Sunday, September 16, 2007

What Can You Add Through Subtraction?

Sometimes, when we think about making change, we think about doing more, making lists, adding things, habits, routines.

And while that can be useful--I know that writing down my appointments and tasks on my Google Calendar is a new habit I'm really benefiting from--I'm here to ask: What changes can you make through subtraction?

What can you cut out of your life that is not truly essential? Let's move from the conceptual to the practical, shall we?

The Forest:
  • Negative energy. Everyone has someone they know who is truly a vampire of the soul. They are negative more than they are positive, they enjoy incessant whining, and they want to make you as miserable as they are. Begin to move away from people who are like this, eventually removing this kind of influence from your life. And, if for some reason you cannot get away from the person, try to create a mental force field--tune them out, chant a silent mantra, think happy thoughts--that repels their negativity.
  • Hunger. I'm not really talking about a craving for pizza here, though perhaps if that craving comes through boredom or loneliness, maybe it applies, too. But what I'm really referencing is that insatiable, roving hunger for things and feelings that you get through external means. A little retail therapy now and again won't kill you, but if you're constantly shopping online or dulling your senses with too much TV or using a friend as an emotional crutch, you need to take a look at what it is you're really after and cut the craving.
  • Distractions. This kind of goes along with procrastination, since they're related. But quit using distraction as a method to forget what it is you really want or what you really hate--turn off the TV, jump off the Internet (but wait till you're done reading this), stop reading People magazine, and confront your life as it is. Reading about Lindsay Lohan's terrible life doesn't make yours any better.
  • Excuses. Seriously, drop excuses from your speech and thinking. Some people have it easier, yes, but there are plenty of examples of people who have done amazing things through sheer force of will, faith, spirit and inner resources. So you're not rich, or good looking or maybe even able bodied. That's OK. Find what you have to offer, and make full use of what potential you do have. Every single person is capable of something extraordinary, even if it's something only you and a few people notice. Make a difference in your sphere of influence, whatever it is. If you want something badly enough and it is something you are capable of, you can do it.
Okay, so the preceding were the big picture items of subtraction. Anything falling under those categories are eligible for the big red pen. So, on a smaller scale, what else can you cut out of your life that will make things clearer for you on the path to your bliss?

The Trees:
  • Garage sale. Other blogs have more to say on this subject, but suffice it to say, get rid of as much stuff as you can that you aren't using or you don't need. The more you can do this, the more time and space you will have for the things you do want and do want to spend time on. How can you create your animated film if you're surrounded by books you don't read, CDs you never listen to, or your closet is full of clothes you never wear?
  • Unsubscribe from credit card offers and catalogs. Reduce the mail coming into your house and spend less time sorting through it.
  • Internet and e-mail. I'm not advocating cutting this out entirely, but limit it to specified times, and don't cheat!
  • Put TV and movies on your terms. My husband and I don't have a Tivo, but what we do instead of being enslaved to the TV is to rent the series and movies we want to watch on Netflix, and watch them when we want to. Yes, that means not being able to participate in water cooler conversation with your co-workers, but you probably don't like most of them anyway, so it's a good excuse to walk away. Two time-savers in one!
  • Refuse to talk to people who aren't worth your time. This goes back to the negative energy issue. Save your precious social time for people you really like, and who are really your friends. If you say yes to invitations you don't want, or talk to people who sap your energy, you aren't being nice. You're being dishonest, insincere and helping no one. Not everyone you meet will be worth it--so long as you are polite when you decline, it doesn't make you mean, it makes you a self-respecting human.
This is just to get you started. Each person will have different things to subtract. But make a list of all the things--behaviors, things, habits--that you could live a better life without, and resolve to start cutting.

What I realize is that most of these suggestions deal with saving time. That's probably because the most common excuse uttered for not achieving what you want is this gem: "I'd like to do X, but I just don't have time."

All I'm asking is this: Is that really true? Or do you have the time, but it's currently filled with things that just need to go?

This one is hard for all of us, but I'm giving it my best effort, and I wish you luck. Feel free to share your ideas for "subtraction" in the comments.


Scott Niven said...

Hi Tiffany,

I'm a friend and former coworker of Alex Belskis. He showed my your blog last week, and I just wanted to let you know I'm really enjoying it. You've actually got something substantive to say, and your writing is beautiful and to the point. Thanks for taking the time to write it.

Tiffany Hamburger said...

Hi Scott! Thank you so much! I'm so glad you're enjoying it and hopefully getting something from it. This is a subject very near and dear to me, and one I've been meditating on for a long time. Do read some Joseph Campbell if you're interested, and thanks again for commenting! Also, feel free to ask questions that you want me to discuss in a future post--I'm always curious what people want to hear more about. Thanks, and take care! --Tiffany

Anonymous said...

Here's a 'subtraction' that saves me money, helps me eat healthier and frees up about five hours a week to spend reading: I bring my lunch to work! It's soooo simple and has been one of the smaller changes I've made that's had the biggest impact on my quality of life/financial health. Just be sure not to sit at your desk - keyboards don't like crumbs AND you're probably missing out on a great picnic table outside.


ps - We do the exact same thing with NetFlix. Have you checked out the new(ish) option to watch streaming video? It's awesome!