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The Secret to Living a Happier Life? Follow the Rule of Less Is More

The Secret to Living a Happier Life? Follow the Rule of Less Is More

There are a plethora of self-help books that will guide you towards leading a happier life. Maybe you’ve bought the majority of them and even applied a lot of what’s been said. But do we really need all this advice? If there could be one habit we could adopt to be generally more happy it would make our path to happiness and wellbeing much easier.

So what is it? Well, it’s the concept of ‘less is more’ or, in other words, taking a more minimalist approach to life.

What Minimalist Living Really Means

Minimalist living may conjure up images of a bare house or cutting down on the stuff we enjoy – in other words, we must sacrifice enjoyment to be happy. Our modern world offers us so much to choose from and surely living minimally means we’re not taking the full advantage of what we can have, right?

It doesn’t have to mean giving up on our favourite things or getting rid of all our home comforts. As a concept, what minimalist living really means is recognising your worth more than the worth of material things.

We can get very caught up in the things we want – those things that satisfy short-term – instead of focusing on what we need. Another way of looking at it is giving ourselves the sense of freedom – freedom from the external things and freedom from the need for possession.

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This doesn’t have to be a life-changing task but rather a shift in mindset and perspective towards what you consider is important to you.

How Living Minimally Will Benefit Your Life

There are so many benefits to creating a more minimalist life, not just for your physical living space but for your positivity of mind – it’s a process of decluttering and decluttering can do wonders for our general wellbeing.

It allows us to refocus on what’s important, creating more energy and time for ourselves. Buying and maintaining the stuff we have is a real money drainer so eliminating possessions also eliminates worry and stress, opening up a sense of breathing space.

But It Also Comes With Difficulties…

Many of us find this a hard concept to put into practice. As mentioned before, we live in a time when we’re bombarded with a never-ending selection of stuff at our fingertips. Society makes it so there’s a certain expectation – we can’t live without a mobile phone, we should keep up with the latest fashions, we need to continually upgrade to make sure we’re not falling behind.

All this can make it difficult to declutter our lives and take on a new way of approaching how we live. But once you start considering yourself, your self-worth and what’s important to you rather than what’s important to your society, it can be a truly freeing experience.

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Put It Into Action: Ways To Go Minimalist

Becoming minimalist doesn’t have to happen overnight. Making small shifts is a better way to sustain a long-term perspective on decluttering. Starting the process little by little will help you to feel a slow but sure difference in the way you approach life and ultimately make you feel lighter and happier.

1. Clear Out Your Wardrobe

The best way to start is with your clothes. How many of your clothes sit in the wardrobe or drawers only to be pulled out once or twice a year – or more than likely never? This process of throwing out items of clothing can be a very liberating experience. More often than not, they are taking up unnecessary space and you’ll be surprised at how much you won’t even notice they’re gone once you’ve thrown them out.

Give yourself a challenge of getting rid of any clothes you haven’t worn in the last 6 months. Watch as your stressful mornings of outfit dilemmas disappear.

2. Do The Food Challenge

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Eating well is a must but our shopping bills can be way more expensive than they need to be. Enjoying minimalist living doesn’t mean scrimping on good food and eating the same boring meals every day in the name of ‘less is more’. Being savvy with the types of food we buy and finding interesting recipes that use cheap and tasty ingredients, can slash our shopping bill by more than we think. It’s about training ourselves to shop smart and really be mindful of the choices we make.

3. Declutter Your Living Space

It’s very tempting to buy decorations that will look good in our home but over time it can add up. Once we’re used to stuff being around us we’re almost blind to it. Take time to really look around and see what needs to go. Keep the things that are meaningful or really suit the scheme of your home and consider giving away things that don’t have a place anymore. This can include furniture or the accumulation of kitchen utensils – remember duplicates are rarely necessary!

4. Travel Lightly

How often when travelling, do you pack way too much? We think of every possible scenario that could potentially happen that justifies taking much more than we need. Most of the time we don’t use half the stuff we take. So if you’re going for a week then pack for 3 or 4 days. Not only will you have less to carry, but you’ll realise you can live with a smaller choice.

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5. Declutter Your Mind From Social Media

It’s normal these days to be glued to our phone and check social media several times a day but is it really necessary? How many times do you scroll through your Facebook feed and think why am I looking at this again?!

This approach to minimalism is purely for your mind. Give your brain a rest and make a conscious effort to not check social media. Don’t beat yourself up when you do, but just note when you do it and question yourself. Over time you will notice you check it much less and you’ll feel happier for it.

So, adopt the ‘less is more’ philosophy and see how decluttering your life will work wonders for your mind and perspective on what really makes you happy.

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Jenny Marchal

Freelance Writer

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Last Updated on April 23, 2019

How to Set Stretch Goals and Keep Your Team Motivated

How to Set Stretch Goals and Keep Your Team Motivated

Stretch goals are a lot like physical fitness. When you adopt a physical sport such as running, continual practice leads to increased stamina, growth and progress.

While commitment to the sport improves performance, true growth happens when you are stretched beyond your comfort zone. I know this from personal experience.

For years, I was an avid runner. I ran with a variety of running groups in the Washington, D.C., area and in Columbus, Ohio, where I lived prior to moving to the nation’s capital in 2011.

While I was initially fearful about slacking off on my exercise habit when I moved to D.C., running enthusiasts in the area provided continual motivation, inspiring me to lace up my shoes day after day. Much to my surprise, many of the area’s running stores (including Pacers and Potomac River Running) boasted running groups that met in the mornings and evenings. So, it was relatively easy for a newcomer like me to connect with like-minded peers.

I was never a particularly fast runner, but I enjoyed the afterglow of the sport: being completely drained but feeling a sense of accomplishment; setting and reaching goals; buying and wearing out new tennis shoes. The sound of throngs of feet pounding the pavement in semi-unison is still enough to bring tears to my eyes. Yes, I sometimes tear up at the start of races.

Of all the groups I ran with, the Pacers Store group that met on Monday nights in Logan Circle boasted the fastest runners. I met up with the group week after week only to be the slowest runner. It was difficult to muster the courage to get up every week and meet the group knowing what was waiting for me: sweating and watching the backs of fellow runners.

Each time I joined the group, I was stretching myself without even realizing it. Instead of feeling like I was transitioning into a better running, for a long time I felt I was torturing myself.

Then something remarkable happened. I went for a run with a different set of runners and noticed my time had improved. I was running at a faster pace and doing so with ease. What was once uncomfortable for me I now handled with ease.

The reason I was becoming a better runner was because I was taking myself out of my comfort zone and challenging myself physically and mentally. This example illustrates the process of growth.

Fortunately, we can create situations that stretch us in our personal and professional lives.

What Is a Stretch Goal?

A stretch goal – as authors Sim B. Sitkin, C. Chet Miller and Kelly E. See detail an article “The Stretch Goal Paradox” in Harvard Business Review[1] – is something that is extremely difficult and novel. It is something that not everyone does, and it’s sometimes considered impossible.

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In general, you establish stretch goals by doing things that are difficult or temporarily challenging.

For instance, when I was first promoted to a senior communications management role, I knew I needed to beef up my relationships with media personalities. I set a goal to once a month book a day of media interviews in New York City – which is home to many media outlets, including SiriusXM radio, CNN, NBC News, HuffPost, VIBE.

This was a huge goal because it meant not only identifying the right people to meet with but convincing them to meet with me and my team. While I didn’t end up meeting the goal of doing a full day of media interviews in New York City, I met more people than I would have met had I not established the goal and instead stayed in the comfort of my D.C. office.

It is important to note that just because you establish a stretch goal doesn’t mean you’ll achieve the goal each time. However, the process of trying is guaranteed to provide some level of growth.

The Importance of Creating Stretch Goals

The beginning of the year is a perfect time to assess where you are excelling and where there is room for you to grow. I typically start the year by creating a yearlong strategic plan for myself.

I think about the things that are necessary to do and things that would be cool to do. I assess the people I should know and think through how to meet them. Then I ask myself if the goals are realistic and what would need to happen for me to achieve them.

Over time, I have learned that there are five things I can do to set stretch goals:

1. Get Outside of Your Head

If I exist within the confines of my imagination, I imperil my own growth and creativity.

If I examine my accomplishments and celebrate them in isolation of others’ accomplishments, my vantage point is limited.

I want to be comfortable with what I accomplish, but I also want to be motivated by watching others. In some respects, stretching is about expanding your network of friends, associates and mentors. These are the people who will propel or slow your growth and development.

Since two are better than one, I always value being able to share my progress with others, seek feedback and then map a plan for success.

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2. Focus on a Couple Areas at a Time

When setting goals, it is important to focus on a couple of areas at a time. Most of us are only able to focus on a few things at a time, and if you feel you are unable to tackle all that is before you, you may simply disengage.

I see this in so many areas of life:

When people get in debt, if they believe the debt is insurmountable, they refuse to look at incoming bills for fear of facing down the debt. Unfortunately, many businesses go awry when setting stretch goals.

In “The Stretch Goal Paradox,” Sitkin, Miller and See note:

“Our research suggests that though the use of stretch goals is quite common, successful use is not. And many executives set far too many stretch goals. In the past five years, for example, Tesla failed to meet more than 20 of founder Elon Musk’s ambitious projections and missed half of them by nearly a year, according to the Wall Street Journal.”

Goal-setting is like a marathon, not a sprint. It doesn’t all need to happen at the same time, and pacing is extremely important if you want to get to the finish line. It is better to focus on a couple goals at a time, master them and then move on to the next thing.

3. Set Aside Time Each Year to Focus on Goal-Setting

When I was a managing director for communications for the Advancement Project, I spent the first part of every year facilitating a communications planning meeting.

The planning meeting began with the team members assessing the goals the team had established in the preceding year, and whether those goals were realistic or not. If we failed to meet certain goals, we broke down why that happened. From there, we brainstormed about possibilities for the current year.

For instance, one year we set a goal of pitching and getting 24 opinion essays published. This was audacious because no one on the eight-person team had the luxury of focusing exclusively on editing and pitching opinion essays to publications around the world. We would need to focus on pitching in between the rest of our work.

We hit this goal within the first eight months of the year. Remarkably, in total, we ended up getting 40 opinion essays published that year, which was an indication that our original goal was too low. We upped the goal to 41 the next year, and amazingly, we hit 42 published opinion essays or guest columns.

From this experience, we not only learned what was feasible, we also learned the power of focus.

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When we focused as a team on getting the commentary on our issues out in the public domain, we were successful. The key in all of this is that there was a ton of discussion around which goal we’d pursue and why.

Equally important, as a manager, I didn’t set the goals alone; the team members and I established the goals collaboratively. This ensured buy-in from each individual.

4. Use the S.M.A.R.T. Goal Model to Set Realistic Goals

S.M.A.R.T.

is a synonym for specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound. For the sake of this article, the realistic portion of the acronym is most important.

While you want to set audacious goals, you want to ensure that they are realistic as well. No one is served by setting a goal that is impossible to accomplish.

Failing to meet goals can be demoralizing for teams, so it’s important to be sober-eyed about what is possible. Additionally, the purpose of setting goals is to advance and grow, not depress morale.

For instance, my team would have been discouraged had I begun the year asking it to pitch and place 40 opinion essays if we didn’t already have a track record of placing close to two dozen essays.

By using the S.M.A.R.T. formula, we were able to achieve all that we set out to do.

5. Break the Goal up into Small Digestible Parts

I am a recovering perfectionist. As a writer, being a perfectionist can be counterproductive because I can fail to start if I don’t see a clear pathway to victory.

The same is true with goal-setting. That’s why I join Lifehack’s fellow contributor Deb Knobelman, Ph.D., in noting that it is critically important to break goals into bite-sized chunks.

When I had a goal of doing daylong media meetings in New York City, I had to think through all the barriers to achieving that goal and all the steps required to meet the goal.

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One step was identifying which reporters, producers and hosts to engage. Another step was writing a pitch or meeting invitation that would capture their attention. Another step was thinking through the program areas I wanted to highlight and the new angles I could offer to different reporters.

Since reporters want to cover stories that no one else has written, I needed to come up with fresh angles for each of the reporters I was engaging. An additional step was thinking through who from my team I’d take with me to the various meetings.

I was clear that, as a talking head, as public relations reps are sometimes called, I needed the right spokesperson in order to land repeated meetings with different outlets.

A final step was thinking through what I needed to bring to each meeting and which reports, videos and testimonials would buttress our claims and be of interest to media figures.

As I walked through what was needed to bring my goal of doing daylong meetings to reality, I realized that not only was the idea within reach, but I was excited to tackle the challenge.

From that point until now, I have learned to break down goals into smaller parts and tackle the smaller parts on the path to knocking the goal out of the park.

The Bottom Line

These are my recommendations for setting stretch goals, and there are a ton of other resources to support you in the workplace and in your community.

For instance, LinkedIn’s Lynda.com platform has a wonderful suite of leadership development videos, including ones on establishing stretch goals. This is a paid resource but may be worth the investment if you lead a team or want to invest in tools for your own growth and development.

Featured photo credit: Avatar of user Isaac Smith Isaac Smith @isaacmsmith Isaac Smith via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Harvard Business Review: The Stretch Goal Paradox

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