A few years ago I had a conversation with my brother that pulled me up short. I was talking about taking on some new activities, signing up for yoga teacher training, making changes.
He challenged me. That I couldn’t keep on adding new without taking something out. What was I going to give up? This took the wind out of my sails. I was enthusiastic about my new path, yet I’d no intention of giving anything up.
This was the first time I confronted a pattern I now see all around me. That we’re always adding and we rarely take away.
Consider how easily we take on more “projects” – in our professional and personal lives. We add more people to our network, more books to the pile, more responsibilities, more goals, more apps, more clothes to the wardrobe, more activity, more to keep track of and follow.
It’s not quite true that we don’t give anything up. By necessity something has to give. Yet without conscious choices things drop off by default. And often these are the very things that support us to live well.
Exercise. Time outdoors. Meditation. Rest (that’s an activity!). Sleep. Time to reflect and daydream. Meals at the table, with friends and family. Connecting with our colleagues. Sharing ideas, without agenda…
We can do this differently. For many, subtraction is not as easy as addition. It’s certainly not as familiar. Yet once we raise our awareness of what’s happening by default, we begin to turn things around.
Here’s some guidance based on my personal experience.
First, we need take notice when we’re adding. Too often we take on more without even realising what we’re doing, such is our habit.
Begin to ask the question my brother asked me. If adding, what’s to be given up? What to do less of? What to stop?
Beware the voice that says, too hard! That’s impossible, there’s nothing superfluous. Yes, there is, it’s there to be found.
We spend much of our lives on autopilot. Doing things we’ve always done, often in the same way. Too busy and overloaded to notice.
The key to unlock the challenge of subtraction is relevance. We need to become expert in identifying what is relevant in our lives now. And to keep doing this, for relevance is by nature a moveable feast.
As we do, we identify what to take away. What to let go. Be creative and expansive in review – activities, beliefs, behaviours, habits and possessions…
With practice subtraction becomes as easy and natural as addition. And for our evolution, it is as important to take away as it is to add.
All original material copyright 2015 manifestmylife
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