Many of you already know Leo Babauta from reading ZenHabits.net. He has recently written a book called Power of Less, The: The Fine Art of Limiting Yourself to the Essential…in Business and in Life. The Power of Less has a lot of good advice to help you change your life.
As we start the new year, most people make resolutions to change. The practical steps laid out in The Power of Less can help you make the changes that really matter in life. I recently interviewed Leo about his book which will be available tomorrow.
You made a lot of changes in your life a few years ago. What were those changes and what was the catalyst for you to make them?
Well, I was living an unhealthy life–overweight, eating junk food, sedentary, smoking, overworked and overstressed, didn’t see my family much–and I was unhappy about all of this. Of course I’d tried to make many changes but failed.
But it was quitting smoking that really started the ball rolling for me–I made a promise to my oldest daughter and to my wife that I’d quit, and I didn’t want to let them down. So after trying and failing at quitting seven times, I did some research and tried some effective habit-changing techniques that turned out to be really great. Not only was I able to quit smoking, but I used what I learned to start a second habit–running. Then I started waking earlier so I could run, then started eating healthier one little step at a time. Other habits included: training for a marathon, getting organized and productive, starting a blog and writing for it daily, becoming more present in my life, simplifying and decluttering, and much more.
One habit at a time, starting small and improving only gradually. It really works.
Why did you decide to write, The Power of Less? How does the book add to information you already have on your blog, ZenHabits.net?
I wrote about a lot of the things I was learning on Zen Habits, and it turns out that a lot of people wanted to do the same things. Not only that, but every day I was receiving emails (and still am) about how the things I shared on Zen Habits have changed people’s lives. It was amazing, and gratifying, and humbling.
So I decided to share what I’ve learned in a book–Power of Less, The: The Fine Art of Limiting Yourself to the Essential…in Business and in Life–and condense all my knowledge into essential principles, in one small volume. It makes things much easier for people, instead of having to dig through 700 posts on Zen Habits and try to figure out a solution from the overwhelming number of things I’ve written about. This is a collection of useful tools, essential principles, and a blueprint for changing your life.
In today’s society most people are focused on getting more and more. Happiness is often associated with how much you have and how much you can do. How can simplifying your life help improve the quality of your life?
It wasn’t that long ago when I was a subscriber to that definition of happiness: I wanted a bigger house and car, a better job with a bigger salary, bigger TV and stereo and computer and everything else you can think of. I’ve learned since then, though, that none of that will make you happy. You’ll get it and you’ll want more. It’s an endless cycle of wanting more, and getting it and wanting more … in the meantime, you’re working your life away earning the money for all of this and missing out on life and your loved ones.
So I decided to simplify. I focused instead on the things that make me happiest: spending time with my family, writing, reading, and running. I simplified by eliminating everything possible that wasn’t on this list, to make room for those four essential things. And now my life is uncluttered, filled only with the things that make me happy, that I value most, that I love doing, that I’m passionate about. That’s how you find happiness–by doing the things that are important to you, and not doing the rest.
There are a lot of people who want to make change in their lives but feel overwhelmed and don’t know how to start. How did you begin to put these principles into action in your own life? What are some simple things people can do to put themselves on the road to change?
One step at a time. The famous saying, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step” is very true. You can’t do all of these changes at once, just as you can’t make a journey of a thousand miles all in one step. You have to take it one step at a time. Start with a single small step–create your Short List of essential things, just like I mentioned above–that’s one step. Then make a list of all the commitments in your life that aren’t on the list, and start eliminating them one by one, to make room for the essential things. If you want to exercise, for example, simplify your life a bit to make time to exercise. Then–and this is crucial–actually make the time to exercise, and get out and do it!
Make one small change at a time, and pretty soon you’ll have made some amazing progress. Oh, and most importantly: enjoy the journey, every step of the way!
This interview was featured in the Festival of Frugality.