Learn Your Lessen

I’m a fan of reducing external dependence. If some part of your happiness is dependent on an external factor, then some part of your happiness will always be outside of your control. No man is an island and we’re social creatures, so I’m not advocating isolationism or even true minimalism (unless that works for you!).

What I’m advocating is… less-ism.

People often try to completely eliminate an external dependence, but all they do is create pent-up demand. People do things like “Dry January” and then go on a full-on bender on February 1st. That’s not helping anything; it might even be worsening your dependence.

Arbitrarily limiting something only to pine after it every day and then over-indulge the second the waiting period is over isn’t claiming control over your life. It’s just playing silly games.

Try, instead, to lessen. To reduce the amount of an external thing you engage with, in exchange for an equal or greater amount of inner work. You don’t have to stop watching television cold turkey, but get rid of one show and replace it with a thoughtful walk. You don’t have to stop drinking entirely, but replace Sunday drinks with Sunday phone calls to loved ones.

There are things in your heart that can make you happy, but they’re buried under many distractions. If you try to force it away all at once, you simply replace it with longing for that thing. I advocate trying to go without, but only thoughtfully – because you truly want the distance and to respect the thing. Not because you’re trying to prove something to someone else and then go right back even harder.

Take a breath, and do a little less.

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