We are all on a search to improve our life. By whatever measurement you apply. More money, a more resilient mind, more sexual partners.
The issue within all of this lies in the “more.” I’ll give you my personal story about this below and how to add by subtraction.
It’s not your fault. Decades of displaying an unhealthy lifestyle have been poured into your innocent brain. By a society that keeps you low energy and unachieving.
Be careful before you jump to conclusions and put a tinfoil hat on your head. It doesn’t matter what the reason is that society is set up this way. An evil corporation of suit-wearing men trying to control the world. Or pure accident because humans easily fall for pleasure.
How it came to be is not of importance. What is important is how we fix it.
How I noticed I have “too much”
“Everything you own will eventually own you.”
I am not rich in any way. I live quite comfortably, especially on a global scale, but when I say “too much” I don’t necessarily talk about money.
I mean things I have in my life.
Last year I moved into a new house with my family. Great joy! New home, everything new and exciting. Cool new appliances in the kitchen. Big rooms, cutting-edge technology. All of it.
Great life, right?
How could anyone complain about this?
This was the question that popped in my mind when just a few weeks later I was annoyed by the new home. I wondered, “Hold on. Remind yourself of gratefulness. You have all these things. Why are you annoyed at all?”
I was sitting in my office, cluttered with stuff ruining my subconscious. Ceiling lamps lying on the floor because I didn’t find the time to mount them yet. Bills for the final touches on the entrance and garden, along with calls I still had to make.
Some issues arose while the house was built that I had to take care of. On top of this, I also run my online business and I was working a 9-5 job at the time. Plus, taking care of the wife and son to keep the family life afloat as well.
This is when I understood the quote from above. “Everything you own will eventually own you.”
Adding onto life does not add happiness
Like most people, I thought buying things makes me happy. The newest phone, the newest car, a new house. Consumerism. New things do, in fact, release dopamine. But it is a very short-lived feeling.
Until reality sets in that, you invited new tedious tasks into your life.
Here is a (very incomplete) list of things you invited into your life just by buying new stuff:
- App updates on your phone
- Removing notifications for every app
- Watering your garden in your house
- Setting up the TV properly
- Cleaning the expensive coffee machine every week
- Buying a wall-mounted lamp that actually holds on the wall (tougher than you think)
- Dealing with contractors to finally get the house finished
- A huge mortgage you have to pay
- Finding furniture that fits the new house
- Buying a second set of tires for winter
- Buying a lawnmower
If I were to live in Thailand in a shack on the beach, I wouldn’t care about any of these things. My mind would be free.
This is why very rich people hire other people to take care of tedious tasks. To free their mind.
The middle class we’re in, however, cannot afford this. So you invite all these tasks into your life that clog up your mind. You’re constantly reminded of all the things you haven’t done yet or that need your attention to fix it.
This is a mental drain. And all of that happened before I even went on working for my business to get out of the 9-5 world.
This is where I learned that adding to my life does not add more happiness. It adds more work.
What does add more happiness is to add by subtraction.
What does add by subtraction mean?
This phrase originated from sports. It means that sometimes adding more talent to your roster doesn’t increase the chances of winning. Rather you remove people that are interfering with your success.
It is the same methodology in business teams and companies.
And it works precisely the same in your own life.
Adding more stuff does not yield more happiness. Removing things that drain you is the goal and the foundation of the add by subtraction method.
Let us explore how this works precisely.
Evaluate your additions
The first step to fixing something is building rapport with yourself in your current life.
For this, you start with your house/flat/apartment. Grab a pen and paper and walk through every single room. Take notes of things you have that you never use. If you haven’t touched it in a year, it can go.
No, it must go.
It clutters your mind and drains it in the process.
Decorations are different, this is for you to evaluate if that piece of decoration adds to the feeling of the room or if it’s sole purpose is to collect dust.
Here is what I threw out in that process to give you an idea:
- My old – buggy – PC and replaced it with a clean and easy Macbook
- A Smartwatch I never used, ever
- Old videogames
- Books I never read (some are fine to keep for rereading I guess)
- Old clothes I never wear
- Kitchen appliances that never left the packaging
- Manual lawn mower
You get the idea.
This doesn’t mean you have to live a minimalist lifestyle. It’s totally fine to have a bunch of things that you deem necessary. However, I am sure a lot of things are lying around in your life that you don’t need. And the best thing, you can usually sell them for good money.
You can go way further with this.
Do you need that fancy new Mercedes which has a huge monthly cost although you rarely drive it? Or could you overcome your own ego and get a fully paid cheap car?
Do you need the house or the current apartment? Or could you use that money to invest in a business that will make you rich in the process?
Remember, you cannot save yourself to riches, but you can definitely make better use of your money. This, however, is heavily dependant on your situation, so I cannot make definite statements. Judge for yourself.
Subtract bad habits
Now it is time for introspection. We removed physical things. Now you need to look at things you do that drain your energy, money, and happiness.
Here are a bunch of things:
- Eating too much sugar (sweets, soda, etc)
- Too much alcohol
- Porn and masturbation
- 4 hours of Netflix a day
- Not moving enough (gym, walks, etc)
These are obvious. You might deny it subconsciously, but you know very well how detrimental some of these are for your energy and health.
Sometimes the bad habits are hidden:
- Are you not assertive enough with your partner/colleagues/family?
- Are you building resentment because you don’t mouth your desires?
- Did you stop educating yourself?
These bad habits (or lack of good habits) may drain your energy because they invite bad feelings into your life.
Maybe you feel locked in your life. Due to mortgage, marriage, etc. Then you have to evaluate harshly if it is worth staying in your life. Or if you would be better off without it. This is the third step.
Subtract people in your life
The third step is the tough part. So far we got rid of things and habits, now it is time to evaluate people.
Are you in a passionless marriage? Is your uncle a constant source of negative energy and blaming? Are your friends getting nothing done but getting drunk each weekend?
Then you have to make some tough decisions.
Maybe this already popped up in your mind a bunch of times, but you never pulled the trigger. If you want to feel better and enjoy this very short life we have on this planet, then you need to make a correct assessment.
Are the people in your life adding value? If not, then you need to add to your life by subtracting them out of it.
I know what you’re thinking, “Will a divorce not add way more energy-drain to my life?”
Most likely, yes. You have to think long-term with these kinds of decisions. Personally, I wouldn’t recommend divorcing at all, unless there is no other option. Get yourself and your life in order first. If you have more than three of the bad habits I listed above, you start with those. Fixing yourself usually fixes your relationship as well.
The tough decisions of the third step really only come in if there is no other solution. If you realize that you do not want to be in the company of said person for the rest of your life. Then you add by subtraction.
In the consumerist society we live in, we tend to add too much unnecessary things in the pursuit of the dopamine rush.
All this adds is more work and more tedious tasks.
You don’t need to live a fully minimalist lifestyle, but you need to evaluate harshly and indifferently the things, habits, and people you have in your life. Do they add value? Or is the only thing they can add at this point if you add by subtraction?
This is not always an easy decision.
But in the end, it is your life. Nobody but you can make that decision and it will have huge impacts on your happiness and overall wellbeing.
Alexander is an entrepreneur, blogger, and author. He teaches men the realities about masculinity and how to build a resilient on selfconquering.com.