Paring Ideas

As we learn, we can pare down ideas that we find out don’t matter

Words by Leo Babauta

As minimalists, we often talk about paring down possessions, and sometimes paring down what we do. But what about what we think?

Is there any use in paring down thinking? I’ve found myself doing this over time, in many areas.

My ideas about exercise have been simplified over the years. I used to worry about the ideal mileage, percentage of increase in mileage, intervals, reps and sets, weights and progression, lifts, workouts, programs… it was very complicated. But as I’ve learned more about fitness, I’ve dropped most of those ideas. I now know that none of that matters much, as I’ve let go of specific fitness goals. Now I just try to move on most days, and have fun doing it. I’ve dropped ideas about schedules, about programs, about loads and goals. I’m left with the simplest of ideas.

Same applies to diet. I used to worry about not eating grains, or soy, or processed foods, or fruits, or chemicals. Should I eat quinoa or steel-cut oats or amaranth or chia seeds or bulgur wheat or buckwheat? I used to count calories. Now I just try to eat real plant foods most of the time, and am mindful of my eating. It’s simpler this way.

About writing: I worried about structure and voice and style and terseness and grammar and schedules and tools and reading the best authors and the snowflake method and editing and much more. Now I just write when I’m inspired, and I let it flow.

About work: I worried about productivity and goals and action items and meetings and paperwork and the Pareto principle and the perfect desk and the perfect computer setup. Now I use simple tools, and do what I’m excited about.

The same is true of anything I’ve done. About finances, I just spend less than I earn, and have my bills paid automatically. About my site, I just write and publish and forget about comments and ads and stats and social networking. About my social life, I just meet with a friend and try to be present. I could go on all day, but you get the point.

When we start out with something, we usually will try everything. But as we learn, we can pare down ideas that we find out don’t matter. We’re left with the essentials.

Leo Babauta

Zen Habits is a blog written by Leo Babauta about implementing zen habits in daily life. It offers suggestions for how to live and also includes frequent references to how Leo Babauta has implemented these habits. He covers topics such as simplifying, living frugally, parenting, happiness, motivation, eliminating debt, saving, eating healthily and successfully implementing good habits.

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