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We Make Everything Harder
Category: Zen Living Written by Leo Babauta
It sometimes amazes me how we make everything harder for ourselves than it needs to be — myself included.
That’s not a bad thing — it’s simply human. Harder is not worse. We learn from harder. So there’s a beauty and a sense to it.
That said, once we see how much harder we make things, we have an opportunity to … not make it harder. Simplify. Do things with more ease.
Before we get into how to do that, let’s look at how we make things harder.
How We Make Things Harder for Ourselves
We add a lot of extra thinking and stress. We add a bunch of extra steps. We put things off for a long time, so that it becomes so much more stressful. We worry about things we can’t control or can’t know about (like what other people think of us).
These are all protective mechanisms — we’re trying to keep ourselves safe. But in most cases, it’s not needed.
Let’s look at some examples of how we typically make things harder for ourselves:
- There’s an email in my inbox that requires a few steps before I can reply. Instead of doing those steps, I put it off, because of a belief that I have too much to do. It lingers in my inbox for a week. A bunch of other emails do that too. I’m so overwhelmed by this that I keep putting off all the emails. What could be a simple set of small steps ends up becoming an unconquerable mountain.
- I have some planning to do for a trip — and I worry about all the possible things that could come up, not sure what to expect, not sure what people will think of me. It feels overwhelming so I put it off while worrying about it for weeks. It could be a simple act of booking a flight and a room, and packing, but it becomes a lot of anguish.
- I have a million things to do on my to-do list. Instead of simply doing the next thing on the list, I jump around from one thing to the next, panic about not being able to do it all, distract myself for awhile, making myself feel overwhelmed and stressed.
- Planning for a social gathering at my house becomes an exercise in worrying and overpreparing, spending days getting everything ready. Instead, it could be a simple act of getting some food and drinks and tidying up a bit.
You can see that for each of these examples, I’ve shared a way that it could be simple and easeful. But we layer complexity, worrying, overwhelm, distraction, avoidance, stress, overthinking, overpreparing, anticipating.
What would it be like to just do things as simply as possible?
How to Do Things With Greater Ease
Some good questions to ask when you’re doing anything are:
- How am I making this harder?
- How could I do it as simply and easefully as possible?
- How would I do this if I trusted myself?
So, for example:
- If you are creating something — if you trusted yourself and didn’t have to worry about whether you’d be judged, how would you create and put it out into the world? For me, it’s much more easeful this way, just creating and releasing my creations.
- If you don’t have time to deal with an email or message right now … could you make some time later in the day or in the week to deal with the messages that will take a little more time?
- Instead of worrying about all the things you have to do and getting stuck in overwhelm about all of it … could you just focus on the next task?
- If you’re worrying about what you said in a recent conversation … what if you simply trusted and focused instead on what’s in front of you?
- In preparing for something coming up, what if you could just trust yourself and do it as simply as humanly possible?
- If you’re piling guilt on top of yourself … what if you released that and gave yourself compassion instead?
- If you are piling expectations and stress on yourself … what if you released all of that and just put yourself fully into whatever you do?
- If you’re avoiding and distracting, adding a lot of extra stress on top of things … what if you just did the smallest next step and trusted yourself?
- If you’re overthinking and getting stuck in worry and indecision … what if you simply got lost in the doing?
What if you brought a sense of play, ease, adventure, curiosity, joy, love to everything you did?
This is a lifelong practice, but it’s so beautiful. I wish you simplicity and ease.
Zen Habits is about finding simplicity and mindfulness in the daily chaos of our lives. It’s about clearing the clutter so we can focus on what’s important, create something amazing, find happiness. My name is Leo Babauta. I live in Davis, California with my wife and six kids, where I eat vegan food, write, run, and read. Source
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