05/17/2010 03:55 pm ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

The Courage To Do Less

The art of doing less isn't merely about becoming more productive employees or businesspeople (though doing less of what is unnecessary may result in greater productivity.) The true benefit of focusing on and taking a break from busyness is that it brings more kindness and love into our lives. With less busyness and unnecessary effort, more kindness and love can rise to the surface, leading to more effectiveness, energy, and focus. When we feel depleted, love is the best replenisher -- which includes the love we feel for ourselves, the love we freely give to others, and the love that comes to us from the people we care for and admire most.

It's worth pointing out that the opposite seems to be true as well. In our increasingly busy and impatient world, people seem to be less kind and patient with each other. Much of that seems to stem from busyness itself and from the increasing attitude that being polite and caring is just another form of wasting time.

When we do less and begin to unravel many of the motivations, worries, and strivings that make us run in circles -- and when we stop trying to second-guess everyone else's motivations, worries, and strivings -- what we find at the very core of ourself and of life, I believe, is kindness and love. Those two glorious things are the most profound levers for accomplishing more, and more of what really matters.

This is not a radical idea. And yet, what a radical idea! What a radical way to live your life! It underpins the best of psychological, spiritual, and contemplative practice. It is the fundamental teaching of all great mystics and is the experience most of us hold deepest in our hearts. We glimpse this basic truth whenever we touch birth or touch death and experience a complete acceptance of the simplicity and sacredness of being human. The more you quiet your mind and let go of striving -- which is all too often someone else's concept of striving imposed on you -- the less you have to "do" and, somehow miraculously, the more that love springs forth from you. I believe that this simple formula is central to being a functioning, happy, and truly contributing human being.

Still, doing less takes courage. Stopping, pausing, reflecting, and fully doing one thing can be much more difficult than reflexively reacting and distracting yourself from what is most essential, most heartfelt, and most needed in your life.

Adapted from LESS: Accomplishing More By Doing Less