If you wanted to schedule an evening with a friend, how soon could you find a time that works for you? For your friend? In our quest to make everything fit, most of us are chronically busy today. If you find yourself feeling increasingly stressed by a non-stop sprinting pace of life, perhaps it’s time to choose to do less.
When our entire culture is designed around more, less has to be a conscious choice. It requires taking a look at what really enriches our lives, and what we can let go. The irony is that we have to start finding time just to examine these questions. When we notice we’re running late again because we’re overscheduled, our stress levels go up, even if we’re on our way to something we enjoy. You can feel the tension rising, and often the cascade of stress continues for hours until we can find the brakes.
Next time you feel tension rising as you rush through everyday life, look at what’s really happening. Is it the situation itself? Or is it possible that you might be trying to do one too many things at that time? Taking a few breaths to center yourself can have a profound effect on slowing the stress response we feel so often today. When you’re running late and stressed about sitting at a red light, try taking back control of that moment by just focusing on your breath.
As we begin to accumulate more moments of calm with our breath, suddenly we have so much more quality in our lives. With breath, we create the space to notice what we really enjoy by observing how we feel as we move through our days. This space gives us what we need to start to focus more on where we choose to focus our energy.
Our choice often comes down to quantity or quality. We can have many stressed experiences, or fewer, higher quality ones. We generally can’t have both. Sometimes we really may not have the ability to make a choice, but returning to observation of our breath can still help us slow things down when our plates are more than full, and help us notice if perhaps there is a small choice we hadn't seen before.
How we choose to fill our days will define our experience of life. Choices aren’t always easy, but we often learn the most about what we value from our hard choices. As we look at these decisions, reflect on what really makes a difference in your day. For example, we can choose to connect more with people by phone or in person instead of just passively browsing their social media profiles. We can schedule fewer lessons for the children so there is more time for playdates and trips to the park. We can look at which errands we can live without so that we can spend more time with our spouse.
Our choices won’t be the same as anyone else’s, and it’s also quite likely that they will change over time. For example, what we want to focus on during our college years is different when we are a few years older, or if we have a family of our own. Maintaining a practice of awareness and observation throughout our lives can help us continue adapt how we choose to spend our time as our own needs change naturally over time.