Friday, May 29, 2009
less > more
This image is my rendering of an assignment given in a graduate class I am taking. We had to write a "mission statement" for our lives. Here is what I turned into my professor, along with the image of this collage I created:
As I was preparing for this assignment, I decided to start with something I had had my students do recently - make a collage of what they want for their future. I had been wanting to make one for myself, and thought this would be a good time to do that and help me brainstorm for my "mission statement." I cut several things out and left them out on the kitchen table all week, giving them a glance or two every now and then and not really knowing where to go from there. One day I spent a couple of hours at a coffee shop writing, sorting out the things that matter most to me and bravely trying to craft some poetic vision for my life. I left that time feeling like I had some ideas, but nothing was coming together. I felt intimidated by the task, overwhelmed by how I was going to come up with something so big, and how in the world I was ever going to live up to it.
This afternoon I was painting some shelves that a friend is going to help me install tomorrow. It was while I was painting that one of the cutouts from my collage project came to mind. It was an advertisement (for what I don't remember) that said simply,
less > more
As I thought about that statement, I realized that this should be my mission statement. I often work too hard and don't rest enough. I find myself "going above and beyond" when it is not necessary, and then I end up burnt out and exhausted. When I think about the most beautiful moments in my life, they are those tiny moments, when I have slowed down enough to really experience beauty through a micro lens.
I lost my father in March of this year. I have to confess I did not have much energy to come up with a lofty, wordy, hard-to-live-up to mission for my life. But this fits. It is easy to remember, and it came easily to me once I stopped working so hard. Uncanny how the idea came in a moment in which I was painting, and not much else.
When I am counseling clients, I need to remember that the less I talk, the more I listen. And the less I am trying to help them get on the path I think they should travel, the more they are free to find their own path. When I realize how little responsibility I actually have in the counseling relationship, the more I empower my clients to make their own choices. When I get out of the way, that is when the magic happens.
When I rest, I am giving myself more energy to do the things I care about. When I cut out unnecessary activities from my life, I am freer to be spontaneous, and to discover the world around me. When I am doing less, I am living more. On a spiritual level, the less I try to impress God with my deeds, the more he is able to work in my heart. I have also come to realize that it is not about what I do that sustains my relationships with my friends and family - they love me for the person I am: nothing more, and nothing less.
Therefore, my "mission statement" is this one image. The collage I created is a visual reminder to me that when I face daily decisions about how to live my life, less really is greater than more.