I was exploring the topic of “subtraction” during a gathering of a special group of leaders over the past weekend. Part of our discussion addressed the question: “what do we want to strip off (or leave behind), and what to we want to step into” at the start of the new year. It was a heartfelt, vulnerable conversation that left us invigorated for the possibilities of 2016.
The content that I found most useful was the exploration of subtraction. You may find this counter-intuitive since our tendency at the start of a new year is to consider all we want to achieve in the coming 12 months. We work on our action plans, goals, objectives, strategies, tactics, etc. I’m not making that process wrong. I believe it is quite helpful, especially when coupled with the question: “What do I intend to subtract this year?” That’s right–SUBTRACT. More often that not, for us to advance confidently in the direction of our dreams we need to unburden ourselves and let go of relationships, stories, practices, habits, and even material goods that no longer serve us on our path forward.
Many of you who follow my posts know that I am an avid non-fiction reader, hungrily devouring books from antiquity to the present. In the search for truth and wisdom I enjoy learning from multiple masters–no matter what their angle (spiritual, psychological, physical, mystical, metaphysical, new age, etc.). The counter-intuitive (and challenging) subtraction for me this year was to delete a significant number of books from my Audible and Amazon wish lists. Through this act of subtraction, I am honoring an intention to focus my studies in 2016 on those works of literature with a spiritual angle. That was a difficult and conscious choice (considering my addiction), which I hope will open up some new perspectives in the coming year.
I offer this short, personal story of subtraction as a pointer toward greater happiness. I am convinced (as are many wisdom teachers) that happiness is not derived from adding more material or intellectual stuff to our lives.
So as you ponder 2016, I ask: what crap will you flush down the toilet so that you may open up space in 2016 and be free to fly into a jubilant new year?
David Langiulli is a certified professional coach who works with non-profit leaders.
He’s also the author of The Essential Leadership Guide For Fundraising Professionals.