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To Solve a Problem: Subtract Before We Add?

Researchers find that most people add something—rather than take something away—to solve a problem. I never gave that much thought before. Did you? Subtractions But now that I do think about it, I can see that there have been many times when my life improved greatly because I subtracted more than I added anything at all. […]

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Researchers find that most people add something—rather than take something away—to solve a problem. I never gave that much thought before. Did you?

Subtractions

But now that I do think about it, I can see that there have been many times when my life improved greatly because I subtracted more than I added anything at all.

For example, little by little I went from a 5 bedroom home on 2 acres abutting more acres of conservation land to a 750 square foot condo in the heart of DC. You can only imagine how much furniture and such got subtracted over a couple of moves to accomplish this feat.

Sure, I sobbed as the large oval extension dining room table that had held so many family dinners disappeared forever. But not a day goes by that I don’t look around at this perfect space I am in now and think “God, I love this place.” Really.

From Getting to G.R.E.A.T: “A great life depends on a great fit between who we are and the environments in which we work and life.” And this applies to the actual space we live in as much as anything else.

City girl I grew up as and still am, this cozy little dollhouse really does it for me. Subtraction. Less is more.

And little by little I cleaned out my closets and drawers. Just as the closet managers say, any item I have not worn in the past season goes to someone who will. Yes, even in Covid, in fact even more so in Covid, I subtracted and donated more neglected articles of clothing than ever before.

What else? I did subtract useless food and drink from my life over the past year. And, wow, now that I think about this, keeping it this simple has also subtracted both pounds and blood pressure points significant enough that my doctor and I have now subtracted my mild blood pressure medication too.

And yes, I did subtract a few people over the last few years too. In this area of my life especially, less became so much more as I have written before.

…BECAUSE THE TRUTH IS THAT SUBTRACTION CAN BE—THE ADDITION—OF SOMETHING BETTER.

Subtraction is Addition

Subtraction doesn’t just subtract. It adds too. In my case: A Happier, Healthier, Productive Life—Filled with People I Adore and No Problems At All.

Did She Just Say No Problems At All? That’s right, and the reason I say no problems at all is because I don’t really think in terms of problems, not even when, for example, I had flesh eating disease.

Even then, it was a series of decisions to be made one after another to come out on the best footing possible given the givens I got handed at that time.

So, for example, after they gouged out everything they could until there was barely anything left of my sad little arm, the doctor said, “Let’s just close this up and send you home, and we can figure out what to do about plastic surgery later.”

No, I did not get mired in what a problem this doctor and his horrifying idea were. I had a decision to make and I made it.

The thought of endless consultations about who, what, where, and when to ever restructure this little mess of an arm was simply not something I wanted to add to my life. So, “No thank you,” I said to the doctor, “I am not leaving this hospital until you fix this arm. Please do the best you can.” Which they did. And today I have a 100% functional right arm. 

KISS. Keep It Simple Superhero. One decision at a time.

The researchers say we more often decide to add rather than subtract something to negotiate life’s challenges because it takes less cognitive effort and energy than just latching onto some idea the brain spits out about something new to add.

And, the more we do it, addition, the more of a habit addition becomes so subtraction hardly has a chance.

Not anymore. Not for me. I learned something here. Made something conscious that was not quite conscious for me before. And I’m sold.

From now on, before I make any decision, I am going to always ask myself first if there is something I can delete before I add anything in. Mindfully. How about you? Your thought? Let us know…

Warm wishes,

Madelaine

Photo: Unsplash Angelina Litvin

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