Aging – Is Living by Subtraction!

“Wish not so much to live long, but to live well.” — Benjamin Franklin

Not so long ago, I was both young and carefree. Years went by and signs of aging were looming on the horizon, without me noticing it. Like most people, all I cared about was creating a life for myself - launching my career, finding a partner, achieving financial security and success.

When young - we all live a life of addition – a large part of our adult life is about adding more to our lives - “acquiring things”. Throughout our twenties and thirties, most of us learn a trade or profession, seek a companion, a car, a house, a circle of friends, perhaps children. During our forties and fifties, most of us are looking for a better job, more money, a fancier car, a bigger house, more friends, perhaps more children, a deeper relationship with the current partner (or replacing the current partner with a better one).

Deep down, we have a natural tendency to constantly seek out “new acquisitions", which is an integral part of our growth trajectory. We often end up obsessing about the things we want instead of the life we want, which invariably leads to unnecessary stress. Because most of the time, this stuff either enslaves us more (we have to pay for it) or distracts us from what is essential and what we really want - that is, for most of us, the freedom and mobility to engage in interesting work, pursue our interests and spend time with those we care about.

As we age - we tend to live a life by subtraction – from the day we first enter this world, we begin to age. Aging is inevitable and downsizing is invariably associated with aging – and that means experiencing one loss after another. However, a distinction must be made between “life-inflicted” losses or downsizing and those resulting from“voluntary choices” to change.

By “life-inflicted” losses, I mean: as our bodies change, we lose function and we lose our youthful appearance; we lose our careers and sometimes our homes, lifestyle, finances. Our children grow up and move on. And one by one, our friends and family members all end up leaving us too - one day. Coping with these losses involves an emotionally painful separation, where the primary challenge is overcoming grief. We suffer the loss of the things that used to define us - our very identity - which gradually evaporates.

At the same time, we have the opportunity to align our daily activities with our reduced energy levels, lower ability to tolerate stress and poorer overall health.  As a result, we naturally learn to live by subtraction. This means simplifying our lifestyle and removing unnecessary constraints that we often place on ourselves, so that we can live more comfortably with less energy and time. The goal then becomes “to free ourselves from what we no longer need" and to concentrate on what is essential to our happiness. The time has come to focus on the values and priorities that are most important to us today; they are often very different from what they were in the past.

After reading this blog, list your activities and classify them into essential and non-essential. Now ask yourself what tasks should I consider dropping and/or outsourcing?

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