Subtraction is Productivity

Everything you have in your life is energy, and thus it creates an equal and opposite reaction. For example, if you have huge amounts of clothes overflowing from your closet, this costs you a large amount of physical space. But it also costs you mental and emotional space.

Beyond physical stuff like clothes, you are carrying a lot of suppressed emotions. Everyone is. And those emotions are very heavy to carry, making it almost impossible for you to evolve beyond your current atmosphere.

Additionally, you are carrying relationships that, like gravity, keep you in your current environment.
The only way to get out of your current environment is to exert a force in equal and opposite proportion to all of the energy keeping you in your current atmosphere.
Without question, you don’t have the power or the energy to exert that level of force. It would be impossible to will your way out of your environment. The gravitational pull is seismic and gigantic.

Just as in Interstellar, the only way to effectively deal with Newton’s third law of motion is to lighten the load.
You need to remove lots and lots from your life.

“Well, I thought if I didn’t unroll my sleeping bag, I wouldn’t have to roll it up again.”
This young boy painfully froze for hours because he didn’t want to endure the torturous five minutes of rolling up his sleeping bag.
Don’t be this kid. Don’t spend your life—or even one night—in unnecessary pain. Do the work up front to lighten the shackles around your ankles. Remove the gravitational pull forcefully keeping you in an atmosphere you can’t thrive in.

There Will Always Be Some Difficulty When You Improve Your Life

Becoming a better person is difficult. You are where you are because of who you are. Your environment is a product of you. You’re the magnet pulling in the patterns. If someone outside of you were to change your environment for you, you’d quickly find yourself in the same station you are now.

When a baby chick is trying to break out of its shell, it struggles. If you watch, you can feel terrible for the baby chick. You may even be tempted to help that chick by breaking its shell. But if you do this, you won’t help the baby long-term. Actually, you’ll probably kill the chick, because the very struggle of breaking out of the shell is what gives it strength to survive.
The gravitational pull holding you down is the struggle you must learn to transcend.

It’s not supposed to be easy to detach yourself from the life you currently have.
You wouldn’t be where you are if there weren’t benefits. Acknowledge those benefits. Acknowledge that you enjoy being where you are. If you didn’t, you would’ve changed your circumstances long ago. You’re comfortable where you are. Consequently, it will be hard, at least emotionally, to get rid of many of the things that make up your current identity. This includes your physical possessions, your relationships, your distractions, your expectations, your excuses, and your story.

If you want to evolve to another level, you need to let go. There will likely be some withdrawals. You’ll be tempted to revert back. But if you do, you won’t make it out of your current atmosphere. You won’t leave your current environment and enter into one with far greater possibilities.

Eliminate Stuff

The less you own, the more you have. Before you could possibly have a clear mind, you need to have a clear environment. Remove everything you don’t regularly use.
Get the stuff out of your environment immediately. You will feel amazing.

Your physical space closely reflects your mental state. If your environment is disorganized, so is your mind. Everything is energy. Your environment is constantly influencing you whether you’re aware of it or not.

If you even have to waste five minutes per day on pointless garbage floating around in your environment, that’s needless friction stopping you from achieving something you actually value.

Before he organized his life, he had an entire closet full of power cables and other electronics. However, once he decided to reduce the gravitational pull in his life and eliminate the nonessentials, he established a limit of electronics he would have.
If he ever needed to add anything to the shoe box once full, he’d be required to take something else out and either throw it away or sell it. That box was his limit on electronics.

Other examples:

Lower limits are also very helpful:

If you’re serious about being organized, you should have limits set on nearly every aspect of your life.

Everything is baggage that you have to carry.

Eliminate Distractions

If you’re working on a project at work and it starts to become difficult, or you start to get bored, what do you do? If you’re like most people, rather than sitting with the struggle, you distract yourself.
Check your email, or social media, or mindlessly surf the Web, grab some sugary sweet or processed carbs.
In other words, each of these activities releases dopamine.

It makes you feel good for a while. It’s pleasurable. Unfortunately, that pleasure doesn’t last.
Just like the taste of a doughnut quickly fades only to leave you with long-term side effects.

The overpowering message of today is to live for the moment.
When something sucks, or becomes hard, most people anesthetize themselves with some distractive dopamine.
Most people indulge themselves in momentary satisfaction at the expense of a better future.

Eliminate Options

Too many options leads to indecision and often half-committed choices.
You’re always left wondering if you made the right choice. Never fully committed and always looking back.

Michael Jordan has said, “Once I made a decision, I never thought about it again.” This is confidence. This is self-trust. There’s no fear of missing out. There’s no questioning your own judgment. You know what you want and what you don’t want.
You can’t have it all.
And you’re fine with that sacrifice because you get the rare experience of achieving brilliant things, while most people are enjoying a large buffet of shallow decisions and empty commitments.

Consequently, the more options you can eliminate from your life, the better. This requires that you know what you want, or at least know the direction you’re headed. Success isn’t that difficult; it merely involves taking twenty steps in a singular direction. Most people take one step in twenty directions. Let go of vain and distracting pursuits you’re not truly committed to.

You make powerful decisions that remove or make easier all other decisions.
When we decided to make our home sugar-free, our kids hardly noticed. There was still food on the table and snacks in the fridge. Their willpower was unaffected because their environment took care of the decision. By eliminating bad options, willpower and working memory aren’t taxed.

You want to create constraints around what you can do, because you know those constraints are your ultimate freedom.

The fewer choices you have to make, the more powerful your choices will be. Eliminate all potential options that serve as nothing more than distractions.
Let go of the fear of missing out. Go deep rather than shallow. Remove all internal conflict from your life.
You’ll also be surprised how peaceful it is to have created an environment that aligns with your highest values and aspirations.

Eliminate People

Surround yourself with people who remind you more of your future than your past.

-- Dan Sullivan

the best thing you can do is be a good example for them. And you can’t be a good example by living below the level you believe you should.

Eliminate Working Memory

When you get insights or ideas, immediately record them. Get them down on paper or record them in audio. Outsource your thinking to your environment to free your working memory space.

I needlessly kept the thought in my head for a week: “You’ve got to tell Tyler you’re not gonna be here for the movie.” Had I just sent the text immediately, all would be resolved. The world would continue spinning, I’d have never thought about it again, and Tyler would have been able to better plan his weekend. If it takes less than two minutes, do it now.

Get into the habit of fast and straightforward communication when you have information others need.
Get it out of your head now and allow the other person more time to deal with the information you give them.


The key things to delete from your life include:


Make Positive Choices Automatic

In many cases, people are unknowingly performing at mediocre levels simply because that’s how the environment was set up.

Rutgers University simply made double-sided printing the default option on its lab printers. This small act saved 7,391,065 sheets of paper in the first semester.

Here’s the challenge with default behaviors: They are ingrained and triggered from the external environment. They are default for a reason, because they are unconscious and habitual. Because the environment prompts your behavior, it is the environment that needs to be disrupted.

Addiction Comes from Having Ineffective Defaults in Place

Within Rat Park, there were plenty of incredible things for a rat to do. There was lots of cheese, toys to play with, open space to run through, tubes to explore, and, most importantly, lots of other rats to hang out with. Also included in Rat Park were the two water bottles as used in previous experiments, one with regular water and the other with drug-laced water. Interestingly, in Rat Park, the rats hardly ever used the drug water, preferring the regular water instead. None of the rats ever used the drug water impulsively, and none of them ever overdosed, as the other rats did in the small and secluded cages.

to Robins’s surprise, only 5 percent of the previously addicted soldiers relapsed when they came home.
Being addicted in Vietnam didn’t mean you were an addict in America.

Much of your behavior is unconsciously cued by your environment.
“We don’t feel sort of pushed by the environment,”
“But, in fact, we’re very integrated with it.”
the best way to alter addiction or any form of undesired behavior is to disrupt your environment.

Eating your impulsive midnight snack with your nondominant hand, can alter the action.
This pulls your conscious mind back into the moment

Smokers, for example, can go hours without even thinking about smoking when they’re engaged in certain activities or in certain situations. Most smokers admit to not experiencing smoking craving while on an airplane. Within that context, smoking simply isn’t an option. Consequently, the craving doesn’t persist, and the mind focuses on something else.

Design Your Defaults

“In a few hundred years, when the history of our time will be written from a long-term perspective, it is likely that the most important event historians will see is not technology, not the Internet, not e-commerce. It is an unprecedented change in the human condition. For the first time—literally—substantial and rapidly growing numbers of people have choices. For the first time, they will have to manage themselves. And society is totally unprepared for it.”

-- Peter Druker

No generation has ever been tested with such tempting and chemically rewarding distractions.

You need to deepen the quality and intimacy of your relationships with other people. Our culture is being shaped to isolate us more and more from each other. Addiction is becoming an epidemic. When you have deep and meaningful relationships, your chances of unhealthy addiction are far less.

Principle #1: Don’t Be a Slave to Your Environment

If you spend several hours unconsciously using technology, how could you expect to be fully engaged in your work and relationships?
parents’ behavior becomes the standard for their children.

don’t check your smartphone or get on the Internet at all for twenty-four hours. The purpose of the technology fast is to reconnect with yourself and your loved ones.
If you never give yourself a break from technology, it will wear you down mentally and physically.

Principle #2: Wherever You Are, That’s Where You Should Be

Because people are always connected, they remain in a state of continuous low-level stress. This stress is subconscious, but it ages the mind and body.

Before you leave work for the day (or, especially, for the weekend), write down what your top priorities are for the next day or week. When you write your thoughts down, your mind won’t feel the need to linger on them or try to remember, because they’ve been written down and outsourced.

If you can’t create boundaries for yourself and your work, then you’ll never be fully effective.

“Wherever you are, make sure you’re there.”

-- Dan Sullivan

Principle #3: Act on Instinct and Intuition, Not Impulse and Dependence

When you do, it’s because you want to, not because you have to.
If you’re going to use caffeine, technology, or anything for that matter, do it based on intuition and instinct, not based on impulse and addiction.

Principle #4: You Need Deep Human Connections to Overcome Any Addiction

Addiction is the manifestation of having a lack of healthy human connections. Addiction is the product of isolation and loneliness, and it creates a downward spiral that creates even more isolation and loneliness.

the way out of addiction is deep human connections. People need to believe their behavior matters, not only to themselves, but also to other people.

Despite being heavily connected through the Internet, people have never felt more alone. And in their lonely environment, the addictive cues have never been more powerful.

You’ll probably try to convince yourself that you must first kick your addiction before you can reach out to people. After all, who would want to be in a relationship with you right now?

Vulnerability is essential. Connection is the key.
Rather than seeing addicts as bad people, it’s important to see addiction for what it is: a solution. It’s a solution for resolving pain.

Eventually, every addict, and really every person seeking permanent healing and transformation in their lives, needs to face the same bitter reality as my friend had to face. You can’t overcome an addiction through willpower. You can’t change your life on your own. You need other people. You need to learn to trust others. Transformation can only occur through collaboration, which requires two or more people. The whole becomes more than the sum of its parts. Rather than trying to “author” yourself, you give yourself wholly to another person and dedicate yourself to a cause you believe in.

True meaning in life is to be discovered in the world rather than within man or his own psyche. I have termed this constitutive characteristic “the self-transcendence of human existence.” The more one forgets himself—by giving himself to a cause to serve or another person to love—the more human he is and the more he actualizes himself. What is called self-actualization is not an attainable aim at all, for the simple reason that the more one would strive for it, the more he would miss it. In other words, self-actualization is possible only as a side-effect of self-transcendence.

You don’t need to be brilliant to have healthy relationships. You just need to be real.
You need to be present and actually care about other people.
It will also require you to be honest about your values, beliefs, and goals. If you can’t be honest with others about who you are and who you want to be, your relationships will be shallow.

There is absolutely nothing more important in life than other people. Nothing.
Especially with your spouse, children, immediate family, and close friends—those relationships are where your deepest joy and meaning can and should come.
They can serve as an incredible motivator.


Putting Failure-Planning to Work

You can’t have confidence if you continually act in ways contrary to your goals.

Implementation Intentions

Implementation intentions come down to knowing ahead of time exactly what you’ll do if you veer off course, as well as defining precisely what veering off course means for you. It’s planning to fail so you can proactively respond.

Ultrarunners: “If I completely lose my ability to see, then I’ll stop.” If they don’t preset the conditions, they’re likely to quit prematurely.

If you can distract yourself for even a few seconds, the craving often goes away.
Furthermore, by following through with your plan and living in alignment with your goals, you’ll get a boost of confidence.

Rarely are the conditions perfect. And if you have a plan for what you’ll do when things fall apart, you won’t act in a reactive and unconscious manner. Instead, you’ll confidently and consciously stick with your plan.

Putting Failure-Planning to Work

Ex1: “If I was a smoker, this is one of those times I would smoke.”
Ex2: The moment he’s tempted or emotionally drawn to play, he pulls out his journal and acknowledges his feelings.

Visualize the Process, Not Just the Outcome

Although writing down and visualizing the completion of your goal is extremely helpful, it’s also essential to write down and visualize the process of achieving your goals.
By visualizing the process, which includes obstacles to your goals and how you’ll deal with them, your performance will increase and your anxiety will decrease.

Conclusion: How to Use Implementation Intentions

You don’t want to have to consciously think about your behaviors and choices.
You want to create environments that either force the best out of you, or allow you to fully recover, reset, and reconnect.

Whenever I get into a deep personal funk, I have three close people I immediately call. These people are very different from each other, but have been key anchors during pivotal periods of my life.

After I’ve talked to each of these people, I pull out my journal and just start writing. Inevitably, I begin writing about my goals, the things I’m struggling with, and what matters most to me. Journaling is definitely one of the most powerful emotional regulation tools and for me serves as my daily therapy session.



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