How To Get Everything You Want In Life (By Working Less)

What you seek is seeking you.
— Rumi
How To Get Everything You Want In Life (By Working Less)

You can achieve more while working less. But to make that possible, you have to make sure that the less you do matters more.

Every year has an inescapable date that carries a not-so-subtle reminder that life is going fast and you're one year older. And in a society that's driven by speed and doing, life begins to blur as we mistake busyness for importance. We forget what it's like to sit in peace, without chasing down our next project, idea, or task someone needs from us.

We look at someone with a bursting-at-the-seams schedule and assume they're thriving.

This belief guides many of the entrepreneurs and peak performers I work with. We carry a belief that motion gives meaning. But often, on the inside, we're crying out for help. We're gasping for air, or some semblance of "making it." Dreaming of a moment where we can slow down and enjoy the fruits of our labour – but without that gnawing fear of it going up in a puff of smoke if we take the time to breathe.

People who thrive on being the best, often see the movement as the only way to not lose what they've worked so hard to attain. The never-ending days and grind feels like a right of passage. It's like a snowmobile hydroplaning across frigid water. There's a deep belief that you'll sink into the abyss if you let up on the throttle. The drive to keep going feels like life and death.

Three months ago, I felt a pop in my back while exercising at the gym. I brushed it off and was back the next day, determined to push through the pain. Plagued with back pain on a couple of occasions, I figured this was a kink I could just work through.

I refused to stand still and listen to my body. The result, I still haven't returned to the gym. I had been going 4-5x a week for the previous year and a half, so it was a devastating knock to my identity. It had become part of who I was. Not to mention, an absolute lifesaver for my mental health

Pain became a shadow I could not shake. A walk to the end of the alley behind my house without biting my lips in blood-drawing pain was considered a win.

When I moved with speed, both in my business and life, I never truly occupied myself with the present moment. When I faced depression, my thoughts were haunted by the past. I rarely find myself living in the rear-view mirror now. I'm too preoccupied with the future and what I want to do with my life. As my Dad often refers to them, the twin thieves. They both keep you too busy to live the only life you have, the one you're sharing with me right now.

Part of what has helped me step into the present and rest into recovery has been a practice of yoga. There's no blaring music, or emphasis on speed and crushing your last set. It's the perfect place to shake the shadow. You see what can be achieved by actually working less. You're not pitting a war against your body and mind. You start to see the mind and body not as separate, but like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Delicious separately, but mouth-watering when slathered together like the match made in heaven they are.

Every opportunity still presents a chance to push yourself. But it's under the guide of tuning into your body in a way you can actually hear what's being said. Silence isn't an absence of noise. It's a quality of mind.

As was explained to me at Modo Yoga, if you ever wonder why your muscles shake, this is a positive sign that your body is changing. Muscles shaking means that you are working at an intensity that is challenging the muscles on a level outside of your comfort zone. Shaking, in fact, is a sign of strength because it means you are going beyond what feels easy and familiar.

This teaching carries over to other areas of life in that it's about sustaining positions. Planting your feet in the here and now is what gives you personal power. Your muscles generate force and capacity to give more, do more and be more. That kind of engagement simply isn't possible when you're moving fast. Clarity comes from stillness in the same way that confusion comes from chaos.

Jerry Colonna is best described as "the CEO whisperer" of tech in Silicon Valley. In his recent book Reboot: Leadership And The Art Of Growing Up he shared that getting leaders to slow down, stand still and breathe is one of his main objectives. Because "then you can begin to ask yourself the hardest questions: Who am I? What do I believe about the world? What do success and failure mean to me (and not to everyone else)? What kind of adult do I want to be? And, most helpful, how have I been complicit in creating the conditions in my life that I say I don't want?"

You're going to feel like you need to push through these questions, but right now is an ideal moment to begin again. Your track record for getting through tough days is 100% so far and today is no different. I'm not asking you to toss out everything you've worked so hard to get. I'm asking you to lean into the fear and feel the shake of your muscles as you step out of your comfort zone.

Author Jennifer Louden has helped millions of people make this shift amidst the struggles of past choices, events and being discouraged about how hard it can be. She offers a fresh twist on beginning again that starts with burning everything that doesn't serve you. "Begin again to listen to your own desires. Begin again to make time for what matters to you, even a tiny bit. Begin again to touch the stillness and being at your core. Begin again to create in ways that bring you alive. Begin again to make the life that only you can make."

Like I said, to achieve more while working less, the things you do need to matter more. The only things that matter exist at your very core. Psychiatrist Carl Jung put it bluntly. "Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate."

Olivia Wilde has had a very busy career, and just recently has had a chance to slow down and look around.