The Power of Less - Goodlife Zen

The Power of Less


By Mary Jaksch

Most personal growth books give me a head-ache. They’re so demanding. But not Leo Babauta’s new book The Power of Less. (This is Leo Babauta of Zen Habits fame).

Leo Babauta leads you through the process of change like a friend taking you by the hand when things get tough.

Let me show you what I mean. Here are two different ways of connecting with the reader in order to get them to change. First Leo (from his chapter Simple Daily Routines):

I highly recommend that you think about your mornings and evenings, as they are the two key times in your day, and they can do so much to change your life.

Now compare this with Steve Pavlina (from his book Personal Development for Smart People)

In order to change your habits, you must focus on your desired outcome and exert serious effort. The more disciplined you become, the easier it is to change your habits.

There’s a significant difference in tone, don’t you think? Leo’s voice is gentle and encouraging. He uses his own experience and suggests ways in which we too could apply what has worked for him.

Steve Pavlina, on the other hand, takes a high stance. He seems to be wagging his finger at us. I immediately get tired and want to chill out with a mystery novel when I read “You must…”, or  “…exert discipline”. I think it reminds me of some of my strict school teachers and brings out the rebel in me.

In contrast, Leo Babauta takes a gentle approach. It works for me because it doesn’t create resistance.

The Power of Less sets out six basic principles:

Principle #1 Set Limits

By setting limitations, we must choose the essential. So in everything you do, learn to set limits.

Personally, I find this principle difficult to follow, because one of my life mottos is, “Have my cake AND eat it too!” I want my life to be full to the brim! But I don’t want to be stressed out, either. Leo’s suggestions are very practical and I’ve started to follow them. What I’ve found is that setting limits doesn’t mean that my life then feels limited. Setting simple limits can actually make my life feel more vibrant and more meaningful.

A life without limits is taking a cup of red dye and pouring it into the ocean, and watching  the color dilute into nothingness. Limited focus is putting that same cup of dye into a gallon of water.

Principle  #2 Choose the essential

How do you know what’s essential? That’s the key question. Once you know that, the rest is easy.

Leo has a great list of criteria that help us pinpoint what is essential to us. He takes us through our values, and goals, and encourages us to think about what we love, and what is important to us. I find the following question especially fruitful: “What has the most long-term impact?”

By choosing the essential, we create great impact with minimal resources. Always choose the essential to maximize your time and energy.

Principle #3 Simplify

Simplifying isn’t meant to leave your life empty – it’s meant to leave space in your life for what you really want to do.

Simplifying in Leo’s terms means eliminating the non-essential. A direct result of this principle in my life is that my emails have got a lot shorter!

Principle #4 Focus on the present

Focus on the task at hand instead of multitasking, and you’ll be more productive. Focus on the present, to reduce anxiety and stress.

As you can imagine, my Zen heart lifts when I read this kind of stuff! It’s so true: focus on the present moment offers ease and capacity instead of stress.

Principle #5 Create new habits

Create new habits’ is the secret to making lasting changes that will actually improve your life.

Leo leads the readers through a practical way of using thirty-day challenges to make lasting changes.

Principle #6 Start small

Choose something so small that success is almost guaranteed. Sure, a small success is not as satisfying as a big success, but it’s only small in the short term.


This is a principle I especially like! Baby steps are important. They allow us to stay motivated and to move forward at our own pace. I think that in everything new we attempt, there is a certain amount of lag. That is, the results appear much later than the effort we put in.

There’s much more in The Power of Less. Leo lays out practical ways to apply each one of the six principles.

I love The Power of Less and recommend it whole-heartedly! It’s important to have support at hand for our long journeys. As Leo says:

Sticking with something for the long term is the true path to anything worthwhile.

If we really want to achieve something in life, we need to keep on walking our path – even when we feel doubts or fear or exhaustion. When we’re down,  it’s good to get useful advice and warm encouragement.

Keep a copy of The Power of Less beside your bed for those moments.

About the author

Mary Jaksch

Mary is passionate about helping people create a happy, purposeful, and fulfilling life. She is the founder of GoodlifeZEN and also the brains behind, one of the biggest blogs for writers on the Net. Mary is also a Zen Master, a mother, and a 5th Degree Black Belt.

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