As entrepreneurs and aspiring changemakers, we are constantly told we need to do this, we need to do that. We need to add this routine, we need to add this skill. To get ahead we need to do more, be more, add more.
When we face a challenge we ask ourselves, “What do I need to add? What do I need to start doing to fix this?” While these may be good questions to ask, they shouldn’t be the first questions.
The first question you should always ask yourself is, “What can I cut? What can I STOP doing?”
As Greg Mckeown says in his classic bestseller, Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, we must take on the role as editor in our life and leadership:
“What I mean is that a good editor is someone who uses deliberate subtraction to actually add life to the ideas, setting, plot, and character. Likewise, in life, disciplined editing can help add to your level of contribution. It increases your ability to focus on and give energy to the things that really matter. It lends the meaningful relationships and activities more space to blossom.”
Editing your life can be hard and painful. But you must, like Stephen King says about editing, “kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings.”
Great editors know that cutting things out is not a negative action, it’s an empowering one. It means you are taking your life into your own hands and choosing what you go big on. If you don’t choose your priorities, someone else will.
Things you can give up to elevate your life
- Habits/ routines
Do you have habits in your life that are not serving you? All actions are bringing you closer to the life you want or further away from it. What habits are not getting you closer to your best life? Habits and routines can be extremely hard to break. But habits and routines define who you are. Your actions program your mind to think certain ways and feel your nervous system to feel certain ways. Write a list of all your routines and habits. Then classify them as moving you closer or further away from your end goals. What steps can you take today to remove the habits that aren’t serving you from your life?
One of my favorite ways to simplify my life is to give up material items (ask my fiance about my hatred of having too many cups in the house). It is such a fast way to feel more free. Most people hold on to material possessions that don’t add any value to their lives. They accumulate things but feel empty on the inside. Purging yourself of unimportant material possessions can jump-start a new, more flexible chapter of your life. One of the simplest ways to get started with this is to clean out your closet. But instead of asking yourself at each item, “Will I wear this at some point in the future,” ask yourself “Do I love this? Does this bring me joy and happiness? If I didn’t own this item, how much would I pay to obtain it?” You’ll find you are more apt to throw things away when you ask tougher questions. Removing clutter from your house is practice for removing clutter from your life. “Spark Joy: An illustrated master class on the art of organizing and tidying up” is a fantastic book about removing clutter from your house and life.
Commitments can often feel like non-negotiable burdens on someone’s life. In passing you agree to help out with a buddy’s non-profit and before you know it you have meetings to attend, hours of work to do, and resentment about the whole situation. We feel like this because we fear disappointing the other person, so we go along with it. Now, a simple solution to this is to be careful what you commit to and say no more often than yes, but what do you do if you already have a lot of commitments that are weighing you down? Decommit or renegotiate. Yes, you can do these. If your circumstances change and that makes a commitment just too much to follow through with, it is likely you are going to deliver a poor result. The best thing to do is to have an honest conversation with the person you committed to and tell them the circumstance change. They will respect your honesty, courage, and discipline. Might they be upset in the moment? Yes (though I find that people are much more understanding than we give them credit for). The small amount of disappointment in the moment is much better than the resentment that builds later on when you are too overwhelmed to complete the task fully, leaving both of you disappointed anyway.
With mentees that are way over committed, I apply what I call “Commitment Bankruptcy.” This exercise allows you to put all existing commitments to the side. Pretend you have no commitments. Then, ask yourself what commitments you would add today. This exercise puts your commitments in perspective. Which ones would you get rid of and which ones would you keep?
What long-held beliefs are no longer serving you? One of the most dangerous of beliefs are Limiting Beliefs. Everyone has limiting beliefs, that voice inside your head that tells you you aren’t good enough, that there’s no way you can accomplish your goals. One limiting belief I hear often in my own head is that I am lazy. Limiting beliefs may also be less sinister, “I’m not creative so I can’t paint.” “I could never be a good cook.” Limiting beliefs have the power to paralyze anyone from pursuing their authentic path in life. They derail dreams before they can even get started. They keep people unfulfilled and unhappy.
One way to work on giving up these beliefs is to keep a thought journal for a week. Every Time you have a limiting belief or negative thought, write it down exactly how you hear it. After a week, analyze these thoughts. Are they serving you and your missions? Are they benefiting you in anyway? Bringing awareness to these limiting beliefs is a great first step in being able to overcome them and give them up. I’ve used this exercise to overcome some of my deep limiting beliefs.
If you want to dive deeper into breaking limiting beliefs, check out my book Lose Your Limits: Grow Your Business. Even if you don’t own a business it will help you break your limiting beliefs.
Other limiting belief patterns to let go of: “I’ll be happy when….” talk, victimizing language like “Bad things always happen to me,” scarcity mindset language “There’s not enough time in the day.” or “We don’t have enough.”
Probably the hardest thing to give up in your life (and something I touched on in my last article). In order to live an elevated life and live your best life, you will have to let go of people who are no longer serving your best interests. This may include close friends and family members. I have had to do this many times in my life and it is hard, but necessary. I’ve had to cut my ties with friends and family in order to pursue my best life and continue to grow.
If someone is no longer aligned with you and is not conducive to your best life, you have to separate yourself from them. As my last article stated, you are the sum of the five people you spend the most time with.
If you are spending time with people who hold you back, or more than likely, pull you down, you are doing a disservice to yourself and everyone you would potentially be serving.
To start this process, make a list of the 10 closest people in your life. State whether they are a positive influence or negative. If they are negative, make a conscious effort to distance yourself from these people. This may necessitate a tough conversation or it may just be casually creating distance. This doesn’t mean you have to be an ass about separating. You can do it with dignity and respect.
Giving up people is not mean or disrespectful, it is a necessary part of life if you want to grow.
In fact, this is one of the most courageous things you can do in your life.
But when you go from continuously stacking new things to your life and instead start asking yourself what you can remove, you will actually ADD to your life.
You’ll add more clarity, more focus, more happiness, and more fulfillment.
Want to dive deeper into breaking limiting beliefs?
Check out my book here.