If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you know that I write a lot about the need to slow down, rest, and do less. These are also common themes when I speak, teach workshops, and in my private coaching and real estate practice.
There are two reasons for this:
(1) In a culture that constantly sends us the message to go faster and do more, we need consistent reminders that we have another option.
(2) These are the hardest lessons for me to integrate into my daily practice.
The Overachiever Mindset
Like most of my clients, I have a long history of overachieving and overdoing.
When I commit to something, I commit with everything I have.
When I’m learning how to do something, I want to get it right. I don’t merely want to deliver for clients; I want to over-deliver. In my workouts, I want to feel the burn and the day-after muscle soreness that tells me I worked hard. Even though I know that day-after muscle soreness and “feeling the burn” are not indicators that I worked hard or effectively (more on this another time).
In the mind of an overachiever, more is better. Why aim for A-level work if you can aim for A+ level work? If one hour in the gym is good, two hours must be even better.
It can be difficult to let go of this mindset, especially in a culture that reinforces the value of continuous hard work and effort.
Leave it all on the field, every day. No days off. Sleep when you’re dead. Keep grinding it out. Aim to be outstanding, not just excellent.
With these messages invading our consciousness, “good enough” never feels good enough.
The problem with this approach is that constantly trying to optimize and maximize every part of our lives creates anxiety that eventually becomes a demotivating force. When you’re working hard and putting all your effort into something and not seeing the results you expect or desire, it becomes more difficult to sustain your efforts. Motivation starts to fray.
And greater effort, or doing more, doesn’t always lead to better results. Sometimes doing more leads to worse results.
The Law of Least Effort
A conversation with a friend reminded me to ask a different question:
What if the results are elusive because I’m doing too much?
Deepak Chopra talks about the “law of least effort.”
That’s one of my daily mantras, and it’s a practice.
This is not about not showing up or not doing the work. It’s about showing up but not overgiving or overdoing.
For me, this is a bigger challenge than cutting something out entirely. It’s finding a middle ground between all or nothing.
Sometimes the question is not how much more can I do? but what’s the least I can do?
What is the Minimum Viable Effort?
In a culture that always wants us to do more, this is a counterintuitive question to ask. But asking (and answering, and following that wisdom) can save us time, unnecessary effort, stress, frustration, anxiety, and burnout.
In any place where you’re tempted to do more, ask: how can I do less?
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this one.
What are the places where you can do less? Do you find doing less to be a challenge?
Please share your responses in the comments.