The power of realising enough is enough.
Raised by a dynamic powerhouse of a mother, my siblings and I became accustomed to hearing her daily mantra, “Hard work always prevails!”. My mother trained as a nurse and often held down more than one job at a time to ensure she gave us as many opportunities as she could.
Working hard meant putting the time in which proved itself in one way: “more”. More promotions, more money, more achievements, more homes, more holidays… more worries.
A few years ago, whilst on holiday to see my brother, I scurried down Manhattan’s 6th Avenue, hoping to keep up with him. He had taken the afternoon off so we could spend time together. First on my list was popping into Barnes and Noble off Union Square to listen to Tim Ferris, who was launching his book, “Tribe of Mentors”.
My brother, not knowing anything of the writer, asked me for a synopsis of him. Knowing my time was limited (as was my breath) I said, “He wrote the book 4-Hour Workweek, have you heard about it?”. My brother gently shook his head and said, “No. I’m not a big believer in short-cuts… but let’s go have a listen, anyway”. He could have plucked these words from our mother’s lips. We thoroughly enjoyed the talk, and my brother remains impressed with Mr. Ferris.
Over the last 40 plus years, I have raced after my older siblings (in more ways than I can describe). I aimed to put in the hours, aspiring to be more and ultimately to gain more. Meanwhile, I silently bought into the notion ‘less is more’. (Or was this possibly my way of justifying my smaller “gains”?)
We need much less than we think we need.Maya Angelou
As I put the idea of ‘less’ into action, I am starting with three areas in my life that can certainly benefit (myself and others) from less!
Hara Hachi Bu–eat until I am 80% full
Food is my all-time favourite vice. I begin my days daydreaming about upcoming meals. Great joy follows in researching new and exciting recipes. Where might I find the exotic ingredients they call for? Then, the ultimate: preparing and presenting a masterpiece of a meal. Pure joy!
One benefit of having a mother as a nurse, is that I eat a relatively healthy diet. But perhaps I consume a bit too much, a bit too fast.
This is where Hara Hachi Bu, an ancient philosophy that originates from Okinawa, caught my interest. In brief, it is about eating until you are 80% full, aiming to feel satisfied rather than full up. How often I’ve groaned these two words with a guilty smile to denote a satisfactory end to a sumptuous meal, “… Full up!”
Research shows it takes 20 minutes for your stomach to tell your brain that it is full. It is during these 20 minutes that I am trying to be more mindful, eating smaller bites and savouring every mouthful.
Putting this into practice has been easier since I stopped eating in front of my laptop at work. For years, lost in reports whilst I ate lunch, I inevitably ate too quickly. Outrunning my stomach-to-brain signal, I wolfed down more than I needed to.
Those of us who struggle with portion control might find eating from smaller plates very helpful. At restaurants, I aim for the half portion option. If that is not available, I look at my super-sized plate of food and reduce it to 80%. I don’t want to waste the other 20%, so unlike my partner, I don’t mind asking for a doggy bag.
This idea comes to me a little easier than the others.
My mother is a hoarder and being raised around constant clutter has definitely made me want less paraphernalia about. Though with that said, I still have a lot of “stuff” that I just don’t use.
I saw a meme recently showing three piles of jeans. The first had a tower of 10 pairs of jeans, with a caption that read: “The jeans I keep hoping I will one day fit back into”. A second stack of six pairs was captioned: “The jeans I will fit if following a severe stomach bug”. The final pile had only two pairs, labelled, “The ones I wear every day”.
This summarises my whole clothing cupboard, not just my jeans. Let’s not even talk about the sports equipment I will never use again, the books on display to show the world I’ve read them and the art I’ve outgrown.
I am going to “Marie Kondo” my home. Whatever doesn’t make me happy, I will bless, bid farewell and walk over the charity shop.
I wouldn’t make a very good Formula 1 racing driver, because I spend more time looking to the side than forward. Comparing myself against others is something that comes easier to me than waking up each morning. Fixing it would probably improve my life more than any other single change.
I remember in my early twenties walking with a friend who was studying to be a psychologist. We got into one of those deeper conversations which encouraged her to ask me to name of one of my fears. Without a second thought I said, “Being judged!”. She smiled, and because she was a friend (I think), replied, “Isn’t that funny, as you’re the most judging person I know.” Ah, the joy of straight-talking friends.
I so want to escape the invisible clutches of feeling judged by others and myself. Because I feel that comparison is at the heart of judgement, I am starting with comparing less. Less comparing myself to others, less comparing others to my expectations, and less comparing myself to their expectations.
It is going to be a journey as old habits die hard. They die when we replace them with other habits, which we can only do one step at a time.
If you are insecure, guess what, the rest of the world is, too. Do not overestimate the competition and underestimate yourself. You are better than you think.Tim Ferris
Less is more when you already have enough.
My first two points, referencing Hara Hachi Bu and Marie Kondo, are about recognising that I have enough. My third, with Tim Ferris’ help, dares me to realise that I am enough.