Spring is here! The windows are open and the air is fresh.
We breathe deeply and clear the decks for the light and warmth of the coming season. With the daffodils in bloom, our souls spring to new possibilities, and our thoughts naturally turn to spring cleaning and a fresh start.
But decluttering falls woefully short if we only focus on just our house, not cleaning out the rest of our life. This year, spring clean your life, not just your home! Clear out your life clutter–bad habits, time wasters, self-defeating thoughts, draining relationships… And the best way to do that? Learn the Math of MORE, where adding subtracts.
Is too much Facebook cluttering your life? Add more face-to-face time with your friends and loved ones instead. Chances are, you’ll start to naturally lessen your social media time as well!
Too many sweet treats at night? Try adding more real sweetness in your life–hugs, comfort, sweet times with your friends, yourself, or even your pet. You may find that gallon of ice cream isn’t quite so attractive.
When you add things that really satisfy you, you naturally subtract the things that don’t. This is a simple way to spring clean your life. Discover what you really yearn for underneath those bad habits and life clutter. Fill your life with the right stuff and you’ll squeeze out the things that no longer serve you.
With the Math of More, you subtract by adding. You add in visions and plans rather than just avoiding what you don’t want. You add in great interactions and relationships rather than bemoaning what you don’t want. You build and add in a healthy habit of loving yourself and your body, rather than just getting rid of unwanted weight.
So, go ahead and roll up your sleeves, spiff up your house, and chase after those dust bunnies, but don’t stop there! Spring clean your life with the Math of MORE.
Is your life as cluttered as your closets? It’s time to look at the areas that are overcrowding your life, taking up your time, and draining your energy.
Ask yourself, what are the people, activities, and even thoughts that crowd your life? What activities are you taking on that drain your time, money, or energy? Are you spending time with people who drag you down and leave you feeling exhausted? What about your own negative self-talk? Is there room for some mental touch-ups too?
There are several clutter areas we can look at as we start to clean out. Just like rooms in your home, here are the areas in your life to address. So grab the mop and broom, roll up your sleeves, and take a look at these areas:
First of all, as you look through this list, don’t despair! You don’t need to get rid of everything, of course, nor do you need to tackle the entire spring cleaning project at once. Simply becoming aware of the cluttered areas of your life is a powerful tool. Consider this assessment the wakeup call that it’s time to spring clean your life!
Subtract a little to make some space in your life for MORE of the pieces that truly matter to you. Take small steps to make room in your life for the important items. It may mean designating a “screen free” night (or even hour) each week. Set up a spending limit for a day, or for a night, or a special occasion. Toss out that secret stash you’re hiding of whatever’s not so good for you. These little subtractions, consistently followed over the long run, add up to potent change—much more than big declarations that overwhelm and never go anywhere.
If you want to declutter, add what really matters so you naturally subtract the things that don’t.
Too often in life, we look at everything we need to stop doing. Stop overeating. Stop procrastinating. Stop _____ (fill in the blank). We think we have to go cold turkey, use our willpower, grit our teeth and bear it. And the thought of bearing it is, well…often unbearable. We’re already feeling deprived, which is why we are doing all these other things in a mistaken attempt to take care of ourselves.
The real way to declutter and create the lifestyle we want is by putting more attention on what we do want––and adding things that directly meet our needs rather than just trying to willpower our way out of things that don’t work. Look at your calendar and proactively add in what you want. Over time, you may find yourself too busy to waste time with things or people that don’t work.
When we add things we really care about, like activities that really nourish us and meet our deeper needs, we naturally start to subtract the unnecessary clutter in our lives. Those bad habits start to naturally lose their grip. They can’t compete with the joy and satisfaction of really fulfilling habits.
Do you know that friend who’s negative? You leave every conversation feeling drained, but you’re so concerned about losing the friendship that you tolerate it? What is the reason you keep doing something you know isn’t good for you?
Maybe you yearn to belong, or to connect, or to matter, but this friendship isn’t really doing it.
Imagine if you brainstormed a list of everything you could do to connect or belong. The list would probably be long and may include being with people who you really feel connected to, joining with others in a cause you care about, volunteering, having a meaningful conversation with your doorman/barista/Uber driver/neighbor/co-worker and so on.
Maybe you choose to be straight with your friend about your feelings. Let her shift and join you in more nourishing interactions, or you move on. The Math of MORE really means adding things into your life that meet your deeper needs and yearning, while gradually subtracting what no longer serves you.
As you look at what you want to let go of—a bad habit, a cluttered space, a messy relationship—ask yourself, what’s underneath? Maybe you have been overindulging in late night snacking lately and you are putting on extra pounds. You keep thinking you “have to get rid of the extra weight!” That can be a short-sighted way to go about creating the lifestyle you want. There is a reason you’re turning to kettle chips or Doritos for friendship in the evening.
Are you looking for a sweet treat in the evening? Do you need comfort? Maybe you long for connection but feel alone? There are clues underneath every soft addiction and bad habit. What we think we want is hiding what we really yearn for. Don’t settle for counterfeit nourishment when you can have the real thing.
Put it on your calendar. Ready to spring clean your life? In the Math of MORE, you literally map out your time or your calendar. Look at your upcoming days and consider how you can fill them with activities or ways of being that directly meet the needs you identified (vs. indirectly going about them).
Maybe you can’t wait to binge watch your favorite episodes on Netflix because you feel connected to the characters and feel comfort and familiarity with them. It’s no problem to enjoy a show, but if you find yourself losing sleep and being tired at work because you stayed up too late, it is likely that watching your show isn’t giving you want or what you need—the sense of feeling filled up from real connection or friendship. You are likely providing a false substitute that isn’t doing the trick. Go ahead—specifically plan your evening or night or week in detail. Sure, you can enjoy your show, but what ways can you also build direct connections with real people so that you don’t have to watch “just one more” episode to feel that sense of connectedness?
Choose easy subtractions first. Pick a few easy items to declutter first. For example, what about a digital detox for an hour (or better yet, for a whole night)? Get rid of some apps you no longer use, or certain apps you feel you’re using too much. Unsubscribe from subscription services like emails and magazines. Clean up your notifications (and turn them off) to reduce stress and distraction.
Or maybe you want to focus on other, non-digital areas of your life. Clear your cupboards of that junk food you know isn’t good for you. It’s much easier to resist the temptation when it isn’t there. Throw out your secret stash of what isn’t good for you (at least some of it).
Don’t schedule a get-together with someone who drains you. Toss out the unfinished project you haven’t touched in the last five years. Give yourself permission to get rid of the items you’re holding onto out of guilt or a sense of obligation.
Pinpoint the underlying yearning with the “so that” test. Start with the item you want to subtract as you spring clean your life. Maybe you want to stop eating so many sweets, for example.
Ask yourself why you want to stop eating sweets. Say, “I want to stop eating those sweets so that_________.” Maybe you want to stop “so that” you can be thinner. Why do you want to be thinner? “So that” you can fit in your skinny jeans. Why do you want to fit in your skinny jeans? “So that” you can attract a partner. Why do you want to attract a partner? “So that” you can feel loved. Aaaah, there you are at the core! You yearn to love and feel loved.
Guaranteed, there are plenty of things you can add to your life to love and feel loved. Do those instead. Treat yourself sweetly. Treat yourself as a beloved. Spend time with people whom you know and care about you. Ultimately, you may reduce your eating of sweets, but you’ll do that by feeling full in other ways.
Add to subtract. Once you know the need or yearning at the core of the thing you are trying to get rid of, make a plan. Brainstorm ways you can meet that need more directly. Try some of the methods out. Fill up your calendar and time with the activities that meet your need. You’ll be amazed by how much easier it is to release what you don’t want when you add in what you do want and need.
And there are plenty of things to add that make a big difference. Add in nourishment, self-care, your ability to be with your feelings, asserting your will, developing and sharing your gifts, expression, humor, a deeper truth, connection, intimacy, beauty, and inspiration. The list of possible adds is endless.
You are way better off adding a walk around the block that you do consistently to relax than you are to add a rigorous session at the gym that you do twice and never do again. Small steps really add up over time and turn into basic lifestyle changes that support us over time.
At this time of year, we invest our mindset in spring cleaning our homes, but our overall life and lifestyle are way more important. Let’s at least spend time looking at what needs to be spring cleaned in our life to create nourishment and fulfillment.
For more on how you can add nourishment to your life, visit the Wright Foundation. Join us for an upcoming More Life Training, where you’ll learn how to add even more goodness and happiness into your life.
Dr. Judith Wright is a media favorite, sought-after inspirational speaker, respected leader, peerless educator, bestselling author, & world-class coach.
She is a co-founder of The Wright Foundation and the Wright Graduate University.
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The Wright Foundation for the Realization of Human Potential is a leadership institute located in Chicago, Illinois. Wright Foundation performative learning programs are integrated into the curriculum at Wright Graduate University.