Happiness is a Game of Subtraction

Most of us are engaged in a foolish game. Till recently, I was a player, too.

It's the game of chasing happiness by adding stuff to our life.

We obsess over the things we want instead of the life we want. Sometimes these work well together, like a robot vacuum cleaner that gives you back a few hours each month. Or a house with a yard so your kids can play pirates and princesses.

But most of the time it's stuff that either enslaves us more (to pay for it) or distracts us from what we really want, which for most of us, is the freedom and mobility to do interesting work, pursue our interests and spend time with those we care about.

Try an experiment. Every time you think of adding something to your life, ask yourself if it will bring you closer to the life you want, or distract you from it and delay its attainment.

Then ask instead, what you can remove from your life that will lighten the mental, physical and financial burden. Who and what is a negative in your life, and what would it take to remove it?

If it's a person, that's simple. Perhaps not easy, but simple nonetheless. Make yourself less available. Say no to a few things. Eventually, they'll stop asking.

If it's a thing – a practice, an object, a commitment, a habit – that's harder. Start with the easy ones and work your way up.

  • Hate weeding, mowing and trimming? Get a man to do it and get your weekends back.
  • Don't have time to do social media? Get a pimply 14-year-old to do it. Actually, no, get a grown-up to do this one, too.
  • Don't enjoy the morning commute? Negotiate a trial work-from-home period with your bosses and prove that it's better for everyone. In most cases, it is.
  • Hate having no money saved for retirement? Sell your shit, downgrade your car/s, clear out your debts* and learn about index funds and conservative real estate investment.

The point here is, the easiest path to happiness (and wealth, as it happens), is to play the game of subtraction, NOT addition.

To be happy, subtract things. | Blaze Your OwnI'll give you a recent example from my own life. I'd been hankering for a second motorcycle for some time – something offroad-ish to ride in the mountains with my dad. After delaying the decision for well over a year (a good money-saving tactic), I asked myself if there was something so seriously lacking in my life that this new motorcycle would solve? The answer, of course, was no.

So instead of buying a second bike, I went one better and sold my bike and bought a cheaper one!

It's not as fast, and it's not as capable, but boy is it cute! My dad did the same thing, and now we're like a pair of kids raving about our little toys. And the best part? I stuck the $2,300 surplus out of the deal onto our mortgage. So with one decision, I've managed to:

  • Ignore the pull of ‘New Shiny Syndrome'
  • Have more fun more often
  • Bond with my dad even more
  • Introduce my son to riding
  • Save money and do something responsible with it

So, do you think your life is missing something? Try subtracting a few of the negative things in your life before you add anything else, and see how close happiness can actually be.

In almost every case, I promise it'll be more effective than adding more.


*I've written a book about killing off your debts, called The Debt Cure. In it, I explain exactly how I got myself out of debt and how you can do it, too. Fully illustrated and only 40-pages long, you'll knock it over in less than 45 minutes. Download your copy now.


Other Resources

Blog Posts That Might Help

What would your 10-year-old self say about your life?
You’re Already a Millionaire
Let go of your Weaknesses

The Tools I Use and Recommend

Tools and Resources for Entrepreneurs


Books for Entrepreneurs in the New Economy

Choose Yourself – James Altucher
James's unique perspective on life, wealth, business and employment is an eye-opener. A brilliant mind.

The Power of Now – by Eckhart Tolle
Man’s Search for Meaning – by Viktor E. Frankl
As a Man Thinketh – by James Allen

Thanks for stopping by and I hope we get to hang out more in the future. And in the meantime, please feel free to share your own experiences. You can email me directly at peter@blazeyourown.com. I respond to all emails. If this was beneficial to you, please consider subscribing and sharing with someone you think would also benefit. 

Disclaimer & Disclosure: I'm not a psychologist, and I'm not a financial advisor's elbow. This material doesn't constitute financial advice but rather a collection of personal opinions, based on my own experiences. Some of the links on my site are affiliate links, which means that if you make a purchase, I will earn a small commission. This commission comes at no additional cost to you. I provide links to services or products I have used and liked or researched and recommend. Please do not spend any money on these products unless you believe they will be beneficial to you.

Also published on Medium.

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