’t hear is joy at “the most wonderful time of the year.”  


I would like to suggest taking a few things off your list, bowing out of a couple social obligations in whatever way fits your integrity, decide it’s more than okay to make only one dessert instead of five, and while shopping for the remaining gifts on your list, know it’s okay to buy just one item rather than the three you had planned for each person…  I think you see the trend.


In the same span of time you could fit in ten things, choosing just one and experiencing it fully, slowing down to really appreciate that thing with all your attention and all your senses will feel far more expansive and create better memories than having only a few minutes to focus on each of the nine others.  


What value is there in galloping through a list of ‘these are things we should do during the holidays because it’s what we’ve always done/it’s what I see all over Pinterest/I see everyone doing it so I need to do it, too/I just have to fit it all in somehow, I don’t want anyone to be disappointed.’  What joy is in that for you and those you’re sharing it with.  Overwhelm from excitement of so many things to do or have or watch or aspire to is not the same as true joy by any stretch, yet we seem to be acculturated to that in our society of more more more and FOMO (fear of missing out).  


When we are deliberately selective about how we spend our time, when we decide to do less, it allows us to relax and enjoy whatever it is we are doing.  A contemporary psychologist I admire, Kelly McGonigal, suggests two simple words to help us make decisions and live a better life:  Chase meaning.  


Slow down, do less, stick with what you really value, chase meaning, and it will all feel like more, not any kind of deprivation or compromise or heaven forbid, failure (do not do that to yourself, please).  You will have more time to experience what you value, to focus on loved ones, to listen to the really beautiful music that is only around this time of year (Hello my favorite, The Nutcracker Suite!), to revel in the Christmas lights (no matter what your faith, they are a beautiful part of the landscape during the darkness of winter), to relish a simple, slow meal together minus the franticness of cooking and baking triple what you normally do (and have less to clean afterward), to sit in front of a fire with someone special or the whole family and just watch the beauty, chatting about the year that's ending and sharing hopes for the one coming, or whatever it is that the holidays are really about for you.  


Your mind, your body, your heart will all feel the difference, as will everyone around you.  When you relax, others can relax.  Lead the way to peace and real joy for yourself and others this holiday season.  



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