There seems to be a trend happening lately in which I come across something while reading that directly addresses my concern at the time.

Recently, while I was in the throes of an oh-no-I’m-overwhelmed-and-I-need-to-simplify-my-life-a-bit spell, a post from the Zen Habits blog arrived in my inbox. Just like that, I had my answer.

Well, to be accurate, first there were a couple questions:

“What would you do if your life was a blank slate?

If it were an empty container, with limited space, what would you put in it?”

I suspect that you’ll agree with me here: I don’t usually think this way about my problems. I rarely start at Square One. I’m much more inclined to start at Where I Am Now, and then try to backtrack to figure out where I went astray or lost hold of the steering wheel.

This approach seems easier. It feels more manageable to try to solve my problems with small steps like committing to spending less time on social media, subscribing to fewer blogs or planning my errands ahead of time. But the problem with small steps is that often they aren’t enough to make a significant change; they’re difficult to track and sustain, and they’re typically less meaningful in the grand scheme of things because they revolve around the “extras,” which are the last things to go into my container anyway.

Thinking in reverse, however, leads me straight to the core. If I start with that empty container and I ask myself what I want to put in there, the Big Stuff goes in first. Health. Loved Ones. Work. Blog.

Those are my priorities, the few things that I won’t scale back. And starting with them ensures that I give each one the full time and attention required for me to continue growing and thriving in that particular area of my life.

Okay. That makes sense. So the lesson here is simple: in the immortal words of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, “begin at the beginning.” Empty out your container, start over, start with the Big Stuff. The rest is just filler.


Read The Empty Container, the Zen Habits post that prompted this.


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