The Effortless Life

We have simple needs and we have invented needs. Simple needs are food, shelter, clothing and relationships. Everything else is an invented need. If an invented need makes life more difficult or does not serve a purpose, eliminate that need. Once you do that your life becomes effortless.

If we remove false needs, goals, expectations, and purposes, we strip away the need to do much of what we do. We can then be left with an emptiness that can be filled only with what’s necessary, with what’s natural, with what’s beautiful.

We have complicated even the basic needs. We are consuming more food than is necessary and we crave for food. Housing and clothing have become status symbols. Relationships have evolved into webs of interaction and emotions and expectations so complicated that they can’t be easily untangled. We work a lot and we do not have enough free time.If we reduce our needs and learn to be content with little, we need to work little to survive. We will then have a lot of free time which we can use to volunteer, create, help others without expectation and be available.

Reduce your needs, be content with little, and life’s required effort drops by a mile.

Do not cause harm. Often “causing no harm” leads to difficult choices—sometimes you have to figure out what action (or non-action) leads to less harm. Be compassionate. This requires understanding, empathy, and the desire to lessen the pain and increase the happiness of others.

If you live without goals, you’ll explore new territory. You’ll learn some unexpected things. You’ll end up in surprising places. This means letting go of predefined outcomes. It’s liberating, and contrary to what you might have been taught, it doesn’t mean that you stop achieving things.It means that you stop letting yourself be limited by goals.Just because you don’t have goals doesn’t mean you do nothing—you can create, you can produce, you can follow your passion.And in practice, this is a wonderful thing: you wake up and do what you’re passionate about.Always remember: the journey is all. The destination is beside the point.

Take your expectations and throw them in the ocean. Now live your life without them. You accept reality as it is, and people as they are, without trying to force people into the containers that you have created for them. You see things as they are. You don’t need to be disappointed or frustrated or angry—or if you are, you accept it, and then let it go. That’s not to say that you never act—you can act in a way that’s in accordance with your values and influence the world, but never have an expectation of how the world will react to your actions.

Control is an illusion.We don’t know the future, much less are able to control it. We like to think we do, but that never turns out to be true. When we are in the midst of chaos, let go of the need to control it. Be awash in it, experience it in that moment; try not to control the outcome but deal with the flow as it comes.Do what excites you. Stop planning, and just do. Live in the moment. Trusting your values. Accept the world as it is.Accept what comes.Let go of the illusion of control and plan as little as possible.

Do not plan a lot and embrace the chaos.The more we embrace this chaos, the more we embrace the brilliant possibilities that might emerge. The more we try to control our day and actions with plans, the more we limit ourselves. This is because the plans we make are mere illusions.

Be open to the unfolding moment

Be passionate and do nothing that you hate doing.

Don’t rush, go slowly and be present.

Do nothing unnecessary.

Be contented.

Let go of success and the need for approval.

Subtract rather than add. Slowly cut things out until you’re left only with what you love, with what’s necessary, with what makes you happy.

To do these things, we need to get rid of guilt that we might have that we are not doing much. We need to change our mindset to lead an effortless life.

It is being like water, fluid. By leaving yourself fluid, you allow yourself to see things as they change, adapt with balance, learn as things happen, and use this new information to change your course intelligently and intuitively.

Give equal weight to every action, to every moment.We tend to do the opposite: certain things we do are more important than others and so we mentally focus on those and give little thought to the smaller things. Even the space between things should be given equal weight. Every single thing you do should be done mindfully, and given equal importance — whether that’s putting something away, walking from one spot to another, picking up the phone, or talking to someone.

Eat simple, unprocessed foods, all plants, and be incredibly healthy. And you don’t have to stress about it or be disciplined — just enjoy this diet, and enjoy less healthy foods on occasion in moderation.

Parenting can be made easier with subtraction. Do not over schedule your children. Do not stress over clean houses and clean rooms. Do not be worried about our kids’ success and give up expectations and hopes for what our kids might do, how they might turn out? And instead,  just accept whatever they decide to do with their lives? Give up our expectations of our kids and how they should behave, and instead accept them for who they are? Allow them to learn based on their interests (so they actually want to learn), allow them to teach themselves (so they can teach themselves into adulthood), allow them to learn to solve problems (so they can solve any problem, and not just memorize useless fact).

How can we simplify those relationships? By learning to be present, and forget about past injustices. By giving up our complicated expectations of the people we live and work with, and simply accepting them for who they are. Practice being present in your next interaction with a friend or loved one.Practice letting go of expectations of other people.

Do what excites you. Make it social. Watch your progress and post it online, if it is possible. Do it in small bursts. Make it a competition. Walk away if it is boring. No matter what your job, you can find a way to make it play. It’s all a matter of mindset. And once it’s play, it’s effortless.

Turn complaints into gratitude. Notice the complaint, realise it is futile and accept things as they are. See the silver lining .

Struggle comes when we try to force things down a certain path. Instead, flow around the obstacle like water, finding an alternate path, letting go of the fixed path. Adapt, be fluid, and accept the changing course. Let go of expectations, and stop trying to force people to conform to the expectations.

Do not try to force these ideas to others. Follow them yourselves and be a model they might want to follow. Educate, share, ask for their help, help them if they want it and realise you cannot control or change others. Set boundaries, change what you can and have patience.

You’re already good enough, you already have more than enough, and you’re already perfect.

-adapted from The Effortless Life by Leo Babauta


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