Bestselling author Tim Ferriss said, “Believe it or not, it is not only possible to accomplish more by doing less, it is mandatory. Enter the world of elimination.”
What brings you joy? What activities increase your confidence? Are there people, places, or things that leave you feeling drained? What’s keeping you from pursuing a long-time goal? What foods are good for your body and which ones aren’t? These are the kinds of questions we should be asking ourselves often. Most of us think the reason we’re not happier is because we’re missing something. We’re looking for something to fulfill our lives before we can declare ourselves happy. Constantly in search of the American dream, yet always so far from it. We receive the message that we need more things to be happy, but after we buy that house, that car, or get that new job, we sometimes go back to that feeling of emptiness. And even after we have so many materials and titles we really are no happier than we were before. Maybe we’re better off financially, but not necessarily emotionally.
Money and materialism is the driving factor of this nation. Corporations are more than willing to sell you a lie and a promise for your dollars, your time, and your attention. But where do we fall in this equation? We fall hard; we fall broke, busted, and disgusted. They get rich, while we get more in-debt, more ill, more overweight, lazier, and more depressed. We need to begin questioning every product and every invention that we plan to purchase or utilize. We need to ask ourselves, how will this affect my mind, my body, my time, my relationships, my productivity, my sleep, my health, & my bank account. We can’t allow a 30 second infomercial to convince us that something is right for us. We must not allow the pressure of “keeping up with the Jones’” to lead us into financial and spiritual ruin. We can’t allow our addictions to processed foods, smart phones, and name brand clothing, keep us from living the lives God intended for us to live.
Capitalism can be like Santa Claus, sneaking expensive gifts inside our home, bringing us a brief moment of happiness. But it can also be like a thief in the night. Stealing our joy and freedom without us even noticing. We constantly hear about living in the land of opportunity. But too often, we find ourselves depressed, overworked, overweight, stressed-out, frustrated, and addicted. Remember the days before cell phones, before social media, before the internet. We were more carefree, more present, and more confident. Now we have become a society where, even though many people spend more than 3 hours per day on Facebook, Instagram, or twitter, isolation and social anxiety are on the rise. Despite the millions of so-called “health food” products on the shelves of almost every supermarket in this country, we suffer from more food related preventable diseases than any other nation. And despite being the “home of the free”, more than 2 million people are imprisoned, and more than 4 million people are on home arrest or probation.
We must first look to God and then inside ourselves to find our joy. Our lives should be by design. Just as God specifically designed each one of us for his purpose, our lives are like a work of art. We should design our art to be an honest reflection of who we are as individuals to live a truly genuine life, just as God intended for us. Pablo Picasso said, “Art is the elimination of the unnecessary.” So maybe, we don’t need more things to make us happy as we are told. Maybe instead, we need to eliminate “the unnecessary”. Epicurus, stated, “The summit of pleasure, is the elimination of all that gives pain.” In fact, elimination and not accumulation is the key to redesigning ourselves into the beautiful masterpieces that we see in our daydreams. It is how the pleasure in our life will naturally unfold.
To begin an elimination phase, you must first agree that everything we choose to engage in during our daily lives, has the power to either give you energy or to take your energy. I’m talking about both physical and mental energy. Everything that we engage in, look at, eat, drink, purchase, read, and hear has a daily effect on our lives and how we view the world, ourselves, and other people. Elimination is a huge key to happiness. It might sound crazy because we are programmed to have a “more is better, bigger is best” type of attitude. But eliminating certain things from our lives can help us figure out what we truly value as individuals. Then we can begin to design our lives into the beautiful piece of art that it’s intended to be.
The very wise Bruce Lee once articulated, “One does not accumulate but eliminate. It is not daily increase, but daily decrease. The height of cultivation always runs on simplicity.” We cultivate ourselves largely based on what we choose to eliminate from our lives. I took a lot of time to consider what things in my life may have been keeping me from being my best self. In my last post, Reinvention, I listed 5 things I would be eliminating from my life to be my best, most cultivated, most authentic self. Here are 7 things I’ve learned since eliminating certain forms of media, foods, and clutter from my life:
- Information Overload. While we can all agree that our physical energy certainly has an expiration, we don’t always realize that our mental energy does as well. There is a such thing as information overload. Exposure to too much information and data can cause stress, indecisiveness, and confusion. This is a popular technique of the diet industry. They keep you confused on the facts, and overload consumers with products and supplements they don’t need and don’t understand. That’s why it’s so important to eliminate the unnecessary information that we might be ingesting daily. For instance, most of us know what foods are good for us, and which ones are not. But once we begin listening to dieting advice from “health gurus” you start to think otherwise. And when their advice isn’t working you turn to the next guru, and the next, and the next. You end up more confused than when you started. And the old advice your grandmother told you (drink a lot of water, eat a lot of fruits and vegetables, and take a walk everyday) is suddenly not good enough. We become frustrated when nothing works fast enough and quit before we even get started. Limiting when and where we receive advice can drastically improve your focus and help you stay on the right path. If you know you want to follow a plant based diet, don’t read up on paleo diets. Concentrate on the path you’ve chosen to take and stick to it. Commitment and consistency to any plan you choose to follow will work in time. But it will be important for you to eliminate contradictory information that can cause confusion, if you want to succeed.
- The media can change how you view yourself. When I eliminated social media and television, and greatly reduced all other forms of media, I noticed that I felt better about myself after only a few days. It could be that I was feeling proud of myself for finally beginning to redesign my own life in a way that was more genuine to me. But it may also have been, that I escaped the comparison trap. Television, the internet, and social media can sometimes have a negative effect on how you view yourself, your lifestyle, and your body. Women especially, should be particularly choosy with what they watch in the media. Watching shows like Love and Hip Hop or even scrolling through magazines or your Instagram feed can damage how you view your life and your body. It’s because we start to play the comparison game without even realizing it. We look at the lives of reality stars. We notice their seemingly perfect bodies, their big homes, their endless vacations to exotic destinations, and without even realizing it, we start to compare. Other than the buffoonery and the drama of it all, the reason we keep tuning into shows like the Real Housewives is because of the luxurious lifestyle that the characters live. Very different from our own. But how we view them, starts to also shape how we view ourselves. The shapely derrière, and the small waists; that’s what we want, right? The expensive homes and the nice cars with the big car payments that we really can’t afford. But we spend our money anyway, in hopes to feel a hint of the status that the celebrities feel. But we have no idea what these people’s lives are really like. We forget that what we see on television isn’t always real. They’re exaggerated for our entertainment. Why would we tune in to watch people who live just like us, right? By eliminating these shows, I stopped giving myself a point of comparison. Once we are no longer influenced by someone else’s vision of the “American Dream,” we are free to examine our own vision. And without spending hours watching TV, we have the time to make that vision a reality. Sometimes, social media can have a similar effect to watching TV. They too, can start to make us feel like our lives aren’t good enough as they are. Let’s face it, if we keep comparing ourselves to someone’s Instagram feed we will never be happy with our own life. Not to mention, that spending too much time on any of these sites, can keep us from being productive and making the effort to live the life we desire. Teddy Roosevelt said, “comparison is the thief of joy.” When we remove the ideals and societal standards from our everyday lives, we suddenly start to be happy with ourselves just as we are. And the only comparison we should be making is with the person we were yesterday, last month, or last year. To be our best selves, we need to look inside ourselves for our own unique greatness, and pay less attention to outside influences.
- Distractions can keep you from achieving your goals. Every once and a while, we all need to look at our lives and review our goals. I suggest keeping a journal, and then reading it a year later. See what desires and goals you had the year before. Perhaps you wanted to lose weight, start a business, go abroad, save $10,000, or buy a new house. Now, look at what you have achieved; what are you still actively working on; how much headway have you gained? It’s quite possible that you achieved many of the goals you had last year; and it’s very possible that you didn’t. Now quite possibly, the reason you haven’t achieved your goal is because you’re lazy (I have been guilty of this too). But maybe the biggest reason is that you’re distracted. There may be things in your life that are keeping you distracted from reaching your potential. It could be video games, television, addictions, your smart phone, or even your friends or family. We must remember that Satan is a master of distraction. He distracted King Solomon with foreign women, he distracted Samson with Delilah, he distracted Lot’s wife with curiosity. He even tried to distract Jesus in the wilderness, so he will do the same to you. He can keep you distracted for years if you allow him. Don’t allow pointless distractions to keep you from achieving your goals. Eliminate anything from your life that opposes your goal.
4. Cutting out mental distractions is great for the mind. Most of the time, we aim to distract ourselves from our day. We don’t enjoy sitting in silence with ourselves or with other people. In fact, silence makes a lot of people uncomfortable. They are addicted to mental distraction (like having the TV playing in the background, even though they’re not watching it), which is also why so many people suffer from lack of concentration and insomnia. But when you sit in silence with no tv or radio and without checking your phone or social media profiles, you have time to absorb the scene unfolding around you. You are more able to live in the present. You have time to think and reflect over your day, your year, your goals. It’s in those moments that you start to learn more about yourself; what you want out of life, what you truly value. It’s kind of like a form of meditation. Give it try while you’re driving. Don’t turn on the radio or talk on the phone. Just drive in silence and soak up the environment. Try to live in the moment for that time. It really can be a big stress reliever and very calming. I believe it made me a bit happier & much more productive.
- When you’ve eliminated clutter from your life, you start to view your purchases differently. Once you finally have started clearing your home of the great amass of things you didn’t really use, and now love your new space because it’s easier to clean and you spend less time searching for items, and more time doing the hobbies that you enjoy; you may begin to look at your purchases a little differently. For instance, there was a time when you wouldn’t have been able to pass up the urge to buy a new pair of shoes or some new home decor, however, now you see your space with an entire new frame of mind. You see your space as sacred, and you would never want to compromise it with junk you really don’t need. Therefore, now when you go to the store, you only buy things you really need or think are special. This saves you time, money, and energy. Plus, it feels good to walk out of the store, and not feel like you wasted your money frivolously. By eliminating clutter, you eliminate one of the main barriers to productivity and financial freedom.
6. Eliminating certain foods can have a huge impact on your self-image. We all know the benefits of eating a healthy diet. But, being disciplined enough to eliminate certain foods from your diet can also have an amazing effect on your self-image. In this country, we are literally bombarded with unhealthy foods. Despite all the gluten free, dairy free, sugar free, and fat free labels, 95% of everything in the supermarket is unhealthy. There’s a McDonald’s on almost every major street; junk food is in the mall, at your job, even at some gyms. Getting a meal with no animal products at most restaurants is nearly impossible. And yet there are people who manage to eat healthy all the time. They have purposefully eliminated unhealthy toxic foods from their diet because they know, their body feels better and runs better with healthy foods. But when you make this kind of commitment to your life, and you stick to it, you start to feel an extraordinary amount of pride and self-confidence. If you can manage to avoid these temptations daily, this means you are disciplined beyond belief. Once you understand this point, you realize that you are not limited by anything. You realize that you can accomplish anything. If you can make this one change in your life, eliminate all toxic foods from your diet (even just 80% of the time), what can you not do? You are winning in a world designed for you to fail. If you want to change your life, I recommend you start here. It will increase your discipline, teach you how to sacrifice, and keep you thinking outside the box. Eventually, these principles will flow into your career, your finances, and any other area you wish to improve. Gandhi said that health is the real wealth. And I believe he meant physical health, as well as mental and spiritual health. All of which can, to some degree, can be nourished with a healthy diet. And if this is true, read what Hippocrates said regarding health: “If someone wishes for good health, one must first ask oneself if he is ready to do away with the reasons for his illness. Only then is it possible to help him.” Eliminate anything that threatens your health and the sky is the limit for you.
- Elimination can increase discipline. When trying to break a bad habit, we’ve all heard the saying, “everything in moderation.” But for a large majority of us, and depending on what the “thing” is, moderation is not the answer. For instance, we all know the famous tagline, “Once you pop, you can’t stop.” That’s not just a jingle, for some of us, it’s true. We have a harder time eating just a little bit, than not having it at all. That little slice of cake can easily turn into 4 little slices of cake. And going into your favorite store for one pair of shoes, can easily turn into you buying two or three pairs of shoes, that you just didn’t need. And we all know what that “thing” is for us,individually. We’ve been trying moderation for years, but we still consistently overindulge. That’s when elimination is the way. Believe it or not, resounding yourself that you will have none, is much easier than teasing yourself with a little. When we are engaged in our vices, we get chemical reactions in our brain that prompts us to eat more, buy more, smoke more, drink more, etc. It’s not just mentally harder for us to say NO, it’s also physically harder. I have always found that I am more disciplined when I am fasting. Not being able to have something at all means that I don’t introduce myself to those chemical changes in my brain, and I don’t tease myself when I know I can easily lose control. I’ll never forget listening to an interview of the late Luther Vandross, when he said, if he ate one bagel, then he had to have six. Each person’s vice is different. For me, it’s food. But knowing what my triggers are, is helpful, and then eliminating them, makes sticking to my goals easier.
Dr. M. Cobanli was quoted as saying, “Great design is not just a solution, it is the elimination of the problem.” We will never become the people we want to be by chance. We should design our lives to be the masterpiece we choose to see. So, when you are designing your life, be sure to review those things that are possibly threatening your health, your wealth, or your happiness. You don’t have to be overweight, in debt, or stressed out. Eliminate those things that do not fully align with your goals and design “the best you.”
Until next time, stay prayed up