the art of actively doing less (+ a Women’s Weekly shoot)

Shall I share some sweet irony with you? Or perhaps you’ll call it muddled, unfocused hypocrisy? Recently I flew to Sydney to appear in this Australian Women’s Weekly Christmas shoot below. Myself and a bunch of other (too?) oft-photographed ladies were asked “what’s the perfect gift that money can’t buy”. I said: “rest”.

ww1112 ww1211p058 the art of actively doing less (+ a Women's Weekly shoot)As usual, the trip was frenetic and involved air-conditioned hotel rooms and flights and running late and chemical-ly makeup (although the team decided to go with a “natural look” for me, which is always a bit of a narcissistic conundrum when you’re the oldest and biggest on the shoot!). By the time I got to the studios I was, well, very unrested. And unanchored.

That night I lay awake in my hotel room unable to sleep. I hadn’t slept for weeks (months?). And in that moment I realised I had to put my book project on hold, which I shared with you here.

I needed rest. I had to really commit to getting it. I had to get real.

Irony…hypocrisy…whatever…truth comes and finds you.

Since all this I’ve had to have a good think about rest.

Resting is not just putting our feet up on the couch when we collapse in a heap, exhausted. Resting is a responsible way of living.

Resting is about consciously setting aside pockets of time ON A REGULAR BASIS – AS IN, DAILY – to unfurl and be quiet. I’ve commented on this before.

My approach is very much: sprint, rest, sprint, rest. Sprinting is fine – great, in fact, hoorah! – so long as we get our pockets of rest. Like interval training. Resting doesn’t have to be about going at a balanced, middle speed (like, say, a long jog). We need rest to recalibrate, to heal, to restore and to allow irony and hypocrisy and any other lessons to catch up. I’m not a fan of going moderately through life.

So. Sprint. Rest.

BUT, I’ve come to learn, we can’t just expect to take this pocket of rest whenever it suits. We DO have to plan for it. If we don’t actively structure our rest, it doesn’t happen.

Resting is about actively not doing. And/or actively undoing. And/or actively taking a big step back. “Actively”, you might note, is the operative here.

At Christmas, resting is about consciously, actively planning less, travelling less, buying less, trying less. It’s about taking every possible “less” step we can. I’ve done this, this year – I’m not organising to see 12938 people, I’m not doing the “let’s have a drink before Christmas” thing (which is so silly), I’m not doing fancy parties, I’m not doing presents. I’ve done this with my whole life these past few weeks, within the parameters of my sprinty life.

Last week I came across this mnmlist post about honing your focus (the rifle approach), instead of spreading yourself too thinly (the buckshot, or scattergun, approach). The point is made:

Fear of missing something important causes us to use the buckshot approach, and do too much. Most of what we do will miss, but we console ourselves that something will hit the important target. The problem is, we don’t know what the target is, and using the buckshot approach means

we’ll never get good at finding the target, nor good at aiming.

The rifle approach means you’ll be forced to figure out what’s important. You’ll be forced to get good at aiming, with practice.

This is another benefit of actively doing less: it hones, it gets us sturdy, it gets us aiming at what we want.

Which is the spirit I want to take with me to my family in Canberra at Christmas. I find Christmas hard. Mostly because I try too much and do too much (eldest daughter syndrome?). This is also the spirit I want to kick off 2012 with. Less = more.



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