Addition by Subtraction

Addition by Subtraction

When we think about goals we set for ourselves, it seems logical that the best way to accomplish these goals is through positive commitments. Things we want to do, goals we want to achieve, skills we wish to learn, money we’d like to save and so on. I don’t know whether it’s because I can be rather stubborn or because too much change is daunting, but changing habits through subtracting a few things at a time has always worked better for me than believing I’m going to hold fast to some newfound commitments when pursuing my Act As If philosophy toward a goal.

The way most people (myself included) have typically gone about goal attainment is through the following process:

Goal: I want to get more fit.

Addition:
* I’m going to work out at least 4 times a week.
* I’m going to eat “clean.”
* I’m going to keep a food diary.
* And so on…

There are a lot of asks in there that can quickly become overwhelming. It’s an easy way to fall into the trap of I have to, which regular readers know is a quick way to devolve into defeatist thought habits.

The alternative? I have found it’s actually easier to move forward by subtracting something from my life.

Goal: I want to get more fit.

Subtraction:
* I’m going to subtract elevators and escalators from my daily life.
* I’m going to subtract negative people from my inner circle.
* I’m going to cut out soda, simple carbs, sugars and processed foods.

For some reason, subtracting life’s temptations is easier for me than committing to pure clean living. In the case of negative dialogue, it’s always been easier for me to adhere to not saying negative things about someone than committing to only good and kind thoughts. When I want to improve my language, it’s again easier for me to remove, say, the F word versus saying I’m going to choose a more diverse vocabulary to express disappointment. Eliminating the use of a word or elevator is a choice that forces the positive change I seek.

I find subtracting from my life is a lot easier for me to remember and adhere to. Through the elimination of poor behaviors and thoughts, positive outcomes are given the space to blossom and grow. I am not trying to force a direction change of bad behaviors, I’m creating an environment for myself where only successful outcomes are possible. If I’m not taking elevators then I’m getting a mini stair workout in. If I’m not eating simple carbs then I’m more likely to have yogurt for breakfast instead of a bagel. If I cut out flippant vulgarity then I will actually think a bit longer before I speak and we all know the benefits that can have.

I would love to hear any examples you have of living a more fulfilling life through subtraction.

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Edwin
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Edwin

Great musing. Alternatively, I view addition by subtraction as highly achievable changes that really make a difference. If enough of these are adhered to, a person will have made substantial changes in their life whether they realize it or not. Personally, years ago I was around and became involved with the wrong group of people, leading to very negative circumstances and experiences. Although I didn’t know I would be practicing addition by subtraction, removing the negative influences around me and allowing myself to be surrounded by positive-minded individuals enabled me to steer my younger life in the right direction. It… Read more »

Kelli
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Kelli

things I have recently subtracted: negative people, caring about the opinions of said negative people, self doubt, idle chit chat, and being sedentary. As a result I have more time to spend with all of the positive people in my life, more sanity because I’m not trying to figure out the rules of the games being played by negative/toxic people, more time to devote to building up & maintaining self confidence, more meaningful conversations, and more opportunities to take my dog for a walk. My friend does this thing on Facebook frequently where she swaps out negative for positive. A… Read more »

Pam
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Pam

I have chosen to no longer share my time with negative people and negative thoughts. I am subtracting them from the equation and adding everything positive! This is allowing my personal space to become free and clear, giving me time to spend on all the things that make me happy and healthy, (i.e. eating clean, working out, my husband and children, etc…) what a joy it is! I always did like math. What a great way to incorporate it into my life. Thanks, Miss Val for the thoughts.

Ken Kates
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Ken Kates

I will (and did) stop using all forms of tobacco products (ciggy butts) some 35 years ago. A good thing to remove from my life.