It is said that you need to see or hear something three times before it fully lands. If that’s the case, I have now heard the call to “Do Less” on three separate occasions. The first was in 2006, when someone said to me that I seemed to have only one speed…full throttle, 110 percent. They asked what it would be like if I went at 70 percent, and I looked at him as though he was speaking Icelandic.
The second alarm came a couple of years ago when my Epstein-Barr virus re-activated. I simply wasn’t recovering from my exercise regime. So, I did “do less” and interpreted this as meaning I was truly listening to the feedback my body had to offer and made a change.
The third sign happened during my summer hiatus. I’ve had a chronic back issue, and the pain began to dial-up in December 2019. Yet, I pushed through the season of teaching, shifting onto Zoom with the onslaught of COVID-19, and had my back re-assessed in July. The feedback from that? Do less.
Rats…I’m not very good at doing less.
So, when I heard that message of “do less” a third time, translating to backing away from the more physical aspects of my life, it provoked anxiety. I’m lousy at doing less and feeling that by doing so, I’ll disappoint others. What if I’m not giving it “my all”? What if I say “no” to some things that I’ve always done and have become expected of me? What if I can’t work in the way I know how? What if this back pain gets worse and disabling? It was a rough couple of weeks when the “do less” message began to land fully.
Now over a couple of months, things shifted from the “what if/can’t do” narrative to “what if I did things differently?” What if I focused on me and what I need right now? What if I got creative and figured out a different pathway to teaching? I began to envision a plan of action. Change how much you do physically and dedicate yourself to creating more stability in your spine. Learn and consult with trusted experts. I realized I could do less of what’s no longer serving me which, in turn, creates spaciousness for what does.
Part of interrupting the busy-ness pattern is offering myself grace to create more space. The past seven months have not only been rife with change and loss, but that loss has a term – “ambiguous loss,” as coined
by educator / author Tara Haelle. For many of us, stressful times have meant losing motivation, thus relying on our surge capacity. Focused, ambitious, and motivated people have had feelings resembling depression as an ambiguous loss is something we can’t quite put our finger on, and we don’t have an endpoint in sight. Without that, a resolution doesn’t exist.
I’m trying to be okay with doing less, not repeating old patterns but finding grace in saying “no” to what overloads me and “yes” to what nourishes me. And it isn’t easy. No change is easy. It takes grit and discipline and courage. I think I have some of that, so now is the time to call upon it.