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The Law of Reversed Effort aka how to do more by doing less

29.08.18 Do you ever get the feeling that you’re pushing shit uphill? That even though you really really love the thing you do you’re doing it so damn often that you’re exhausted?

Your bones are heavy and your brain is tired. Inspiration wanes the more you try to entice it.

Enter The Law of Reversed Effort. One of those rare little gems that actually make a lot of sense, it says that the harder we work at something the less effective we are. Or.. The more we reach for something, the harder we try and push, the more we reinforce the ways that we are deficient in that thing. Or… Honey for God’s sake would you take a load off? Go and watch a movie. Have a laugh. Your Life’s Work will still be here when you get back.

Too much effort creates a state of stress which, ironically, is the exact opposite feeling state that most of us are trying to achieve through all of our hard work.

An example:

I want to make more money for the sense of freedom that I hope it will afford me. But instead I work my arse off, estranging myself from my family whilst worrying myself to sleep almost every night. The more I focus on my goal of future freedom the more worry & stress I have in the here and now.

Or I’m feeling overwhelmed by clutter so really want to move. I’m imagining the spaciousness and lightness of my shiny new home. I focus and fixate and stress about that goal, spending all my spare time scrolling instead of clearing out the clutter that might afford me a little more spaciousness in my current situation.

This doesn’t mean that we abandon our goals. Of course not. It’s in our nature to want to grow and expand and evolve. But we absolutely do not need to do so from an habitual state of stress.

Sociologist, Author & Lifecoach Martha Beck says it like this: “Circumstances do not create feeling states. Rather feeling states create circumstances”.

It took me a while to really get what she meant. But the more that I do I see that it’s profound. A profound turning on its head of the way that our culture teaches us to push and struggle and stress and strive, overriding our feelings, our bodies, & our instincts until we get the thing we want.

But what if we forgot for a minute about the things we think we want and focused on the feeling states instead? Is it the car that I want or the feeling that I think it will give me? Is it the house? The lover? The child? The dress? The acknowledgement? The holiday? Or is it rather the feeling states that I’ve connected to those things?

If so, then let’s be a little smarter (and kinder) about this.

Let’s find the feeling state. Call it up. Interestingly, if we can feel the feeling that we’re hoping for in future, right here & now when we imagine having that thing, then what does that tell us about that feeling?

That’s it’s already within us that’s what.

With nothing more than a thought we can connect to the very joy, freedom, spaciousness, clarity, aliveness, or peace that we long for but have made dependent on the acquisition of this or that, a change in our circumstances.

And guess what else? When we connect with all of the above, when we’re sitting in peace, ease, trust, and joy then we become like little magnets for the things we want. They simply can’t resist us. It doesn’t mean they’re gonna fall out of the sky all of a sudden, they’ll be given in due course if & when they are meant for us.

And of course we’re still going to need to take action. Absolutely. But we’ll do what we know we need to do without stress or anxiety. And we’ll also know when to take a break.

For the longest time I’ve been using every available minute of my spare time to keep Getting Things Done. But the list just kept on growing alongside my deep sense of overwhelm & fatigue.

Finally, last Friday, I said, “Fuck it. Tonight I’m gonna watch a movie, the dumber the better”.

And so I did. I watched ‘Bridget Jones’ Baby’ and it was absolutely awful, I do not recommend. But it was absolutely perfect because I just relaxed. I let go. I drank my tea and forgot about everything which is exactly what I needed to do.

And you know what happened next?

At the end of the movie I closed down Netflix and had a quick peek at my emails before going to bed. I couldn’t believe it. There was a reply from someone I’d been waiting to hear back from for ages, 3 new bookings for retreats, and about 5 other mails that were super prompt, positive responses about workshops and other projects.

It could’ve been coincidental.  But it didn’t feel that way, and I chose not to interpret it that way either.

I took it as a clear Sign from Life that I might get a whole lot more done if I rested more.

“See,” said Life. “The world still turns while you’re resting. It turns more easily in fact cos you’re not holding on so tight. Let go a little. Have some fun. I’ve got this”.

Om Namo Narayani

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