Happiness Hacks, #6: How To Say No

Saying no can be the hardest thing. But it can also be the most liberating. Learning how to say no can transform your lives by opening the doors to the things that make you want to say yes. Here are some thoughts from some intelligent minds on how and why we should say no.

“If it’s not a ‘hell yes!’, it’s a ‘no’.”

— Derek Sivers, serial American entrepreneur


“Easy choices, hard life. Hard choices, easy life.”

— Jerzy Gregorek, Olympic weightlifting coach


“No man can succeed in any endeavour he does not like.”

— Napoleon Hill, author of Think and Grow Rich


“The art of leadership is saying no, not saying yes. It is very easy to say yes.”

— Tony Blair, former British Prime Minister


“Say ‘no’ to a lot of things so that you can say ‘yes’ to the ONE thing.”

— Gary Keller and Jay Papasan, entrepreneurs, authors of The One Thing


“Until you learn how to confidently say no to so many things, you shall always say yes to so many things. The real summary of a regretful life is a life that failed to balance yes and no. A life that failed to recognize when to courageously say NO and when to confidently say YES!”

— Ernest Agyemang Yeboah, Ghanaian writer


“No is such a liberating word. Everyone’s always looking for more time. That’s what everyone wants. No is one of the few things that gains time. Whenever you say no to something, you gain time.

— Jason Fried, CEO of software company Basecamp

(Photo by Andy Tootell on Unsplash)

, ,

I Gave Up Social Media For a Month. Here’s What I Learned

On March 1st, I made a spur of the moment decision in a fit of … what was it? Anger? Frustration? Clarity? I announced to my family, friends and anyone else who happened to be shown the message by the various algorithms at play that I would give up social media for a month.


Shane Breslin

By Shane Breslin


I had a big month ahead of me, I said, a month where deep productivity and headspace was required. I deleted the Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn apps from my phone.

(I don’t classify YouTube as social media so that stayed — The Nerdwriter and Last Week Tonight with John Oliver are just about my only recurring “television” appointments these days. Day-to-day I make my living by helping individuals, businesses and nonprofits navigate the confusion of the online world to achieve their goals, but I’ve always been confused by Snapchat, so that wasn’t there to delete.)

While the primary driver, as I told myself and my friends, was the need to find a new level of personal productivity and that the time-suck of social media was swallowing hours of my day when I didn’t have hours to waste, a motivating factor that was just as powerful was more subconscious: the feeling that social media in all its many guises, and for all its incredible, era-defining benefits, was causing some seriously negative tremors deep within my psyche.

Depression, social media and the happiness matrix

I’ve spoken and written at some length about dealing with regular bouts of fairly debilitating depression for more. That situation was ongoing for than 20 years, perhaps longer, before I took some firm steps to address it, but I had a feeling was that the combination of particular personality traits that made me susceptible to depression with the feverishness and 24/7 world of social media was not helping.

Over the past 18 months or so I’ve committed to a journey of self-exploration. One of the exercises I regularly take, and encourage others to take, is what I loosely call a “happiness matrix”: an A4 sheet of paper with four boxes each to represent everything that’s in my control, everything I’m choosing to do.

  • A: Is this pleasurable and good for my soul?
  • B: Is this not pleasurable but good for my soul?
  • C: Is this pleasurable but not good for my soul?
  • D: Is this not pleasurable and not good for my soul?

I’ve found that every choice I make about everything — what time I get up, how I spend the first two hours of my day, who I spend time with, where I live, what I put in my body, and everything else — fits snugly into one of those four categories.

My aim is simple: to do more things from A and B categories, and fewer from C and D.

When I asked myself the question about social media, the answer was a hard one, however. It didn’t fit snugly in any category. There were times when it was definitely in A. I’ve made some friendships that I hope and expect will last a lifetime, and those friendships would just not have been possible without Facebook (Facebook is, unsurprisingly, the primary influence among all the different platforms.)

Very occasionally it was B. Speaking on Twitter about my experiences with the service offered by the Samaritans was definitely not pleasurable, but I got something deeply valuable out of it, and hope that my messages gave some value and meaning to others.

But I couldn’t deny that on many occasions there was a hollowness about much of social media that saw much of my time there enter into categories C and D.

What sort of things?

On Instagram, I joined a pod. I thought I was joining some likeminded people who might support each other in helping to learn better the techniques of that particular platform. Instead it quickly became clear that several people in the group were obsessed. I hesitated to say demented, but that’s what it felt like. The “rules” were that everyone in the pod must commit to turning on notifications for everyone else’s Instagram posts, and then liking and commenting on them within minutes of each post being published. In this way, it might game the Instagram algorithm into thinking that these posts were gaining good traction early, and thus give it a better chance of appearing to more people and even making its way — O Holy Grail! — to the Discover tab. What happened there? Well, clearly, great treasures awaited. In the form, I guess, of higher reach, more followers, more hearts, more comments.

On Twitter, I found that my own stream, built haphazardly over eight years, was filled with the loud hum of incessant and irrelevant retweeting, incessant and self-serving tweets sent by various automated schedulers and incessant angry noise. (Twitter, for all its intrinsic and undeniable in-the-moment value, often feels like a million pissed off people shouting in a lift.) Added to that, every second or third notification was a new follow from a clearly fake bot. (The New York Times “The Follower Factory” exposé in January was clearly an influencing factor in my growing awareness of how shoddy so much of Twitter especially had become.)

Twitter is still the social network I love the most, but I fear, from a business perspective, that it will never work, and it may well be doomed to fail. One analyst suggested recently that it has dipped to sixth most popular social platform in the US (behind Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Pinterest and Snapchat) in terms of time spent. This is despite the PR perfection of having a President who uses the service as his personal global loudspeaker.

Facebook: A 21st Century Pandora’s Box

And then there was Facebook.

The big daddy of them all.

The Pandora’s Box of the 21st century, unleashing its combination of hope and the seven deadly sins on the world every minute of every day.

There were already whispers about the growing Facebook data storm at the time I started my social media break. For anyone paying attention, Facebook’s access to and use of data has been well known for the longest time. Max Schrems, a bright Austrian lawyer and activist, has been taking legal actions against Facebook for years. The General Data Protection Regulation, the new EU law which could change the world as we know it when it comes into force in May, is prompted in large part by EU legislators who have been closely scrutinising the way Facebook has been amassing terabyte upon terabyte of personally identifiable data on billions of people around the world.

Still, the revelations when they came, through a Channel 4 News secret camera exposé to the offices of Cambridge Analytica and an admission by Facebook that 87 million accounts were mined by third parties with distinctly ulterior motives, were damning, and didn’t do much to dissuade me from my decision to give this whole thing a break.

So what happened when I decided to give up social media?

Firstly, it became clear that using social media had become a deep-rooted habit.

I might be reading a book or newspaper article, come across a paragraph I liked and before I knew it my phone would be in my hand in readiness for the pic to share.

Same thing with an early morning sunrise, a blossoming daffodil or a smoothie. I found myself composing the first words of the post or tweet in my head before waking up to the fact that no, I wasn’t allowing myself to do this for a while.

Such moments were both liberating and very fucking frightening for me.

It was good to be able to resist, but it was scary to think how deep a grip these services, powered as they are by multi-billion-euro, profit driven companies, had taken on my senses.

It struck me that this could actually be classified as a form of madness. This hour-by-hour, even minute-by-minute compulsion has set in with vast swathes of people in the space of just ten years.

The external and internal dangers of social media

Where do we go from here?

There are benefits. Massive benefits. If you have a message that would benefit the world, and it’s compelling enough, the world can hear about it

For all the benefits, though, there are massive dangers.

Those dangers are external:

  • trusting massive companies, all of whom are compelled to report continued growth in their quarterly profit announcements;
  • the erosion of personal privacy, and all the dangers, known and unknown, that go with that
  • the ease of one-to-one communication that sees Facebook cited in one in every three divorce cases (and those figures are from as long ago as 2015)

Those dangers are also internal, and this is the part that is, I think, the thing we most need to do something about.

I’m drawn to psychology — how people behave the way they do, and why — and I fear that the combination of social media with the smartphone is a perfect storm that arrived in around 2008, and in the decade that followed has had a lasting negative impact on human psychology that will not be fully understood for another generation or so.

Back to social

I’ve been easing my way back in.

Slowly, steadily, with a new understanding of the pros and the multitude of cons.

I unfollowed everyone on Twitter and started anew in a bid to bring only people who add value into my headspace.

I have made a decision to stop posting video content to my habits of happiness Facebook page and I don’t have any real desire to, for the time being at least.

I acknowledge that buried within the noise and restlessness and threat of social media there is still a massive opportunity for deep and meaningful human connection, connection that can positively impact on the world without any negative undertones.

I understand now, more fully, the benefits and both the external and more importantly the internal dangers of all social networks.

Throughout my self-exploration journey, I’ve committed to controlling the controllables.

My habits and use of social media is controllable.

The fact of social media is not.

This is the world.

Like the real world off the Internet, it offers the best and the worst of everything, and each of us can only do what we can.

Like to get more from Shane?

I send one short email on the theme of happiness, and a longer monthly email every first Friday. (Hint: This piece first appeared in the monthly email, so those subscribers received it before anyone else!)

You can sign up for the short weekly email here, or the longer monthly newsletter here.

(Photo credit: Tim Bennett on Unsplash)

,

What I Talk About When I Talk About Happiness

Since I started out on an exploration of what really adds up to happiness, one thing has come up repeatedly in my mind: what is happiness? What is happiness, exactly? How do I define it? How can I experience it? How can I help others do the same?


Shane Breslin

By Shane Breslin


I expect that if I stood on a street with a clipboard and stopped 50 people and asked them, “What does ‘happiness’ mean to you?”, I might get 50 totally different answers.

So this is an attempt to add some definition to my view on happiness.

To paraphrase the great short story writer Raymond Carver, this piece is all about what I talk about when I talk about happiness.

It takes a series of common notions about happiness that I fully believe are complete misconceptions.

And I believe they are dangerous misconceptions.

Why?

Because if we find ourselves believing these, we will live in a way that is detrimental to all the things — our mental and physical health, our family, friends and wider community, our purpose in life, our passions — that add up to lasting happiness.

Myth 1. Happiness is an Endpoint

Reading Rob Moore’s (otherwise excellent!) book, Money: Know More, Make More, Give More recently, I came across this passage about happiness.

I feel there are many fallacies around the real meaning of life and money. Happiness is often claimed to be the purpose of life. There are many debates across the world about whether money makes you or buys you happiness, or that the ultimate fulfilment in life is to be happy. However, if we all reached eternal, perpetual happiness … nothing would get done and we would risk dying out as a species.

Happiness suggests contentment, and is defined as such in the dictionary, and fulfilment. Happiness suggests a final destination.

However, a final destination is the start of atrophy and a place for non-growth. If we all sat around a tree and held hands in eternal peace we would have no desire to grow as an individual or as a species.

We would have no desire to solve problems or challenges, because we would perceive that we don’t have any. We’d feel no need to learn, to struggle, or to push for change. We wouldn’t evolve personally or collectively.

Reading this, and hearing someone I respect tell me recently “I never want to be happy”, prompted this blog.

I don’t mind being ballsy about this. If you think about happiness like this, you’re getting it wrong.

Happiness is not something to be avoided because it might take away your drive.

Happiness is not something to be avoided because it’s an endpoint and what comes next except atrophy and stagnation?

Happiness is not something to be avoided. Period.

I posit that concentrating on happiness has exactly the opposite effect to stagnation and atrophy, because it fills your moments with gratitude, clarity, energy, motivation, purpose and positive impact.

Happiness is not something far off in the future.

Looking at happiness in this way — as something to chase, pursue, aim for — that is exactly a route to unhappiness. Because when you think of happiness like that, it stays perpetually out of reach. You will find yourself thinking of things (subconsciously or otherwise) that might make you happy, so you do things you don’t really want to do or buy things you don’t really want to own.

Happiness is now.

Happiness is not just now; it is also all the innumerable future nows in your life until it all ends.

Happiness is the birdsong outside my window at 5.38am this morning.

Happiness is the first light of the day.

Happiness is the unpredictability of a butterfly’s flight.

Happiness is being able to pay your car insurance in full because there was enough money in the bank to do so.

Happiness is the smile on someone’s face.

Happiness is the rat-tat-tat of the unseen woodpecker.

Happiness is the glory of the setting sun.

Happiness is seven billion virtually endless lists of things for seven billion unique people on the planet.

What’s on your list?

Myth 2. Happiness = Pleasure

Pleasure is part of happiness, of course.

But happiness is much, much, much different than pleasure alone.

Happiness, to me, is about a life well lived.

Pleasure is at most a quarter of happiness. I suggest there are five parts of happiness.

Let me call them The Five P’s.

  • Pleasure
  • Purpose
  • Progress
  • Passion
  • Positive impact

Happiness is a Jenga stack, and The Five P’s are the core blocks. Take any of them out, and everything is likely to fall down.

You need pleasure, but you need more than pleasure.

You need purpose, because what is life without purpose?

You need progress, because humans are all about development and movement. We always have been, ever since our daily lives were about hunting and gathering.

You need passion, because passion makes your nerve endings come fully alive, and it is when everything is fully alive that magic happens. (By magic, I mean, literally, magic. Being able to do things that seem impossible, both before they happen and while reflecting on it afterwards. Nelson Mandela said, “Everything is impossible until it is done.” This is the magic, and passion creates the energy that creates the alchemy.)

And you need positive impact, because without community, without helping others (those close to us and those we’ll never meet), everything becomes much less meaningful.

You need all Five P’s.

So pleasure is fine. Give yourself permission to experience pleasure without guilt.

Just don’t forget the others.

Myth 3. Happiness Kills Motivation

This is a belief held by the people who say, “I never want to be happy”.

They say this as if it’s a badge of honour. As if happiness is something to avoid at all costs.

Why?

Because happiness kills motivation.

Because happiness is being fulfilled, and being fulfilled is something to avoid.

This is, of course, total rubbish.

Fulfilment suggests that we can ever stay still. We can’t. Not until the end.

And when that day comes, if you’re fortunate enough that it comes in a way that allows you to reflect, what will you reflect on? Will you be satisfied that you never allowed yourself to be happy?

No matter what anyone tells me, no part of me believes that’s true.

Myth 4. Happiness is Being In An Annoyingly Good Mood All the Time

This is something that has to be addressed. Since I started this project in late 2017, I’ve definitely found some people I’ve known for a long time looking at me a bit differently.

Maybe there’s something about me that they’re not sure of, something that they don’t trust.

My barber said to me on one chop-top visit, “I see you spreading the cheer. Good for you.”

Maybe it’s just me and my own habitual, self-defeating, almost hardwired limiting beliefs in action, but I sensed something unsaid there.

Something like, “Fair play to you for spreading the cheer, but that’s not for me. I’m in the real world. And the real world is sort of shit. And if you’re trying to spread good cheer to me, you can stop right now.”

Let’s face it, no-one likes a Pollyanna.

Pollyanna Definition - What Is Happiness?

Not even me.

I can be grumpy with the best of them. (But no-one likes a permanent grump either…)

Excessive cheeriness is not happiness.

Permanent cheeriness is impossible without putting on a phony front. As Rob Moore wrote in Money: Know More, Make More, Give More,

The more expectation of perennial happiness I had, the worse I felt, and the more I beat myself up about feeling unhappy. Then, I’d then put on this false persona of happy-clappy-happy-joy-joy-joy, only to then feel low and somewhat of a fraud for trying to put on a happy face in public.

So excessive cheeriness — happy-clappy-happy-joy-joy-joy — is very likely to be a mask hiding some deep inner turmoil.

All is not sweetness and light. All is sweetness and light and sourness and darkness too, and everything in between. And that’s the point.

Myth 5. Happiness is Just a Mood or Emotion, Like Any Other

So let’s take a look at emotions.

Here’s a list of emotions (from Wikipedia’s series on emotions, where else?!). 

Feel free to scroll and scan quickly.

  • Affection
  • Anger
  • Angst
  • Anguish
  • Annoyance
  • Anticipation
  • Anxiety
  • Apathy
  • Arousal
  • Awe
  • Boredom
  • Confidence
  • Contempt
  • Contentment
  • Courage
  • Curiosity
  • Depression
  • Desire
  • Despair
  • Disappointment
  • Disgust
  • Distrust
  • Ecstasy
  • Embarrassment
  • Empathy
  • Enthusiasm
  • Envy
  • Euphoria
  • Fear
  • Frustration
  • Gratitude
  • Grief
  • Guilt
  • Happiness
  • Hatred
  • Hope
  • Horror
  • Hostility
  • Humiliation
  • Interest
  • Jealousy
  • Joy
  • Loneliness
  • Love
  • Lust
  • Outrage
  • Panic
  • Passion
  • Pity
  • Pleasure
  • Pride
  • Rage
  • Regret
  • Rejection
  • Remorse
  • Resentment
  • Sadness
  • Saudade
  • Schadenfreude
  • Self-confidence
  • Shame
  • Shock
  • Shyness
  • Sorrow
  • Suffering
  • Surprise
  • Trust
  • Wonder
  • Worry

Looking through all of those, the one thing that jumps out to me is that almost all of them are fleeting.

There are exceptions. Unfortunately for the tens of millions, possibly hundreds of millions of people, all over the world who suffer depression, that is usually not fleeting. Feeling depressed, momentarily, can be an emotion and as such can be fleeting. But depression is way more than feeling depressed.

Likewise with suffering. Suffering is defined, I think, by deep pain that lasts over time. Feeling pain can be an emotion. Living in suffering is about much more than emotion.

So I would dispute the place of depression and suffering in that list of emotions, but for the most part, all the others come and go. Some will come and go in seconds, some in minutes, some, like grief, can last for weeks or months before they eventually regress to a fleeting emotion that can hit us at any time. (Saudade is a new one for me. I’d like to learn more about that!)

So if we think of happiness as an emotion and nothing else, then it will come and go like an emotion. We can feel happy, and an email can pop into your inbox, relaying something that’s gone wrong at work, and that feeling can disappear in an instant.

When I talk about happiness, I’m not talking about a happy feeling.

That is a part of it, of course. But only a part. (I prefer to call that feeling “joy”.) Happiness, to me, is way more than emotions that come and go fleetingly.

Happiness is about a state of mind, now and at every now in the future.

Myth 6. Happiness is the Opposite of Sadness, or Grief

If we’re talking moods, then yes, being in a happy mood is quite self-evidently not being in a sad mood.

But it is possible to experience great happiness and experience great sadness.

And let me tell you something.

It is not just possible, it is essential.

Being alive is all about different emotions and experiences.

Emotions are a central part of life, and have been for as long as humans have been roaming the planet. Emotions are an essential component of being human.

So are experiences. New and different experiences so that we can grow and progress. Repeated and habitual experiences so that we can gain mastery at the crafts to which we dedicate ourselves.

Living a life of emotions and experiences makes sadness and grief absolutely unavoidable.

So a happy life must be one which includes sadness. A happy life is one that knows sadness and grief.

In fact, I argue that sadness and even grief are essential to a happy life.

Why?

Because the only way to avoid sadness and grief is not to live.

Without knowing the feeling of happiness, we cannot know sadness.

Without knowing love, we cannot know grief. (And the greater the love, the greater the grief.)

We must be grateful for this. It is the paradox of humanity. To know one side is to know the other, and welcome both.

(Rudyard Kipling, I think, summed up this paradox of humanity well in his great poem “If”.)

What is happiness to you? Take this 30-second survey!

(Main Photo Credit: Irina Kostenich on Unsplash)

What the hell is happiness, anyway?

Happiness is seven billion endless lists of things for seven billion unique people on the planet.

What’s on your list? How do you view happiness? What is important?

Take this 30-second survey and I’ll post the results every now and then. 🙂

powered by Typeform

Happiness Hack #5: What if we could only subtract to be happy?

Jordan Peterson, the Canadian psychology professor, speaks persuasively about mental health and the complexity of our lives.

Most cases of mental illness, says Peterson, are not actually mental illness at all. They are instead a result of desperate complexity which, added to over time, eventually resulted in a blow-out at the weakest point (depression, alcoholism, gambling or a thousand other possible outcomes).

Depression and anxiety are the two conditions that make up the great majority of all mental illness. By several estimates, depression and anxiety affect somewhere in the region of 10-15% of adults at any given time. 

Some other numbers:

  • More than 1 in 7 of employed people in the United Kingdom are effected by a common mental condition
  • Mental illnesses are responsible for 1 in every 8 “sick days”
  • Mental health and behavioural issues are the primary driver of disability worldwide

In short, mental illness is a big f***ing issue.

The more I read and study and ponder and listen, the more strongly I come to believe that depression and general anxiety disorder are not illnesses at all, not by any accepted definition of illness.

That does not denigrate depression and anxiety. It does not diminish them at all. I know first hand only too well how debilitating depression is. While I’ve experienced panic attacks on more than one occasion, I have not suffered from anxiety disorder, or at least not being diagnosed, but having listened to those who have lived with anxiety for years, it is painfully obvious that it is equally incapacitating. And that incapacitation is absolutely real.

The fact that it is real, however, does not mean it is an illness. Instead, what Peterson has said and written repeatedly — and as both an internationally renowned psychology professor, a practising clinical psychologist and someone with the personality to be totally without fear in speaking what he sees as the truth, he is someone whose opinion I highly respect — is that depression and anxiety are, for the overwhelming majority of the time, less medical illnesses than more symptoms of the terrible complexity in our lives, the terrible challenges of living as a human being.

(This is not a new point of view. In 1960, psychologist and academic Thomas Szasz wrote a scathing paper that claimed that mental illnesses were a myth, and effectively an heir to the likes of witchcraft, demons and theological beliefs, and that the real problem is the big challenge that faces us all, once our basic needs of survival, shelter and security are met, namely how we choose to live. Szasz was both criticised and acclaimed throughout his life, and his paper has been negatively critiqued in recent years.)

I don’t say that mental illnesses are myths. Depression, or anxiety, are very real, but all of this calls to mind something I’ve been thinking of in relation to my own situation, and something I feel strongly about: that my depression was much more of a symptom than an illness. Jim Carrey, the actor, is someone who might share this view. He has made a compelling connection between the terms depressed and deep rest, in that being depressed is a sign that your mind and body needs deep rest to reset and refresh.

Complexity of being, and its relationship to mental health

Given that we’re all products of our environments, the complexity of the world around us has added greatly to the complexity in our own internal worlds. For the vast majority of people in what we might call “the western world”, the basic needs of human existence — air to breathe, drinking water, food to eat, a safe place to sleep — are taken absolutely for granted.

And when that happens, we are faced with different challenges, many of them related to the way we think and what we do. And I humbly suggest that because our basic needs are met each day, the way we think and the things we choose to do are potentially more complex now than at any time in human history

So if we accept that the complexity of our lives is one major cause for what we call mental illness, what can we do about it?

Where are we given to complexity?

Let’s think for a minute of a few ways in which we voluntarily impose utter complexity on our lives.

Complexity in relationships

We don’t talk clearly and honestly and openly with our partners, families and friends. We prefer, instead of clarity and honesty and openness, to “keep up appearances”. We prefer, instead of clarity and honesty and openness, to skirt around deep issues because dealing with them brings us intense short-term discomfort.

Complexity in finances

Is there any area of our lives that are typically more complex than our finances? Everything about the finance industry is confusing. It appears deliberately so. There’s an adage that goes “the confused mind never buys”, but when it comes to finances that just isn’t true. Almost everyone selling us financial products, from investments to insurance to indebtedness, does so in a manner that is entirely cloak and dagger. We buy often because we feel that we must. Health insurance? It’s better to have it than not, we think to ourselves, so we look at the headline factors and gloss over the six pages of small text where there be dragons. Even something as small as a mobile phone contract is dense and virtually illegible. We sign it because signing it gets us our phone and internet. We routinely hit “Accept” on terms and conditions screens without thinking for a moment what exactly we’re accepting.

Complexity in health

From yoga to meditation to spiritual retreats to “couch to 5k” to the latest must-have superfoods to grocery shopping in aisles adorned by hundreds of thousands of products, right through to the list of drugs and other medications we ingest to combat countless illnesses or conditions, our health has surely never been more complex.

In all of this there is a massive conundrum at play, and it is this.

We know, deep in our heart, that simplicity will solve many of our problems. And yet we are compelled to move in the opposite direction.

We are compelled to consume. We are compelled to buy more, collect more, do more. We are compelled to make things more complex rather than less.

But what if we decided to take firm action, to set an intention and follow through on it, to make things less complex?

Mental health: What if we decided to subtract rather than add?

Whether we know it or not, and most of us don’t, we spend almost every minute of every day trying to solve our own complex swirl of competing and conflicting thoughts and emotions.

The way we typically do that is to add something new:

  • A new car
  • A new dress
  • A new television set
  • A new gym membership
  • A new job
  • A new app
  • A new workflow
  • A new project
  • A new holiday
  • A new sexual partner
  • And on, and on, and on…

But instead of adding something new, what would happen if we took something away?

It’s an open question.

I don’t know the answer.

But I think it’s worth trying.

Some things you could subtract, and see what happens.

  • Your smartphone (at least for a day)
  • Facebook (or Twitter, or Instagram…)
  • Email notifications
  • Those shoes/shirts/jeans you never wear
  • Some of the half-dozen small subscriptions that leave your bank account every month

Point to note: Subtracting often involves saying no. And any chance we get to practise saying no is definitely a good thing.

Point to note #2: This owes lots to something in software development called “scope creep”, also known as “kitchen sink syndrome”.

If you like this article, please consider signing up to my regular emails on the subject of happiness and fulfilment.

I send two: