The leader of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis, said in his most recent encyclical, “We are speaking of an attitude of the heart, one which approaches life with serene attentiveness, which is capable of being fully present to someone without thinking of what comes next, which accepts each moment as a gift from God to be lived to the full” (Laudato Si, paragraph 226).
Even if we somehow became psychological and emotional Akido black belts, who use the momentum and energy of the external world to gain advantage and preserve their own energy, we may still have the problem of overly committing to responsibilities. Rather than living a life Pope Francis beautifully articulates the notion of being fully present to someone. Rather, we instead treat many, if not most, of our encounters with other people as simple transitionary moments. We often times see the spontaneous or even planned times with friends, family and co-workers as “necessary evils” to maintain these relationships. But ultimately these engagements impede our ability to stay on point with our committed tasks. The result is that we are rarely fully present in the most important moments of our live; those moments in which we may encounter true happiness. To be clear, I don’t think anyone would call relationships “necessary evils” but practically speaking most of us act that way out of the felt pressures of many obligations and responsibilities.
If we are going to live a more essential life, we must leave the undisciplined life of more for the disciplined life of less. The response “busy” to the question “how are you?” must no longer be considered a badge of honor, but rather a sign of a life well-wasted. However, just saying no to additional commitments may sound like a too easy solution, and to some degree, it is.
MOre Is Less...Much, Much LessOne of the cultural problems we face is the unprecedented level of options. I absolutely hate shopping for jeans anymore because it is simply too complicated. Do I want the skinny jeans (no way in hell), relaxed jeans (more like tourniquet jeans for me), boot cut or any other type of cut I’m unaware of or have no clue about? Making a choice about anything today is sheer exhaustion.
If that wasn’t bad enough, we do more for ourselves than we did even fifty years ago. Just a couple decades ago a travel agent would handle most of our travel needs for us. Now we handle it ourselves. There was a time when we went to the doctor for information about our condition, not to confirm our own self-diagnosis. The list could go on and on with responsibilities previously given to others and now handled solely by the consumer. Life is much more complicated than it was fifty years ago.
This is all the more reason to begin learning how to say no. If we are going to begin living an essential life, our no’s must be 2 to 4 times more than our yes’s. Again, this is not about shirking responsibility in the name of “essentialism,” but rather the call to live a more disciplined life for the sake of what is truly important (i.e. friends, family, relationships, dreams, etc.). Remember saying no is actually saying yes; saying yes to the need to give your full attention to matters of greater importance.
What can you say no to this week that you were anticipating saying yes to until you read this blog?
Congrats on freeing yourself from that undisciplined life of more! Next week we will pursue the disciplined life of less be defining the “less” in your life that is truly worthy of pursuit. Don’t know what it is yet? That’s totally okay because this is what I’m here for. Have an awesome week. See you next Wednesday!