How to Create an Effortless Life – Effortlessly

Leo Babauta

Just how effortless is your life?

Do you live a life of flow and ease? Or is everyday for you full of stress and pressure?

Imagine what your life would be like if you could spend each day in contentment and mindfulness. A day in which you only do those things you truly love doing. And your life is full of simple joys.

Well, I have just read a book which shows you just how you can get such a life – effortlessly.

I have been talking to my friend Leo Babauta of Zen Habits who has recently published his latest book called “The Effortless Life: A Manual for Contentment, Mindfulness, & Flow“.

This is a unique book in that though it’s been authored by Leo, it was publicly written, and the world was invited to help collaboratively write and edit the document. The book is therefore the result of a collaborative effort between Leo and a few others.

Leo’s book is a concise guide to living an effortless life – and the entire work is “uncopyrighted”.

You can read more about Leo’s new book here – “The Effortless Life: A Manual for Contentment, Mindfulness, & Flow

If you haven’t heard of Leo Babauta, then let me tell you abit more about him.

Leo is the world’s leading blogger whose blog Zen Habits now has over 230,000 subscribers and is transforming the world with his message of simple productivity.

Please do check out Zen Habits today and be sure to subscribe.

Leo has become a friend and a mentor on my blogging journey – and he kindly agreed to an interview for Make It Happen readers:-

1. Leo, welcome to my blog and thanks for accepting my request for an interview.

A lot of my readers already know of you through previous interviews and articles about you. I have read all of your books to date and learnt a lot from you. But I have to say that with your latest book you have surpassed yourself!

Please describe your new book in more detail – and what do you mean when you say it’s been written publicly with help from the world?

Leo: The Effortless Life is the culmination of the last several years of my writing, as I’ve moved from trying to maximize every minute for productivity, to simplifying life to the bare essentials. It’s my take on Lao Tzu’s philosophy, including “Be Content with what you have; rejoice in the way things are. When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you.”

It was written on a public Google Doc, so that people could watch me write it live, add comments and suggestions, and even contribute and help edit the book as it was being written. It was a massive collaboration, and one of the most chaotic, scary, and exciting writing projects I’ve ever done.

2. The theme of my blog is all about making things happen, which may seem to be in direct contrast with what you are advocating.

So just what do you mean by effortless living?

Leo: Effortless living is removing the extraneous things we’ve created that cause life to be more of a struggle. So for example if you’re striving to make things happen, what would happen if you stopped striving to make things happen, and just started doing? You might not care about making things happen, and so the results don’t matter as much as the process. You might have more fun doing what you’re doing, and be more present doing it. Ironically, I’ve found that by letting go of goals and trying to get certain results, I’ve accomplished more. But that’s only a side effect of living effortlessly.

3. You describe in your book about how you easily learnt to swim once you stopped trying so hard. As someone else who can’t yet swim, what advise can you give me and my readers to achieve something easily, in the context of effortless living?

Leo: Water is very dense, and can either be something we struggle against, or something that buoys us up, that helps us float. Life is the same way. Don’t struggle against it — creating arbitrary goals, trying to control things, complaining, being inconsiderate to others, creating too many tasks for yourself, having too many expectations, creating false needs and wants … these are ways that we create struggle. If you let go of these things, and learn to glide, life buoys you up.

4. You talk about Wu Wei & Doing Nothing – and I personally can NOT relate to that! (I am wondering if there is any help for me out there? Should I just go and live on a tropical island on my own without the internet?)

As per your book I tried doing everything mindfully for an hour – and wow, what a revelation! I learnt just how I am lacking in mindfulness most of the time.

So my real question is this – is it really possible to do nothing?

Leo: It’s not possible to literally do nothing, as we are always sitting or standing or lying down or breathing … but I’ve found that too often we feel that unless we are taking some kind of positive action, we are being passive, or lazy, or unproductive. This is why we take so many unnecessary actions — we’re not comfortable with pauses and inactivity. As a result, we struggle, we work too much. Do less. Act only when necessary. It’s a completely different mindset, but once you learn to do it, it’s wonderful.

5. You come across as someone who lives effortlessly. But do YOU ever have a bad hair day where effortless living goes out of the window and you become all frantic and frustrated?

Leo: Oh, absolutely. The things I’ve written in this book are mostly advice to myself. I’m learning along with everyone else, and only sharing the results of what I’ve learned so far. I still have lots to learn. I snap and get mad at my wife and kids sometimes. I get frustrated at the “stupidness” of strangers. Then I remind myself to give up expectations, and just live. It works wonders.

6. Leo, towards the end of your book you talk about realizing that we are already good enough:-

“A powerful realization that has helped me is simply this: You’re already good enough, you already have more than enough, and you’re already perfect.

You already have everything you need to be content, right here and right now.”

Yet there is so much talk in the personal development and the blogosphere about the need to set and achieve goals. But you are advocating living without goals and accepting that we are already enough and have enough. Please outline what you mean by this?

Leo: The personal development field (books and blogs) is built on the desire people have to be better, to improve themselves. At its heart, this desire is based on dissatisfaction with who we are. And none of us is immune to it. We have bad self-images, so that we feel fat or unproductive or unattractive or undisciplined. But this is only because we compare ourselves with images in the media, or perfect people who write blogs. Those are lies. The images we see in magazines, movies, TV shows … they are not real. They are designed to get us to want perfect abs, or be the perfect parent, or be the perfect entrepreneur. And if we want that perfection, of course we must buy their products.

I’m suggesting we let go of all that, and accept ourselves as already perfect. Sure, we may have too much fat, or get angry, or have too much clutter. But why is that necessarily bad? Why can’t we just accept ourselves as we are, and not compare ourselves to others, to false images? If we accept ourselves as we are, we no longer need to improve. That doesn’t mean we don’t do things that we’re passionate about, but it means that it’s rooted in love, and not self hate.

7. Final question Leo. The bit about your book that really resonated with me was where you say cause no harm and be compassionate. It ties up nicely with my idea about Personal Social Responsibility.

Here’s a quote directly from your book:-
“Want something meaningful to do? You don’t need to change jobs—just help others, in any way you can. Help coworkers to succeed. Be there for friends when they need you. Spend time with loved ones and encourage them. Volunteer to help the needy. Improve your community in small ways.”

Leo, you can improve the world community and make an even bigger impact in the world in the future. When will you effortlessly run for president?

(In other words, what’s next for you?).

Leo: It’s my belief that if we learn to accept ourselves as we are, we have improved the world. If we are happy with ourselves, we will start to treat ourselves well. We will treat others with compassion. We will then make the lives of others better. The world will change, one person at a time. It’s a revolutionary act, to love yourself.

And so my answer is that I have no plans, other than to love myself. I have no expectations for what will come from that, but so far it’s been deeply gratifying.

Thanks very much Leo for sharing your personal insights and tips.  We all look forward to living more effortlessly.

So there you are – you have heard all about effortless living from the master himself.

Now over to you – please reflect on how you are going to start living effortlessly.


What works for you?

What doesn’t work for you?

How do you create ease and flow in your life?  


  1. Karleena Gaylee says:

    “The personal development field (books and blogs) is built on the desire people have to be better, to improve themselves. At its heart, this desire is based on dissatisfaction with who we are.”

    I don’t directly agree with this thought. Personally, i delight in being dissatisfied of where i am, of what i am. I even deem it necessary to hate so much to the point of desperation, the very place where i am at – my current position at work, my accomplishments – because that is the only way that i become a better person. So, as for me, I will embrace this dissatisfaction. I will dream more and more until i reach that glory that is assigned to me before the foundation of the world. I don’t care how much i would struggle for surely, the same struggle will bring me greater joy and more rewarding prize.
    Karleena Gaylee’ latest post .."Be Content with what you have; rejoice in the way things are. When you realize there is nothing…"

    • Karleena, welcome to my blog.

      I also disagree with Leo in that not all “dissatisfaction” with where we currently are is negative.

      I too have driven myself forward in life with a strong desire to get away from where I was. Albeit, it’s more powerful to drive ourselves forward by looking at where we want to go rather than what we want to get away from.

      It’s a very powerful place to create your life from a point of complete satisfaction and acceptance of where you are currently.

      Different things work for different people – and it also depends on each particular situation for that person.

      Karleena, embrace your dissatisfaction and may your dreams lead you to a place of glory and fulfillment:-)
      Arvind Devalia’ latest post ..How to Create an Effortless Life – Effortlessly

  2. Arvind,

    Thanks for sharing Leo, and his new book with us. I can think of a few folks on my Christmas list would appreciate the book.



  3. Hi Arvind,
    I enjoyed your interview with Leo. I agree with him regarding personal development to a certain extent. We need to find the balance between striving to improve and accepting and loving ourselves as we are. I like the idea of living effortlessly though.
    Angela Artemis/Poweredbyintuition’ latest post ..Make Some Magic Today

    • Angela, happy thanksgiving week!

      We sure do need to find the balance between constantly striving to improve ourselves and just accepting & loving ourselves just as we are.

      But we do also need to have some drive and ambition to improve ourselves i.e. grow.

      This growth doesn’t necessarily have to be in terms of better job, more money, fulfilling relationship but can be in terms of our own spiritual growth.

      And the best spiritual growth occurs when we are able to fully and truly accept ourselves just as we are. So we both agree with Leo:-)

      Here’s to living effortlessly from hereon.
      Arvind Devalia’ latest post ..Find Your Bliss – Just Start Walking!

  4. Christopher Frawley says:


    I think there’s a difference between having goals and having attachment to the outcome. Without having read the book (yet), I think we’re talking about letting go of the attachment.

    Leo talks about putting energy into things we’re passionate about. I think nearly everyone gets a lift from feeling they’ve accomplished something. So having goals for the things that we’re passionate about makes sense to me. The feelings of failure and disappointment when things turn out differently or fall short are something we can control and perhaps this is really what we’re considering here.

    Thanks for sharing…
    Christopher Frawley’ latest post ..When a Stranger Shouts “You Can Do It!”

    • Christopher, welcome to my blog.

      Yes, there’s a huge difference between having goals and being attached to the outcome.

      It is indeed all about putting energy into the things you are passionate about.

      I usually get such a huge lift when I complete a new blog post – and my key lesson now is to let go of being attached to the success and popularity of each post!

      I am learning to judge the “success” of each blog post not by the number of comments or the number of social media shares it gets, but by the lasting impact it could have on say just one reader.

      Thanks Christopher for visiting and sharing your thoughts:-)
      Arvind Devalia’ latest post ..How to Create an Effortless Life – Effortlessly

  5. Arvind, I am so grateful for you sharing your interview with Leo. I will definitely read his book!

    The quote, ““Be Content with what you have; rejoice in the way things are. When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you.” by Lao Tzu truly hit the mark for me as I believe that I am in a perpetual state of practicing mindfulness… with an emphasis on exercising my abilities of detachment.

    At the moment I am contemplating the notion of letting go of goals and trying to get certain results actually leads to more accomplishments. This notion suggests to me that in order to make this happen, it is best to be mindful of the present situation… …my inner self expands this contemplation by hinting that what I do today is the actual journey. (i hope you do not mind me thinking out loud here 🙂 )

    With all of these kinds of thoughts, my question is how does one balance an effortless life with no goals and expectations while working within systems infested with goals and objectives? This is something for me to contemplate.
    Ajen’ latest post ..I dare you to look closely.

    • Ajen, welcome to my blog!

      I am so glad that this interview has inspired you to read Leo’s book:)

      You are clearly well advanced towards effortless living as you are in a perpetual state of practicing mindfulness. And practicing detachment is really cool – as long as you don’t get attached to getting detached 🙂

      Let go of the notion of getting goals and just be mindful of your present situation. Whatever you do each day is indeed your journey.

      As for your question – maybe one doesn’t need to balance between an effortless life with no goals and expectations, and a world driven by goals and objectives! You simply have to treat each moment in isolation, and effortlessly do whatever you need to do.

      I hope this helps!

      And thanks for thinking out aloud!
      Arvind Devalia’ latest post ..Happy Thanksgiving Day Today and Everyday!

  6. Hi Arvind,
    Wow..just wow.
    I am floored for a few reasons: one–I am one of the few that is unfamiliar with Leo and his work and after reading this interview I am struck by how similar our core values and practices are–very affirming to me. And , two–I love the idea of a collaborative effort in creating this book–not only is Leo cultivating community, but he is also enabling individual empowerment. Last, Leo’s analogy with learning to swim and how it is our perspective about the water, not the quality of the water itself, is very poignant reflection. Thank you for introducing me to Leo and his work through your thoughtful questions in this interview!

  7. Thank you very much Arvind for this impeccable interview. Leo’s words make me think of those non-planned days when I actually get a lot done. Or the ease of mind that I feel when I decide to make a blog break, for instance, that is suddenly followed by new ideas that apparently arise because my mind is relaxed and not consciously thinking about the issue. Thank you again. The debate in the comments is really interesting, too. Kind regards.

  8. Hello..

    I love the Zen ideas. Am now exploring this blog.. was led here by a Leo share.
    The last few weeks have been a sort of effortless living space for me, unexpectedly. And it’s so lovely. Peacefully and lovingly following the flow, with the kids. I think it’s important to strictly police who is in your life. What a difference it makes. Relatives who don’t fit your beliefs: politeness, but rigidly at a distance. Or they skew your course. Lesson learnt the hard way. But hopefully learnt.


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