When I was a kid, I enjoyed adding so much more than subtracting. Whether it was adding up how many doll friends I had, or taking inventory of my Halloween loot, adding always came naturally to me. “What’s 8 MINUS 4?” was never as much fun as, “What’s 2 PLUS 2?” Fast forward (more than) a few years, and I’m the same way today. I’m happy to add the new friend to my life, or take on the new project, or learn the new app. However, that’s exactly what leads to over-commitment and overwhelm.
Are you better at adding to your life, too? Do you say “yes” to people’s requests more often than not, without full consideration of your capacities? Do you optimistically underestimate how long an activity will take, or expect to somehow squeeze in that activity between finishing an important work project, taking the kids to soccer, calling your mother, and picking up dinner? How do you feel when you say no to a request? Do you feel overwhelmed by the ‘fear of missing out’ if you do choose to say no?
What if you absolutely had to remove 20% of the “stuff” that’s taking your time, focus, or energy? What would you subtract? You might find that the first few things are easy, and that it would even be a relief to let them go. But then it gets harder. You start thinking of what you’ll lose or miss out on if you let go of those things. You may worry about the impact creating space for yourself has on others.
Are your kids stressed because there’s so much on THEIR plates? Are you afraid that those committees you serve on will fold if you gracefully excuse yourself? Do you worry that you have to hold the family/team/project/client/house together by yourself? You might feel guilty for letting something go, so you refuse to subtract it from your life.
What I’ve learned through both my own personal life experience and through coaching is that the short-term discomfort of letting go or saying “no” quickly passes. What endures is the opportunity for more space in your life, more peace, and more of what matters most for you. I challenge you to try this out – even on a small scale. Each week, choose something to subtract. Think about what activity, obligation, relationship, even limiting belief, you’re ready to let go of. How would it feel to subtract that from your life? Think past the initial discomfort, and imagine being free of it. The more you practice this, the easier it will become. Add to the enjoyment of your life by learning the power of subtracting.