Via Negativa: 7 Simple Techniques to Transform Your Life

Or how to “do more” by “doing less”!

Photo by Sebastian Voortman from Pexels

Most often in life, we are always in pursuit of adding more to our lives. We want more income, more freedom, more creativity, better health, and a better state of mind. And rightly so, we also spend so much of our time and energy in these pursuits. 

In the past one and a half years —largely due to the pandemic and the subsequent lockdown that has restricted our normal activities — I have realized that we can also add more to our life by actually “doing less”, rather than “doing more”. This technique of doing addition through subtraction is known as Via Negativa.

“Via Negativa” is a Latin phrase in Christian theology that tries to explain God by focusing on what he is not, rather than what he is. I first came across the term in Taleb’s Incerto series. Later, it was while reading Osho I was able to see its effectiveness across all spheres of life, especially in relation to mental health and peace. 

(Like Health = Absence of Illness; Bliss = Absence of Misery, etc.)

If you think about it, we are often more clear about what we do not like than what we like, or what does not work than what works. That’s why the timeless wisdom of Via Negativa is super effective. 

As I have tried this trick (and experienced its effectiveness) for over a year now, I will jump straight to the 7 techniques.

  • Health and Fitness: Doing workouts every day can be tough. What’s easier is eliminating Sugar from your life, completely. Eliminate other junks too. 

  • Daily News and Updates: Cut down (better eliminate) the daily dose of news-cum-controversies from your life. What’s new and trendy today is outdated tomorrow. If anyone noteworthy happens, you will know anyway.
  • Income and Savings: Minimize unnecessary “want” from your life. Try minimalism if you can. It’s only after you save, you learn to invest, and once you learn to do both, you are on your own way.
  • Relationships and Friends Circle: Obvious toxic people we all get rid of. But it’s about getting rid of those who make you feel negative or sap your energy without you even knowing why. Don’t judge or condemn them. But just get rid. You don’t need to seek for reasons.
  • Learning to say No: Time is freedom. Freedom is the ultimate drug. Sleep is important. Lazying around is important. So, learn to differentiate between genuine help and doing that extra office work for your colleague. Start saying no; don’t feel guilty.
  • Meditation: Incorporate the ultimate via negativa in your life. Meditate, which is to just sit down and do nothing. Try to attain the state of no mind. Try to add more peace to your life. 
  • To-do lists: You can perhaps do anything in life, but you can not do everything. Learn to separate “useful” from “essential”; cut down your to-do lists. Even from this list, start with whichever you feel is essential right now.

Remember, cultivating a new habit takes a lot of motivation and willpower. Not doing something is often far easier.

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