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  • Amina Aitsi-Selmi

3 reasons less is more in work and life [Wise Wednesdays]

To attain knowledge, add things every day. To attain wisdom, remove things every day. - Lao Tzu When I was growing up, I made a vow to learn everything I could about the world... I loved learning and absorbing. After gaining all the qualifications I could possibly get as a doctor, I realised something was still missing even though I loved my job. I hadn’t solved the problem: how to ‘save the world’. I really wanted to know how to ease suffering and bring some kind of peace and contentment. This drew me to medicine. But adding more knowledge didn’t seem to help anymore. Focusing on ‘the world’ didn’t either. I found myself drawn inward to a more intuitive mode. I realised I might have to reverse the process and shed layers of knowledge somehow. I had to start letting go of what I thought I knew about life, others and especially myself…the biases, narratives and assumptions… In the process, I realised it’s OK to let go of the need for more information or qualifications before taking a career leap and going in a new, inspired direction that wasn’t completely worked out… Here are 3 things that improved as a result of a less is more mindset: Less performance, more intimacy The less I bring of “me” the more room there is for “you” and for “we”. It doesn’t mean I eclipse myself. On the contrary, I show parts of me that I feel I shouldn’t. Letting go of performance anxiety and bringing compassionate attention to any fear of being vulnerable with another (or in public) allows more space for a genuine and intimate encounter. It may not always be easy but the benefits are palpable in more ways than one. Less goal-orientation, more purpose Today’s work culture calls on us to chart a destination and go for it. If you’re a high achiever, you’re likely very good at that. But data show that by the mid-thirties, even if you’re successful, you may start to question your ultimate direction. If the goals you were pursuing weren’t 100% your own, what do you do then? It’s the theme explored in The Success Trap book. The good news is that by letting go, there’s space for a deeper sense of purpose to emerge. If you start to trust that there’s a different way of engaging with life, beyond goal-setting and you become OK with the unknown, the biggest adventure of your life can begin. Less consumption, more health and wealth We live in an economic system driven by consumption which can come at the expense of your health and ability to create true wealth. You’re under pressure to consume calories and spend on things you don’t really need. One simple but powerful antidote is to nurture your creativity. I often invite clients to re-engage with creative thinking (It doesn’t mean “art”. You can simply create your personal manifesto – see this short Linkedin post I wrote on the topic if you want an example). The fulfilment and spontaneity ripple into their work and wellbeing. The reflex to consume is replaced by the joy of creating and sharing the fruit of it either through more (self-)leadership or in their own business. A recent psychology study published in Nature showed that, when trying to solve problems, the brain defaults to adding more elements when removing elements would work just as well. We’re biased towards “more” even if it’s not the best solution. But of course, awareness of the pattern is the heart of the solution. In the Master and his Emissary, psychiatrist Iain McGilchrist reviews the current neuroscience and concludes that we’ve become dominated by our left brain functions (logic, goals, etc) and forgotten to cultivate the right brain functions (imagination, spontaneity). He attributes modern anxiety to this imbalance. The implication is important: purpose, fulfilment and freedom may not be found in chasing more but in making space for the right things to come in. If you want more time, energy, wealth or happiness, where might you let go of something rather than adding? Trust your intuition. Have a great week, Amina

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