There’s a funny thing about people who live in industrialized cultures. We spend much of our time in the pursuit of “more.”
Money. Homes. Space. Clothes. Stuff. Information. Knowledge. Followers. Likes. Email list.
A member of one group I’m in shared that he failed to meet his goal last year of reading 100 books; he only read 80. This year, he set his goal to read 120. More.
Our pursuit of “more” is based on the belief that “more” in any area gives us more in another area.
More money buys more space, clothes and stuff. More information gives us more resources. Reading more books gives you more ideas of things to write about. Acquiring a bigger list gives you more people to sell to.
I hear this from clients almost daily. Whether they come to me for help in buying or selling a home, or because they want to uplevel their lives in some other area, they all use the same magic word to describe what they want:
The Myth of Optionality
If you have a closet full of clothes, you have optionality when it comes to what to wear for an event.
A building that allows an owner to sublet his home without too much restriction provides more optionality for the owner when the owner decides to move out.
Reading more gives you more ideas, which gives you optionality when it comes to writing or course development.
More money gives you optionality in how to spend your time and life.
Optionality gives you freedom.
At least that’s what people tell me.
In practice, what I’ve noticed is that those with more often have less.
The more money someone has, the more established they are in their business or career, the less likely they are to make a move that puts that money or status at risk.
The more clothes you have, the more decisions you have to make about what to wear.
The more stuff you have, the more time and energy you spend organizing and managing it.
The more information and entertainment you consume, the more your attention is diverted from what truly matters to you.
Overcoming Information Overload
Just as with physical stuff, acquiring too much information comes at a cost to our time and energy. Information clutters the mind the way extra things clutter our homes.
I brought 5 journals with me to Panama to work on some projects. That doesn’t include my digital journals. Even the best organization system is no match for the constant stream of information that we injest. Every organization system — and I’ve tried them all — requires time and energy to service and maintain.
With less stuff, you can move more nimbly, with greater ease. You can go places with a backpack that you can’t go with a set of suitcases.
This applies to all areas of life. When you acquire less — whether physical things or information — you spend less time and energy sorting, organizing, tagging, and managing what you have.
I’m coming around to the belief that the best way to free the mind from the stuff that sits in it is not to find more places to put it — apps, notebooks, digital information repositories — but rather to release it from the mind completely.
The Winter Energy of Releasing
The path to this is to embrace the winter energy of clearing space through releasing. Winter is when the trees bare themselves of leaves. It is when the land lays barren, cleared of crops. In winter, all of nature is reduced to its bare essence.
In the same way, we can ask ourselves,
What is truly essential for me to live and work in the way that helps me fulfill my highest potential?
Winter invites us to release what no longer serves. Physical things. Information. Expectations to be or do thing a certain way. Ways of being and working.
The tangible benefit of engaging in this process is that we free space and time in our schedules, external environment, and in our minds for what truly matters to us.
Embracing the energy of releasing gives you what you wanted in the first place: the freedom of optionality.