Having recently experienced a period of huge change, Cathy Madavan encourages each of us to live with more margin in our lives
The world can feel very frantic at times. With the constant quest for success, the saturation of news and views, endless deadlines, chores to do and people to see – I sometimes feel it’s all a bit much. Anyone else? And yet so often we live over-stretched and over-stressed lives, existing to the edge of our limits with no margin whatsoever. Perhaps we don’t realise that living to the max long-term has significant consequences, affecting our health, our relationships and our sense of wellbeing.
Over the last couple of years, I’ve found myself in a season of considerable change and loss, where much of our normal life, including our home, was stripped away. I was forced to face my limits and to consider what I really valued most in life – and what I could and should let go. The result is my new book: Why Less Means More: Making space for what matters most (SPCK). Here are a few of my reflections.
1 Less complexity, more clarity
Whatever the question, the world tells us the answer is more! More friends, more followers, more promotions, more status, more stuff, more email, more places to visit and more possibilities. But here’s the thing – we just can’t have it all or say yes to everything. In fact, when we say yes to one thing, we are effectively saying no to another. The answer to complexity, then, isn’t simplicity alone (most of us can’t bunk off work and live on an allotment forever). Instead, what we need is clarity around our priorities and where we want to invest our precious time and resources. And sometimes, yes, that means learning to let go.
2 Less pace, more space
Our time is limited but golly we do try and pack it full! Some days I run from one appointment to another. I may be physically present in one place, but my head is already thinking about the next meeting or task. But when we live at this speed, not only do we not focus properly where we are, but we also squeeze out opportunities to engage with interruptions, unexpected conversations or moments of relational connection. There is something to be said about finding a sustainable pace with pockets of space in the diary. We need to learn to breathe in the busyness.
Over the last couple of years, I’ve found myself in a season of considerable change and loss
3 Less consumer, more curator
In Why Less Means More I confess (in embarrassing detail) my inability to declutter when we moved out of our house. In my defence, I think I did quite well in the end (apart from the shoes and books. We don’t talk about that!). But the process of moving, and the subsequent eight months of living in our friends’ spare room, challenged me to consider again how much stuff we really need. What if we were able to curate and cherish our possessions and limit ourselves to buying less but better?
4 Less extraordinary, more ordinary
If Instagram was the real world, I would be seriously intimidated. People’s lives are apparently extraordinary! Just look at the amazing holidays, the smiling kids, the bikini-clad bodies and the happy groups of friends. Wow! Sadly, I suspect these idealised posts lead us to overlook the simple beauty and blessing of the ordinary things around us – the taste of a sweet and juicy tomato, a rose coming into bloom in the garden or the face of the small child who excitedly shares about their piece of art. The most extraordinary moments of all are often quite ordinary – if we pause to notice them.
5 Less me, more we
One thing stands out to me as I look back over the last couple of years: while it is important to value and care for ourselves, life is made worthwhile by the quality of our relationships. No wonder Jesus challenges us to focus on loving God and loving others – when difficulties come, those relationships are critical. And when life is good, we don’t want to celebrate alone! We are all limited in how many people we can truly know, so let’s treasure what matters most of all – our precious family and friends.