On doing more with less.
One of my favorite exercises to give humans is Warren Buffett’s two-list strategy. You start by making a list of 25 things that you’d love to accomplish in your life. They might be long-term goals or they might be the ways that you’re longing to have an impact. Once you come up with your 25 things, you pick your top five. These are the items that you’d regret if you never experienced or accomplished them. These five truths go on one list. This is what you’ll be focusing on making happen from here on in. The other 20 things go on a separate list that is equally as important.
This list is labelled “Avoid At All Costs.”
According to Warren, the reason people aren’t successful is not because they don’t know what their top five priorities are. It’s that they get distracted by the other 20 things. The danger with the second list is that what’s on it is interesting enough that you hazard frittering away your time on these items. As they aren’t the main goals that you’re hungry to experience, they’re ultimately just distractions that will prevent you from speaking and living your truth.
The first reason I so enjoy giving this exercise—that I regularly come back to—is because it’s simple and can bring a lot of clarity when someone is feeling overwhelmed by all their options. The second reason I share this gem is because I find the mental gymnastics that people will go through to justify holding the items on their “Avoid At All Costs” list. It’s impressive, to say the least
On the one hand, we’re craving simplicity. We want to be seen and heard and known for doing something memorable. On the other hand, we don’t want to go through the discomfort of letting go of what’s not meant for us. The hard truth about being in this spot is that we have to choose one or the other. Otherwise, we risk selling ourselves short and not reaching our full potential. Given, you might not care to focus on five things that deeply matter to you. That’s not the point. What I’m getting at is that you actively need to pursue space and clarity in your life lest the noise and clutter of all the muchness you have at your disposal drowns you.
Of all the things that long-term travel has taught me, it’s to do more with less. I have learned—in the almost 5 years since I started wanderlusting—that having all the options in the world might sound appealing and it’s not always like that. Decision making takes a lot of energy and can become a rabbit hole of anxiety and overwhelm. I’d much rather focus in on a few things than many. I accept that I can’t do it all and see it all. I find, though, that because I’m so connected to my inner truth, I don’t usually feel like I’m missing out on anything.
Whatever moment I’m in is where I’m meant to be.
Which might sound cliché and—when you’re in alignment with those top five things on your list—you start to engage in intentional action that moves you directly towards what you want. It’s not really the Law of Attraction so much as it’s giving yourself some parameters that take the headwork out of filtering the millions of possibilities that are being dumped on you on the daily. And let me tell you, giving yourself permission to do more with less is one of the most liberating feelings you can experience. Of course, you’ll have to try it to understand what I mean.
Naturally, your current way of being is going to push back against you letting go of the familiar. It might be because she has a “do-it-all” mentality. Or perhaps your current way has a lot of FOMO or is unsure of what she wants so holds onto everything as a default. My guess is that your current way of being is TERRIFIED of going all in on what she’s deeply longing for. This would mean committing to something and with commitment comes the possibility of disappointment. Whatever the reason, what’s important is that you cultivate the awareness that will allow you to loosen your grip on those other 20 things.
What does holding onto those 20 “Avoid At All Costs” items allow for? What does it close down?
As simple and straightforward as this exercise is, it only really works when you’re brutally honest with yourself. Honest enough to say, “I don’t know what I want so I need to figure that out sooner as opposed to later.” And/or honest enough to say, “This thing that I love isn’t serving me anymore so I need to choose to let it go.” This isn’t meant to be easy. If you bump up against a few edges in the process, you’re probably doing it right.
When I first did this exercise in late 2016, I ended up letting go of teaching yoga and giving Thai yoga massage. While I was very experienced and good at both of these offerings, they weren’t my top five. I squirmed initially after making this decision. I missed the personal and interpersonal gratification that came with these practices. My yoga students said that my classes felt like a moving sermon and I missed being able to hold space for people in that way. Still. Not my top five.
After just over a year of having done this exercise, I can say that I have gained more than I have lost. By letting go of those 20 things, I have created space for what I’m truly longing for to not only move in but also to flourish. In Integral Coaching, we say “include and transcend” when talking about taking what’s working from your current way of being as you grow into and embody your new way of being. So nothing good is ever lost. It just takes a different form.
This, love, is what waking up looks like.
Of course—the more you become clear on your truth—the more your top five things will become clear as well. They might even change completely. Initially, however, get something down and work from that point. It could very well be that the gold you’re digging for is underneath one of those tip five items. And it’s only when you allow yourself to take a deep dive into what’s true for you, that your more brilliant truths will become apparent. Part of this exercise is strengthening your ability to choose and stick to your guns. I’ll give you a practice in a couple of days to help you through this process too.
Until then, put together that list of 25 things and see what resistance you come up against. Notice your thoughts around letting go of things you like that will end up taking more than they give. Remind yourself that your time is finite. You can’t do it all. And you can choose to do what deeply matters to you. Sounds sweet, doesn’t it? Trust me, love, it is.