by Leo Babauta
Our lives are filled with things we need to do. Until we look a little more closely at those needs.
Think about what needs you might have: the need to check your email every 15 minutes, or empty your inbox, or read all your blogs, or keep something perfectly neat, or dress to work in the latest fashions. The need to constantly badger your kids about things, or control your co-workers, or meet with everyone who wants a meeting, or be wealthier and wealthier, or own a nice car.
Where do these types of needs come from? They’re completely made up.
Sometimes the needs are created by society: the industry you’re in requires you to work until 9 p.m. or dress in impeccable suits. Your neighborhood has certain standards and if you don’t have an impeccable lawn and two BMWs in the driveway, you’ll be judged. If you don’t have the latest iPhone, you won’t have your geek cred or status symbol, and you’ll be jealous of those who do.
Sometimes the needs are made up by ourselves: we feel the urge to check our emails or RSS feeds or news websites or text messages or Twitter accounts constantly, even though there is no negative societal or work consequences if we don’t keep up with them. We want a perfectly made up bed even if no one else cares. We want to create a list of goals in life or for the year and achieve every one of them, even if nothing bad will happen if we don’t achieve most of them.
Either of these types of made-up needs can be eliminated. All it takes is the willingness to let go.
Examine one of your made-up needs, and ask yourself why it’s such an important need. Ask what would happen if you dropped them. What good would it do? Would you have more free time and more space to concentrate and create, or less stress and fewer things to check off each day? What bad things would happen — or might happen? And how likely is it that these things would happen? And how could you counter-act them?
These needs are created by fears, and the more honest we are about these fears, the better. Face the fears, and give yourself a little trial period — allow yourself to let go of the need, but just for an hour, or a day. Just for a week. If nothing bad happens, extend the trial, and slowly in this manner you’ll find that the need wasn’t a need at all.
It can feel good to let go, and by letting go, you are freeing yourself.