The famous idiom “less is more” echoes throughout Western culture, and there are undoubtedly verbal equivalents in Eastern culture too. The idea behind the phrase is that simplicity is better than elaborate embellishment and excessive complexity. It is possible to overdo something, potentially losing valuable focus or meaning in the process.
When you believe that less is more, you make room for essential things instead of being drowned in the superfluous. You can focus on what matters. It is easy to lose sight of this in the modern world; a world in which so many people (perhaps unconsciously) choose to see having or doing more as an antidote to fear and insecurity.
Sometimes less really is more, and more really is less. Here are some examples of this:
Our minds are often addicted to entertainment, but by entertainment we don’t necessarily mean fun. The mind just wants something to do, so even outside of daily duties and commitments it often does its best to convince us to keep ‘doing’. Modern spirituality encourages us to focus on ‘being’ more than ‘doing’ and this is wise, when kept in balance. Overactivity can cause stress on both a mental and physical level. Ask yourself each day if it is really necessary or helpful to cram quite as much into your schedule. Over-activity can also lead to self-absorption, at times. When you’re lost in too many activities of any kind, other areas of life suffer. It becomes harder to prioritize everything, and we can lose sight of what’s important over time.
Physical burn-out is at the more extreme end of this spectrum, and it is clearly detrimental to our general wellbeing and productivity. For instance, although there are some major benefits to staying active, it is actually possible to go too far with your workouts, leading to detrimental results rather than the perfect physique you crave. Who wants to wear out their joints and ligaments from over-exertion and risk dealing with long-term injuries? Even extremely fit-looking athletes bodies’ can give out under too much pressure.
We are not trying to scare you into staying away from exercise - on the contrary, we are simply saying that the key is as always balance. Listen to your body and know when more is less, and less is more… if you’re not sure if you’re over-active, how are you feeling at the end of the day? Positive, or tired out? If you can’t switch off at night due to an excited mind, or feel deflated and sleepy by most evenings, you’re probably doing too much.
Over-thinking is generally a form of worry. The need to analyze excessively is a fear-based mechanism, and equates to a need to control. When you have to mentally comb through every possible outcome in order to acquire the best results, you’re definitely overthinking. For example, you might be in the habit of planning ahead all the time. This form of overthinking can sometimes consume us and limit our ability to see or embrace new opportunities and experiences. Although sometimes you will need to plan, know when you’re doing it because it’s sensible, and when you’re doing it to gain control.
Quite often we don’t have nearly as much control as we might imagine over the outcome of events. The late Dr. Wayne Dyer once said something along the lines of this: “If you can control the outcome of something, then there’s no need to worry: you can change it. If you can’t control the outcome of something, there’s no need to worry: you can’t change it.”
These are wise words indeed. Often, expending a whole load of mental energy is unnecessary. Sometimes we simply need to be more decisive, but we can also benefit greatly from trusting in our own abilities and in life to bring us what we need - when the time is right. If you look back over your life up until this point and find that you’re generally doing fine, you will probably agree. We all have problems from time to time, but we have the tools to overcome most, one way or another. Overthinking just makes the whole process more uncomfortable.
Whether you’re looking at an extensive food menu in an establishment that wishes to cater for all tastes, a mind-boggling number of choices can lead to analysis paralysis. Or when shopping online for an item, you may at times feel overwhelmed by choice. Hours can be wasted poring over the finer details of similar products, only to conclude that most of the products are perfectly fit for the job anyway. This aspect of life is probably not going to go away thanks to the competitive nature of commerce, but after a mentally tiring shopping experience, it certainly highlights that less is often more.
Sure, technology offers huge convenience to our lives, as well as plenty of entertainment. However, there is another side to technology: it can steal too much of your attention and lead to dependencies that don’t really enhance your life in the long run. If you are using technology in place of your own mental faculties, you’re doing yourself a disservice.
For example, it can be easy to let technology think for us via calculators, spelling and grammar checkers, calendars, etc. Regularly using our own in-built faculties helps us to stay mentally sharp, and in the event that we don’t have access to the appropriate technology, we’re not left floundering. Technology also encourages us to stop communicating in healthy ways. It’s so easy to ping over a few texts or calls instead of taking the time to engage in genuine and nourishing face-to-face interaction. Where possible, make an effort to keep your mind and relationships fresh instead of relying on technology to keep things afloat.
The art of articulation serves us well in conversation, and it often depends on being coherent and concise. Excessive streams of consciousness tend to lose attention, which isn’t great when you’re trying to get a point across. Rambling on and losing oneself in tangents can even be quite annoying for the listener; it may also cause problems in relationships and the workplace.
Essentially the art of presentation means carefully considered speech, which is especially necessary within debate or argument. Saying only what needs to be said and delivering it with conviction is far more convincing than an endless and confusing chain of thought.
Although there will be many items required for a comfortable home life, clutter is another story entirely. Searching through piles of things looking for that one thing you actually need… who wants that stress in their haven? Tripping over extra items of furniture, hoarding ornaments and trinkets… these things can make your inner world feel as cluttered as your outer world.
They say that your immediate environment reflects your inner environment, and it often seems to be true. Do you hoard out of fear of inconvenience? Do you feel that good memories will disappear without physical reminders? If so, remember that these are fear-based choices. Sometimes a good tidy is enough to refresh your environment, but on the whole, keeping only what serves a purpose or is comfortingly beautiful makes more sense.
Although this requires decisiveness and a certain amount of planning, carrying fewer possessions around brings a sense of freedom with it. After all, there’s a reason that owning too many things or holding on to a lot of emotional material is referred to as ‘baggage’!
So in a nutshell, life gives us many opportunities to hoard, overthink, over-act, and generally over-do things. However, we have a choice in how we respond to these opportunities. When you adopt the mentality that less is often more, life becomes more streamlined and there is less clutter on both mental and physical levels. Sometimes all we need to do is relax and let go of the desire to control situations and outcomes, allowing things to flow more naturally, and peace to find its place in our lives.