With each new year, we think about all the things we wish we could add to our lives.
We want more money. We want to get healthier. We want more confidence and a more outgoing attitude. We want to travel to more places.
We want new casual hookups after getting out of a long relationship. Or we want to find someone we really connect with.
But as you all know, it’s not always easy to follow through on resolutions.
Why is it so hard?
I think it’s partly because we don’t always have the capacity to add anything more to our daily lives. We already have enough responsibilities and commitments as it is. And we’re also weighed down by our problems, baggage, and suffering.
So before you think about what you can ADD to your life, maybe you should first think about…
What can you SUBTRACT from your life?
Stop trying to juggle so much
You have a limited amount of willpower. You can only dedicate your emotional bandwidth to a certain number of things.
You can only care so much and give so many fucks.
What often kills your motivation, energy, and commitment to getting the life your desire is all the extra BS that drags you down. The habits, actions, thoughts, and connections that take away from your long-term fulfillment.
It’s the time wasted on things that aren’t encouraging your growth or joy. It’s you damaging your emotional well-being by constantly worrying about other people’s perceptions of you. It’s the toxic relationships that make you miserable.
Each of those ideas are another thing for you to juggle. You can only balance so much.
Alex Barron, holds the record for juggling the most items at one time at 14. Even then, only for a short while.
How much can you juggle before everything comes crashing down?
Recognize what you need to subtract
So the first step towards getting more of what you want this year is to strip away what you don’t need; you’ve got to systematically cut out the parts of your life that sabotage your happiness.
And that requires a bit of self-analysis.
Think about the people you invest in. Consider what occupies your mind on a daily basis. Think about where you spend your time in the real world. Reflect on the moments you now look back on with regret.
“Did those things making me more or less happy in the long-term?”
“Was I settling for short-term comfort at the expense of my long-term happiness?”
“Was I compromising out of fear or to seek approval?”
I know it can be hard to generate ideas so let me help you out.
Examples of what to cut out
Stop letting your parents influence your dating life. When you talk to your parents, do they always bring up the fact that you’re still single? Do they drive you crazy saying they’re worried for you and that you need to settle down?
I see this a lot with people that have parents from traditional backgrounds. It constantly stresses them out, strains their familial relationship, and makes talking to their parents a painful experience.
But if you’re single out of choice or waiting for a healthy connection (instead of settling), there’s nothing wrong with that. Choosing a romantic partner is one of the most important decisions you can make and I believe no one else should make it for you. You’re the only one who knows who else is going to make you happy.
So next time you talk to your parents, explain your thought process compassionately. Tell them you want to keep dating around and aren’t going to settle out of fear or desperation. Let them know this is your choice and you want them to respect that.
If they still don’t listen, I would redirect the conversation every time they bring it up. Even saying something like, “I’ve explained how I felt and I don’t want to talk about this again.” Then segue into a more positive, productive discussion on another topic. Repeat as needed.
Leave a dead-end, unfulfilling, or abusive job. If you aren’t getting anything more out of your job or it’s actually eating away at your morale, maybe it’s time to move on.
Obviously, be mindful of your personal responsibilities and don’t jump ship without another offer. But with unemployment at a low in the US (I know it’s skewed with underemployment but it’s still better than the last decade), there’s no better opportunity than now.
Especially if you’re young in the workforce, you might be scared to move to another job. It comes with all sorts of uncertainties. You’ll have to make new friends and lose old ones. You might not like the new job more than your current one. And it’s just a lot of change.
But honestly, most of this is unfounded. You can keep contact with old co-workers. If you have tangible skills or experience, you can get another job. I had a friend this year move to two different companies to find one he now loves more than ever.
You can never get back the time you spend miserable at work.
Realize that there is no loyalty in business anymore. They will replace you if they can find someone cheaper or who they can control more. If a company treats you like shit, it’s not going to change. And the quickest way to make more money is with a new offer.
- Move on from a toxic “friendship”. No, not your friend who can be annoying or accidentally said something that upset you. I’m talking about people who consistently ditch you, belittle you, poke fun at you in front of others, and sabotage your dating prospects out of jealousy. The people who expect you to be there all the time and fix their problems without ever wanting to do so for you. Loyalty is not guaranteed, it’s earned.
Cut out or lessen time using online dating apps. Online dating can be an amazing tool. But too often it becomes an easy excuse to avoid building a social life to meet people in the real world.
And for some people, even when they do everything right (take better pictures, improve their messaging, etc) — they still struggle on those platforms. Shorter guys and Asian/Black men can have a harder time online and won’t experience those same problems in face-to-face interactions.
So if you feel like you’re totally drained from online dating (or haven’t actually developed the skill to approach people in-person) — close the apps and start cultivating your social life.
Limit digital consumption. I have nothing against technology or indulging in entertainment. But I do believe in moderation and think most of us (myself included) are overly invested in our technology.
Just like online dating, it’s too easy and comfortable to retreat to our shows, social media, and video games. But the moment we start taking those away, even for brief periods of time, we’re then forced to occupy ourselves with other means.
Use a browser extension like StayFocusd or a smartphone app that limits social media. Set a designated time each day when there’s no tech use. Commit to not pulling out your phone while with friends and on dates.
Scaling back on my digital life in 2017 changed me profoundly. I got more into hiking, playing basketball with friends (not just NBA 2K), taking walks, yoga, and hosting parties. Overall, I’m working on getting more in touch with my body and the real world.
Remove excess snacks and drinks. Gym memberships skyrocket around the New Year. People tell themselves they need to start working out more, hit the weights, and get involved in more fitness classes.
That’s great and I’m all for it. But that all requires significant change and a large investment of time. And honestly, when it comes to losing weight — proper nutrition always wins out.
For most people, it’s infinitely easier to cut out a single candy bar than go work out for 45 minutes. Or to have 1-2 less sodas, juice drinks, or glasses of wine than to spend an extra day at the gym. Hold yourself accountable to first remove 1-2 excessive foods per week before you suddenly try to change your entire fitness regimen.
Let go of a dating prospect you’ve been texting for weeks/months without commitment. So many people I talk to chase someone who never commits to plans or flakes on them repeatedly. They try to argue that “they’re worth it” or “they’re special”, even though they don’t really know them (it’s often just because they find them super hot).
Unless that person is literally traveling nonstop, they’re just not that into you. Or they aren’t communicative and considerate of your time. People who are interested and value you will make time for you — they’re not going to give up a potentially life-changing connection.
When someone treats you like this, it’s almost always a recipe for failure. You could spend that effort instead meeting 3 times as many people who will be excited about you.
- Get rid of your self-defeating, negative inner monologue. It’s hard to get anything done when you’re constantly beating yourself up and doubting yourself. Shift your default inner voice to self-care by practicing gratitude. Be mindful of when you’re negative towards yourself and replace it with genuine self-praise. (Btw, my 2017 resolution post was about loving yourself, did you do it?)
In the wise words of Henry David Thoreau, “Our life is frittered away by detail. Simplify, simplify.”
What’s something you removed from your life that added much more in return?