So, Kristen Lamb and I spent a lot of time last week talking about self-help (among other things, including podcasting, serial killers, and why the NSA doesn’t get better phone tap tech – we can hear the clicking!). As the daughter of a psychologist and a social worker, I am genetically predisposed to be twitchy and see cult-like induction strategies in almost all self-help books/groups/techniques/merchandise.
Anyway, we’re talking about self-help. I broke out in hives. Kristen laughed. She said the word, ‘positivity,’ just to see how I’d react. I went into convulsions. She was laughing so hard that the 911 operators could barely understand her. *le sigh*
But today, I want to talk about something that is a bit more related to my post last week about the absurdity of Perfect Productivity, or this insane concept the self-help industry has sold us on that we can achieve 100% optimal productivity at all times in all things from sleep to sex to sending emails.
Because when we peek at chapter 3 (because admit it, you skimmed all those positive affirmation exercises in chapter 2), we see that there’s actually an even MORE insidious goal embedded deep in the overarching goal of just trying to get us to spend our money on these systems.
The thing is, whether it’s stated or implied, the purpose of Perfect Productivity is to get us operating at peak yield…in order to do more.
More is better. Greed is good. And Perfect Productivity is killing us.
You ever done anything you regretted at a bar or a party? Maybe it was that shot on a dare (seriously, never ever ever accept a dare to drink a ‘Pickle Barrel’ shot – so gross!). Maybe it was the stupid beer hat. Or the keg stand. Or the, “It’s so sad to leave a wine bottle unfinished.”
What follows the next morning is regret, at least when aren’t praying for death or at the very least for GrubHub to hurry up with that greasy recovery breakfast we ordered.
Even a glass of water. Chugging a whole 8 oz. in one go can leave us feeling a bit queasy and sloshy on the inside.
Perfect Productivity is designed to make us believe that chugging is the only way to drink anything and that the fact we feel sick after means there is still something wrong with us and we need MORE help.
Because if we are doing everything right and being truly productive, we should have the time/capacity/energy to do MORE! Accomplish MORE! Double that to-do list and still have time to add the next post to your Pinterest cupcake fail blog that you started because the program told you to force yourself into being adventurous in a new creative venture in order to ‘re-inspire’ yourself to dream bigger and achieve even more in your day job and better organic Japanese lunch box art for your kids to take to school…
Sorry, it’s almost too easy to pick on this stuff.
Basically, self-help wants us to chug that 8 oz. so we can drink another, and another, and another…
And that way lies alcohol poisoning…of the soul.
The Cheap Liquor of Fulfillment
Cheap liquor is designed to get you wasted. And the point of getting wasted is so that we don’t have to feel or think, and we can float on fluffy pink clouds of contentment…at least until we get arrested for starting that bar fight or puke our brains out.
But for that little bit…we are happy. Things are okay. Things are good. The only thing we have to do right now is enjoy the right now. Because when we drink, we are not expected to do anything (in fact, we are quite reasonably FORBIDDEN to much of anything else) other than drink.
We turn to self-help to help us…feel fine (*hums Indigo Girls and accidentally gets time-teleported back to college). Why buy the small bottle of really nice whiskey on the top shelf when we can get two big bottles of <insert Irish/Dew/Rose/something here> instead?
More is better! Right?
More books on Amazon with our name on the cover! More plot bunnies brought to life! More projects, deadlines, commitments! More income….*crickets*
Sure, I can see why it’s addictive. I mean, who doesn’t want to have a 26-book backlist in just under 26 months? Every release day is a party to celebrate us! Compliments on the cover! An ARC team whose quasi-literate boilerplate reviews are absolutely worth every single daily $5 Amazon gift card raffle…sorry *stuffs my cynicism back in its box with some Schopenhauer to keep her quiet*).
Back to the issue at hand. Whatever the idea of ‘MORE’ is doing to the quality of literature aside, ‘MORE’ is the biggest culprit in our declining quality of life.
But until we learn to see the value of LESS, we will chase MORE until we have NOTHING left.
Capsule Wardrobe, Capsule Life
If you don’t know already, I am a Pinterest junkie. Yes, I collect recipes and actually make them. Yes, I have occasionally tried crafting from Pinterest. No, I will not show you my crafting results.
Mostly, my Pinterest is a hoarder’s paradise of historical clothing, strange/weird history topics (from cryptozoology to marginalia, and Victorian memento mori to Lalique hair ornaments). If you are needing a rabbit hole for distraction, come visit!
As an aside, with almost 50k monthly views, I could probably do something interesting in using my Pinterest profile for marketing, but I choose not to. In fact, I probably will never do so. Why? Because Pinterest is the ONLY social media I do for pure fun.
Anyway. One of the things I discovered on Pinterest was the concept of a capsule wardrobe. What is this encapsulated creature? It is the concept of building a complete wardrobe (annual, seasonal, etc.) out of multi-purpose and multi-season items, from coats to clothes to shoes.
There are lots of approaches, styles, and even fads within the capsule wardrobe trend. But the driving principle is to simplify your complete wardrobe so that while you have less, you wear more.
I won’t be diving deep into how you build a capsule wardrobe (though I have a Pinterest board on it, LOL). But I have been doing it for about 3 years now, and I truly love it. Having less has allowed me to have better and wear more.
No longer do I have the pieces in the back of my closet that occasionally emerge like a lost tribe that time forgot coming out of the Amazonian rain forest. No more do I come away from shopping trips with guilt that weighs heavier than the impulse purchases in my bag. In fact, two drawers of underthings/pajamas/workout wear aside, my entire wardrobe (coats included) fits on one 3-ft long closet rod.
Which, unfortunately leaves a lot of room in my closet for purses. Hey, I never said I was perfect.
It’s not that I don’t see amazing, beautiful pieces that also look amazing when I try them on (I’m not made of steel). It’s just that I have drummed it into my head over THREE YEARS that, “I lived just fine without it yesterday, and I will live just fine without it tomorrow.”
Weird how that makes us feel uncomfortable, right? How sad is it that we have to work hard at reconditioning ourselves to be content with less?
It’s not that ‘less is more.’ It is ‘less is enough.’
Redefining ‘Perfect Productivity’
So, to bring this whole thing full circle, part of the reason we are so hung up on achieving ever-higher yields from our time and effort is because we have been suckered into chasing ‘more.’
I’m not saying this is an excuse to slack off or give up. In future, posts, I’ll be talking about how/why we need to use ‘less is enough’ to fuel extraordinary effort to achieve extraordinary results.
What I am saying is that we need to stop the knee-jerk reaction to the half-empty glass. We have been conditioned to mobilize our efforts to do whatever it take to make that glass FULL! Because FULL is complete! FULL represents the proof of success! FULL is the hallmark of Perfect Productivity.
Maybe sometimes the glass does need to get to FULL. But, maybe…sometimes it doesn’t. Maybe sometimes, the glass is complete with whatever it contains in that moment. Maybe there’s a bigger glass we need to fill. Maybe this is our cue to drain the glass to the bottom.
Okay, I’ll stop with the metaphors. For now.
Not saying they won’t be back at some point (i.e. next post).
What do YOU think about the value of LESS? Agree? Disagree? Want to talk about them Red Sox (yes, still basking in the glow, thankyouverymuch)? Gimme a shout in the comments! I love hearing from you 🙂
Also, be sure to check out my YouTube channel with Kristen Lamb – Reynolds & Lamb.
1 thought on “The Half-Full Glass is Just Fine”
Love this! Being content with where you are is so important to mental health, but it is definitely a tricky balance between contentment and motivation to keep growing your career.
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