Tuesday, May 29, 2012

When Things Aren't Adding Up...

“When things aren’t adding up in life, it is time to start subtracting.”

I came across this quote a few weeks ago, and was struck by how much it resonated with me.  As I reflected on the simplicity of the quote and what it means to me personally, I realized that I have lived my entire adult life in a state of perpetual action.  As I apply this quote to myself and the numerous aspects of my very busy life, I see that I am quite good at adding, I do rather well at maintaining, but rarely do I subtract.  It is no wonder that my life does not always add up. 

I imagine, readers, that the majority of you can relate to what I have described.  I would imagine that you are no strangers to the busy-ness of life.  That the feeling of being spread out too thin is one that you know rather well.  That you have described yourself as feeling stressed, exhausted, or overwhelmed at some point in the recent past.  And if you can identify with these feelings in one way or another, I would also imagine that you can relate to the quote that began this column.  That there are times in your life when things just are not adding up for you.  That there are times when you need to subtract. 

And yet, even if you can relate to these feelings, the idea of subtracting can be a difficult one to employ.  After all, we apply ourselves to the things that we do because we care about them in some meaningful way.  Because we have a vested interest in them.  Because we have made a promise to someone, or we feel a sense of personal commitment or responsibility to the people involved or the outcome at stake.  Because we feel driven by a sense of obligation, pressure, or guilt to do what is expected of us. And because of these contrasting feelings, it is natural for us to be unsure of even where to begin or to resist the idea of subtraction all together, despite our need for a more simplified life. 

So as you reflect on today’s quote and what it means to you personally, I encourage you to think about how you might simplify your own life.  As you take an inventory of what you give yourself to, consider also what you get back from those things.  Which areas of your life fill you up in some meaningful way?  And conversely, which areas tend to be more taxing, or stress-inducing, than they are fulfilling?  What areas of your life do you feel that you can or cannot live without?  And what might be able to live without you?  How you might you feel with “less” in your life, and what would you do with that time and energy?  How might other aspects of your life benefit from a more wholehearted investment of yourself? 

As you consider these questions and reflect on the value of a more simplified life, I hope that the answers you discover are simple in and of themselves, and I hope that they offer you gentle guidance toward a more simplified yet rewarding life. 


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