The first time I really thought about this expression was in a parenting workshop led by author and educator, Nancy Samalin. Nancy implored us to say and do “less” for our children, in turn allowing them to take responsibility and do more for themselves. I have been trying to practice this parenting philosophy for several years, but it remains an ongoing challenge.
When my youngest left for college last fall, I had no choice but to do less, simply because neither child was living at home with me. This turned out to be a blessing for all of us. Both children have matured and have become more independent. They have forged new friendships, excelled in their coursework, become involved in their college communities and each has secured a summer job. We still talk regularly, and they occasionally seek my advice (and I am always happy to oblige,) but they are living their lives far away (one in California, the other in Denmark) and quite successfully without me. By doing less for my children, I have sent them a clear message that I trust them to make their own choices and decisions—which has empowered them both to take charge of their lives.
Since I have found the “less is more” philosophy so inspiring in the realm of parenting, I considered how it might apply to other aspects of my life. Thus far, I have found it to be quite effective. Here are some observations…
Whether conversing with friends, acquaintances, family members or co-workers, I am trying to say less and listen more. I find myself really hearing people instead of focusing on my own agenda. And, I notice that when my words are more succinct, they come across as more thoughtful and impactful, and I feel others listening more intently. The overall quality of my communications has improved.
As a consummate people pleaser, I was always someone who couldn’t ‘say no.’ My parents nicknamed me “the joiner-inner,” as I became involved in every activity that came my way. Extra work projects, charity events, school committees and boards, sports activities, book clubs—you name it, I was either organizing or at least involved. I now realize that it is OK to say no and let others do the heavy lifting. Especially if the things I pass on are not my priorities. And, being involved in fewer activities and projects frees me up, both physically and mentally, to focus on things that really matter. I have chosen quality over quantity… and have discovered that the simple, basic pleasures of life can be the most rewarding!
Likewise, I have made a similar transition with my friendships, tightening my circle of friends to include those who love and support me unconditionally. I am far more joyful spending time with people who help me to be my best self, and who share my “glass half full” approach to life. With fewer, yet closer, friends, I can really give more to each. My relationships are far more fulfilling as a result.
The final example relates to golf. As a competitive tennis player, when I first started as a new golfer my initial instinct was to swing the golf club as hard as I could to literally “power” the ball forward. But, unlike the tennis stroke, the golf swing is counter-intuitive. The harder one swings, the less likely one is to actually hit the ball. Applying the “less is more” approach to golf, I discovered that if I swing easy, with a calm, even tempo, the ball actually travels in the air towards its intended target. I still marvel every time this happens! (A clear indication that I have yet to master the elusive golf swing.)
Next challenge is to apply the “less is more” approach to my blog writing, so I can communicate effectively in fewer words!