This Year, Focus on the Art of Living an Effortless Life

I often find myself asking: “What can I do better?” I come up with the usual list of improvements, such as making time for exercise or practicing kindness with my partner. Whenever I try to implement these external goals, though, I buckle under the pressure and bounce back into old habits. It’s stressful to add to my already-long to-do list; thus, New Year’s resolutions tend to fail before I hit February.

During the busy holiday season, I decided to change my question. Instead of asking how I can improve, I switched my focus to the art of living. I wrote down these guiding inquiries in my notebook: “How do I feel? In what ways can I be present in this moment? How can I let go?”

Fight the Pressure

As I made this mental adjustment, I noticed that the pressure I put on myself regarding meeting my goals was a major factor in keeping me from meeting them. I determined that it’s only by focusing on how I feel and letting go of expectations that I can make meaningful progress.

Upon deeper thinking, I realized that my struggle to find this path is somewhat a testament to our culture: We are, for the most part, overworked and fighting on a daily basis to meet our responsibilities and goals. As a Western society, our emphasis on doing rather than being inhibits our ultimate success — in both our careers and personal lives.

The Road to Effortlessness

This past fall, I read Ingrid Bacci’s “The Art of Effortless Living.” The title sets high expectations, and Bacci’s enlightened perspective on the shift from an effortful to an effortless life reaches readers with personal anecdotes and grounded academic research.

As Bacci summarizes, “We have to learn to make internal tranquility and relaxation the backdrop for anything we do in life.” Later in the book, she explains, “We have to cherish inner relaxation more highly than we cherish achieving a result. That doesn’t mean we become couch potatoes. It means that, as we go about doing the things we do, we pay attention to how we are doing them.”

Despite my natural hesitation about letting go of what Bacci calls “an addiction to effort,” returning to myself through meditation and conscious breathing makes me more diligent, accurate, and thoughtful in my work. With my attention on my inner state — creating a sense of calm in my body — I float through tasks without lugging stress with me. In other words, as I do less, I actually accomplish more. In 2016, my resolution is to return to the art of living time and time again, forming a clearer path toward inner serenity and balance.

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