By Leo Babauta
I have a problem, and I think most people do as well: I want to do everything.
OK, not actually every single thing, but I want to do more than I possibly can:
Obviously, this is all impossible. But I bet I’m not alone in constantly wanting all of this and more.
There’s a term for this in Buddhism that sounds judgmental but it’s not: “greed.” The term “greed” in this context just describes the very human tendency to want more of what we want.
It’s why we’re overloaded with too many things to do, overly busy and overwhelmed. It’s why we’re constantly distracted, why we overeat and shop too much and get addicted to things. It’s why we have too much stuff, and are in debt.
Greed is so common that we don’t even notice it. It’s the foundation of our consumerist society. It’s the ocean that we’re swimming, so much a part of the fabric of our lives that we can’t see that it’s there.
So what can we do about this tendency called greed? Is there an antidote?
There absolutely is.
The traditional antidote to greed in Buddhism is generosity. And while we will talk about the practice of generosity, the antidote I’d like to propose you try is focus.
Focus is a form of simplicity. It’s letting go of everything that you might possibly want, to give complete focus on one important thing.
Imagine that you want to get 20 things done today. You are eager to rush through them all and get through your to-do list! But instead of indulging in your greed tendency, you decide to simplify. You decide to focus.
Let’s talk about the practice of complete focus.
The Practice of Complete Focus
This practice can be applied to all of the types of greed we mentioned above — wanting to do everything, read everything, say yes to everything, go everywhere, eat all the things.
Identify the urge:
See the effects:
Focus with generosity:
Practice with the resistance:
Let go of everything, and generously give your complete focus to one thing. Simplify, and be completely present.
You can do this with your urge to do all tasks, read all things, do all hobbies, say yes to all people and projects. But you can also do it with possessions: choose just to have what you need to be happy, and simplify by letting go of the rest. You can do the same with travel: be satisfied with where you are, or with going to one place and fully being there with it.
You don’t need to watch everything, read everything, eat everything. You can simplify and do less. You can let go and be present. You can focus mindfully.