We often think about achieving our goals (the things we want to have and become) in terms of what we must do to attain them.
“I need to take a class, workout more, get on a diet, write a book, etc.” You know, work harder, hustle more, put more things on your plate.
Rarely though, do we ever think about the things we need to NOT do. In terms of creating results in your life, it is exponentially more important to be clear about what you need to stop doing before spending too much effort into taking on more.
I had a friend when I was a few years out of college, who wanted to lose about 30 pounds and had come to me for advice. He wanted to know what kind of diet he had to go on and what sort of workouts he should be doing.
Having known this guy to be quite the partier I asked, “Johnny, before we get into diet and training, let me ask you a question: How many beers do you drink per week?”
He stared off for a few seconds, rubbing his chin to ponder the arithmetic of his Bud Light consumption, and responded, “Eighty. I drink about 80 beers a week.”
I said, “Okay. From now on, don’t drink any more than 40 beers per week. Don’t change anything else, and we’ll talk in a month.”
Fast forward about six weeks. I hadn’t seen him, and honestly I forgot all about the conversation. But one weekend, we ran into each other again. He walked right up to me and thanked me profusely.
I looked at him and was astonished. He was at least 20 pounds lighter. I said, “Dude, what have you been doing? You look great!”
He responded, “I took your advice I only drink 40 beers a week and the weight fell off! How did you know that would work? It’s amazing!”
Needless to say, I told him to reduce his beer consumption even more over time to dramatically transform his body and then work in exercise. This story is an extreme example of the power of adding to your life by subtraction. If you feel stuck in an area of your life, there is probably a few things you’re doing that are dramatically hindering your progress more than there are things you need to start doing.
And in our digital age, rarely are these insidious results killers as simple as “drink half as many beers as you usually do.” I’ve found that the things we need to stop doing are seemingly harmless: bedtime email, excessive social media, binging “only” on the weekends, eating out constantly, etc.
Isolated, these little habits are not detrimental, but the net effect of these things drain your time, energy, and attention leaving you tired, unfocused, and perpetually stuck.
It’s death by a thousand cuts.
When you remodel a home, you do not build updates on the existing structures. You demo first. You tear out the old, broken, decaying parts of the home before you bring in the new.
The same applies to your life. Before you can achieve serious progress in your life you need to perform some demolition. Take a hard look at what is no longer serving you (or never was) and get rid of it.
I’ve witnessed first hand that this has a dramatic effect on your life. When you cut things out that hold you back you have more energy, gain more clarity, and suddenly any diet or exercise you do after that is ten times more effective. Your habits are no longer working against you but instead propelling you forward.
Author Tim Ferriss has an effective question he asks himself when he’s trying to identify what’s holding him back from improving in an area of his life. It’s called the domino statement: “What one change can I make that, that when completed, will make everything else easier or no longer necessary?”
For Johnny, it was his beer consumption. What is it for you?
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