Is Less More?
I have heard or read the statement, “Less is more!” numerous times, lately. This has caused me to wonder about the statement and why it is used in many different areas. For example, I’ve seen or heard it used in education, farming, architecture, goal setting, child-rearing, business and poetry. In a recent post, I mentioned that a friend, who had returned from a conference, told me that the main idea of the conference was, “less is more.” So, let’s explore this saying and see if it makes sense, more or less! :-)
Often, the motto of “less is more” is attributed to the architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. He used it to describe his aesthetic tactic of arranging components of a building to create an impression of extreme simplicity. Buckminster Fuller also used a form of the motto, “Doing more with less,” as an overall goal of an engineer. But, apparently, it was first used by German poet, Christoph Martin Wieland in 1774, long before van der Rohe or Fuller. Many others have used the motto throughout the last three centuries, including Robert Browning, who included in his poem, Andrea del Sarto, the lines:
“Who strive–you don’t know how the others strive,
To paint a little thing like that you smeared
Carelessly passing with your robes afloat,–
Yet do much less, so much less, Someone says,
(I know his name, no matter)–so much less!
Well, less is more, Lucrezia”
Less is more is now often considered the motto for minimalism. Since minimalism often implies and uses words such as, “extreme simplification, fewest, barest, and basic,” I think it makes sense to have Less Is More as its motto. Let’s now move out of the history of the statement and consider some of its everyday uses and/or applications.
I remember hearing a story about a person who was riding an ostrich in Africa. Apparently it’s not only possible to ride an ostrich, but it can travel up to 35 mph with a human on its back. In the story, a man was riding very fast on the back of an ostrich and as he passed a friend standing on the side of the path, his friend yelled, “Where are you going?” The ostrich rider turned toward his friend and yelled back, “I have no idea, ask the ostrich!” Many of us, at work, home and play, live our lives with such intensity and at such a pace that we are like the person riding the ostrich. We have way too much to do and not near enough time to complete it, therefore we are at the mercy of our schedule (ostrich.). We are expected (often with pressure) to multi-task and accomplish an almost impossible extended list of “to-dos.”
So, how can we get out of this rat race or should I write “ostrich race?” :-) Why not try doing less? I know, I know, that sounds like something nice to say and at the same time, too simple. I think that doing less is often very difficult. When we purposefully do less, we might think we are demonstrating laziness and irresponsibility which could lead to being less productive. But, are we doing good work when all we are doing is “riding the ostrich” that decides the direction and quality of all we do for us? Suppose we approach each day in a different way and work to change this “out-of-our-control” pattern? How, you might ask?
Work toward doing less! To do less will require a paradigm shift and/or change for many of us. Doing less will require courage and overcoming a feeling of being lazy and losing productivity. But, doing less may also allow us to enjoy what we accomplish. When we learn to do less of what is unnecessary, we learn to develop a life of productivity that results in feeling good about our life. It increases our self-worth and self-esteem.
Just imagine doing one task at a time and then feeling a sense of calm and fulfillment. Imagine a life that has great meaning because you are focused on the quality completion of each task and knowing that you have had the time to dedicate the required effort. When we are in constant activity and don’t have time to reflect on what we are doing, we often depend upon routines and habits of the past. These routines and habits, without refection, will include many bad ones that, if we spent time thinking about them, then we would never use them.
So, consciously do less and consciously reflect more on what you are doing. Less AND more! :-) This will help us contribute more to our family, workplace, and our own lives. Less “hectic-ness,” less of constant activity, less being out-of-control, less hurried-ness, less bad habits can lead to more happiness, more quality productivity, more calmness, more effectiveness, more contribution, and more of a fulfilling life.
Is less more? It can be. It’s up to you!
More or less, I would love a comment! :-)