Subtract What Doesn’t Bring Joy

How do you feel on January 1st ? I bet you feel literally and figuratively stuffed at the end of every holiday season. This year especially has been filled with fun parties and family gatherings; and lots of rich and delicious food and drinks. I always look forward to the baked treats, especially the fun Italian treats like amaretti.

I love seeing family and friends; I love the celebration and giving gifts and supporting charities near and dear to my heart. But at the end of all this excess, I’m left feeling like it was all a bit much. All the trash or leftover food that gets thrown away; finding room for all the new gifts.

I’m no minimalist. Between mountain biking, skiing, and fly fishing, there is a constant stream of gear I would love to get my hands on. But more and more, I’m left wondering, what if the answer to a fulfilling life is less, not more?

What if, instead of a new workout plan, gym, or diet, the answer is to remove the obstacles to achieving my goals? What if it’s not having buying those cookies or crackers you just can’t say no to. What if it’s saying no to that second drink in the evening?

How about in our professional lives? What if the answer wasn’t more work, calls, more responsibilities at the hospital or clinic? What if the path forward was less of ALL those things?

How does it feel when I ask these questions? What emotions or thoughts come up for? Is it immediate pushback? – that is not how things are done! The answer is ALWAYS more!

Or are you feeling curious? What would it be like to cull the activities, the relationships, or the areas of your life that are not bringing joy?

Honestly, I struggle with this contrast. My family grew up pretty poor. We had a house filled with love, but there were many times money was tight. Because of that history, abundance felt pretty great at first—more, more, more.

But that enjoyment, that need for more, has slowly dwindled. Now, what I want more of is time. I don’t want to have to take care of a boat or another car. I don’t particularly appreciate changing out to winter tires on ALL our vehicles.

More than anything else, I want beautiful things that will last a lifetime, even if that means repairing them at times.

As a new fly fisherman, I needed a pair of waders. There are tons of options out there. I ultimately bought a pair of Simms waders. Yes, they were absurdly expensive. But they last forever. And if anything goes wrong, Simms will fix them.

Where does this leave us as we begin a new year?

Moving forward, let’s consider subtraction instead of addition. Especially for the areas in our lives that are not bringing joy and purpose.

This might mean removing a few relationships that are all drama and no compassion. Or it may mean stepping back from a management role at work that is not interesting and provides no growth or learning.

But if we subtract all these areas of our life, won’t we feel… empty? I’d argue the opposite. By saying no to these areas that are not improving our lives, we have the time and space and energy to say yes to the people and things that make us bigger.

This is how we grow. This is how we live a purposeful life.

Before you say yes to the next opportunity, pause and respond, “I’ll get back to you. My policy is never to say yes immediately.” Take some time to think if this “opportunity” aligns with your values. And if you have time and attention to give to it. If not, politely decline.

Less is more.

Reach out here if you want to chat about your current situation.

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