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The Simple Math of Happiness



Most of my clients fall into 2 camps: 1) How can I change myself? 2) How can I change others? Needless to say, those that fall into the first group tend to have a lot more success.

This may seem obvious. Those that are willing to take responsibility are more willing to change their behaviors, surroundings, and beliefs. But how does that willingness turn into action? In other words, HOW do they actually do it?

Let’s look at some examples of things I’ve recently said to clients & friends:

  • “So you want to have more alone time, but you fill all your time with doing things for others?
  • “You want to save more money, but you’re spending it on things that don’t make you happy?”
  • “You want to stop comparing yourself to others, but you just spent an hour social media stalking your ex’s new girlfriend?”

You don’t need to be a coach to see that most of us engage in self-sabotaging behaviors. We create negative circumstances and then act surprised when things play out according to our actions.

Most people don’t see their actions as a cause and effect. They see it as “I want more alone time AND I’m doing things for others” “I want to save money AND I’m spending it on things that aren’t satisfying” Being able to see the “but” is the key to the simple math of happiness, also known as, addition by subtraction.

Here’s the simple truth we like to ignore: A crowded life doesn’t create a fulfilling life. We need to stop glorifying busyness. Most of us are busy with things that either:

  1. Don’t make us happy
  2. Prevent us from doing things that will make us happy

And it’s not just the things we do. It’s also our relationships and our physical space. Are your friends draining? Is your bedroom floor so covered in clothes that you can’t remember the color of your rug?

If you want to create space for your dreams, goals, and passions, you need to:

  1. Get honest about what you really want
  2. Take a hard look at the things that prevent you from getting there
  3. Clear out some space for the magic to happen

Instead of looking at how much of our To Do List we can cram into a day, let’s look at how much of our day can be used for the things we actually want.

Here’s my challenge to you: Create a TO NOT DO LIST 


  1. Grab a sheet of paper. In Column 1, write out all the things you that you’d like to add more of.
  2. In Column 2 write out the activities you currently spend time on.
  3. Look at where you’ve been saying “AND” instead of “BUT,” by drawing lines between each column where conflict might exist. Some items may intersect with multiple items in the other column. For example, spending excessive time on Netflix may impact your sleep, the time you spend reading, and your ability to connect with more like-minded people.
  4. Look at what changes can be made. What can you scale back on from Column 2? How can you add more of Column 1? What are the creative compromises you can make?

And don’t worry! You don’t have to change things drastically. Not everything needs to be cut. You can find small hacks to create space:

  • Want more time to read, but you spend 45 min. driving to work? Take the bus and read or try books on tape.
  • Want time in nature, but you’re constantly out running errands like buying toilet paper? Use Amazon prime.

Finding the “But” hidden in your “And” will help you to master addition by subtraction. And when in doubt: Prioritize what you like. Cut out what you don’t. Find creative compromises.


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