December 4, 2014

The courage of subtraction.

A few days ago, I shared my thoughts on what it means to live an unbalanced life. (Spoiler alert: it’s a good thing.)
My stance stirred up some conversation. Lots of folks sent me cheers and fist pumps (“Preach, sister! Life balance is a myth!”) and many sent me questions.
Here’s one that I got… a lot:
“Yeah, I get it… striving for ‘life balance’ is pointless. It doesn’t really exist.
But I am so completely overwhelmed with all the STUFF I have to do, every day, and all of it feels equally important.
If we’re talking about designing a happier life… where do I even begin?”
This particular question breaks my heart, because I remember that feeling, oh so well.
Feeling like EVERYTHING on your calendar is completely essential. A MUST DO.
So many SHOULDS. So little time. And so little pleasure or fun.
Eight years ago, before I discovered life coaching, personal development, or any of the principles that I swear by, today, my schedule was just one big bag of SHOULD.
Not surprisingly, I was exhausted all the time and 35 pounds over my natural weight.

I did not feel good.
What I learned — slowly, and with a great deal of suffering — is that you can reshuffle the items on your to-do list until the end of time.
But until you are willing to SUBTRACT certain items from the list, you’re just rearranging pieces of the same puzzle into different shapes. You’re not really changing your life. Just rescheduling. Just… shuffling.
Happiness — real, true, lasting happiness — requires subtraction, not shuffling.
And subtraction requires courage.
The courage to say “No.” (“No, I don’t want to do that. And no, I’m not sorry.”)
The courage to admit you were wrong. (“I made a mistake when I committed to that. It won’t happen again.”)
The courage to — potentially — rock the boat. (“I know you’re used to me doing / allowing / being this, for you. It’s not going to happen anymore.”)
The courage to admit what you really want. (“This might disrupt all of the careful plans I’ve laid out, and my mama might not like it, but… this is what I need.”)

The courage to simplify, simplify, simplify. (“All of the busywork used to ‘define’ me. No more. I’m ready to see who I really am… without one thousand commitments choking my calendar, every week.”)
This is the courage of subtraction.
The kind of courage that’s required for happiness.
Do you have it in you?
Trick question.
I know you do.
It starts by subtracting just one thing from your schedule, this week.
One thing that makes you feel bitter or resentful.
One thing that no longer serves you.
And then, instead of instantly filling the empty space — just letting it be.
Letting yourself sit in the white space created by subtraction.
If it feels weird? Good. Change should feel weird, at first. That’s how you know… it’s real change.
Keep subtracting.
Even if it’s weird and uncomfortable.
Before you know it…
“Weird” will turn into “wonderful.”



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