The Things I’ve Removed For A Better Life

Someone burning a receipt with a lighter, with a text overlay: Less, but better

Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

It’s easy to want more in life. In fact, we’re programmed that way. Give us a taste of sugar and next we’ll want doughnuts. Earn our first million and we’ll look for a billion.

The hedonic treadmill is real, and constantly running is not the path to happiness. If anything, it’ll probably highlight just how capable you are of crying in your Lamborghini.

Of course, I shouldn’t comment since I don’t have a Lamborghini, but I did win the lottery where authordom is concerned—a traditionally-published novel along with the subsequent press coverage.

But I found the resulting joy to be fleeting at best. Because soon it was time to return to my normal life. And my life is boring. That’s when I learned that my outlook wasn’t going to change, even if I earned a million dollars.

So looking inward was in order, and I figured that if I can learn to be happy with what I have now, I’ll be happy with whatever comes my way.

I took out my fine-toothed comb. Ran it through the frizzy hair that was my life. What was happening at the roots? Why was there lice on my figurative head? And where was the meaning in all of this?

That’s when I decided to go bald (again, figuratively). The result is the removal of things that I could totally live without.

1. A packed schedule

It’s good to have a journal. Because you get to ask yourself the same questions every day to look out for patterns. Or you can study your day. Sometimes, the most inane things make up the chunk of your waking moments without you realising it.

For instance, I found myself tinkering too much with my fountain pens, trying to find the perfect pen-ink-paper combo, only to wash the pen the very next day and repeat the same process all over again.

Sure, it’s a hobby, but I’m not getting any better at anything other than changing my mind. And my journal helped me realise that. So I put a pause to fountain pens and relegated myself to using ballpoints instead. The cheapest ones. There, I managed to save an hour a day, and that’s just the obvious ones.

Sometimes, we rush from point to point in our day, attending high teas and dinner appointments, then spending an hour replying emails that don’t matter, before re-seasoning our cast iron pan that’s been starting to rust.

It’s easy to do a lot. But does it mean anything in the grand scale of things?

2. Making excuses (and believing in them)

I always use this question to see if I’m making excuses (not running because I feel sore and tired) or if I really can’t do something (not running because I have a broken leg). And that question is: “Would I do this for a billion dollars?”

If the answer is yes, then I know I’m in The Land Of Excuses. Else, I probably have a legit reason and am not seeking the easy way out.

This might seem frivolous, but when compounded over days, months, and years, all my insignificant decisions could turn into a whole other life trajectory. That means my decision to eat doughnuts today could ripple into me snorting coke off somebody’s ass one year from now.

I kid, but I’ve always believed in the saying that all of us are just one bad decision away from homelessness.

So yes, while I may not feel like working on my novel—because it’s pointless, it sucks, and I’m stupid for choosing this path—I still do it because it’s a promise I made to myself.

And giving in to my excuses today might mean having a totally different life (that I don’t want) in the future.

3. Seeking only perfection

I start each writing project hoping it’d be my next magnum opus. I even have delusions that this blog post is going to be one that propels me to Ryan Holiday status.

You know what that does? It fills me with dread each time I sit down at the keyboard. Because how do you approach a project when your only goal is to produce perfection?

Thanks to my increased output over the years, however, I’ve begun to realise that creative work isn’t about producing ‘good’ work. It’s about getting your first million words out, or your first thousand pictures, or whatever amount you need to vomit your suck out into the world. Only then can you begin working on your craft.

So that’s how I look at my creative process now. I don’t set high expectations and wilt under the pressure.

Instead, I look at every project as my way of getting my first million words out (though I think I may have surpassed that already).

4. Wanting instant results

It’s so easy to want instant results in this era of instant gratification. We expect to lose 10 kilos by the end of the month just because we started eating salads. And we’re so hard on ourselves when we can’t perform in a sport we’d just picked up this year.

I’m one such person. Maybe that’s why I have so many hobbies. Because I get fed-up of searing a piece of steak into shoe leather, even though I’d only attempted it like five times my entire life. Then I hop onto the next shiny thing that promises me a funner time. Like baking. Or fountain pens.

It’s only after I’d taken my pursuits seriously that I learned how much effort goes into improving your craft. I’ve trained in Brazilian jiu-jitsu for seven years and am still just a blue belt. I’ve been writing for a living for ten years and have yet to land a job as an editor.

Maybe that’s a good lesson on how to prioritise lifelong growth over results.

5. Seeking distractions

I have a bunch of dreams I wish to achieve in life, but I have this knack for doing anything but the actual tasks that get me there.

I tried recording how I spend my days, and you wouldn’t believe how many hours I spend each day just mindlessly scrolling through social media. In fact, the entire internet is a time sink for me, because there’s just something I can do when I’m on a device.

I can check my emails, browse my friends’ updates, go down the YouTube rabbit hole, look up my next fountain pen purchase, scroll through Reddit, play chess, the list just never ends.

It’s not that I want to lead an ascetic life. I just want to live through a day having taken one step closer to realising my life’s dreams. And spending all those pointless hours swiping and clicking on gym fail videos only means having less time to do the important things.

Which is why I’ve learned that distractions aren’t an escape from boredom. It’s preventing me from the necessity that is boredom.

Do less, but better

You know what’s great about removing from your life? It’s that everybody has something they can cut out, but not everyone can readily add to their lives.

I believe we should always improve our lives in a holistic manner, adding as much as we remove, and attacking problems from multiple angles.

But sometimes less is more. And that’s all there is to it.

Here’s one thing you won’t have to remove from your life—exclusive content in your inbox! You’ll also get a free guide on how to grow your WordPress audience, for free! Did I mention it’s free?

112 thoughts on “The Things I’ve Removed For A Better Life

  1. Pingback: Sharing the love in my January 2023 roundup - Boomer Eco Crusader

  2. I have a confession. I used to think that you are that kind of productive writer who won’t be distracted by social media. But I guess we all are distracted by it!

    I am learning to lessen my consumption of social media and focus on my hobbies more such as reading and writing. Thank you Stuart for giving me the chance to reflect on this 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    • Haha. I have almost quit social media because of how distracting it is. But I still end up browsing even though I haven’t posted in a long while. Maybe I’m too afraid of boredom, and need to do something every time I have nothing to do. Thanks as always for stopping by, Maisarah!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Maybe you can try social media detox for a week? I have tried it. My mind was sooo clear and I felt more focused on present moment. It definitely madr a difference to my life even for just a week.

        Same here. If I’m bored especially at work, I would always reach my phone. But I don’t do it for too long because it is prohibited at my workplace. So what I did was, in that boredom, I tried to find something to work on such as tidying up the shelves, or something like that. I’m still in the learning process, though.

        Anyway, let’s try not to get too distracted by social media! 💪🏻😊

        And you’re welcome!

        Liked by 2 people

      • Yeah, this distraction method could have something to it. I must experiment with it some more. On the flip side, I could also standby a task that I truly hate, so that writing will seem like a fun thing in comparison, lol.

        Liked by 2 people

  3. A thought-provoking and relatable post about the hedonic treadmill and the realization that true happiness cannot be found in material possessions or external accomplishments. The personal anecdotes add depth and authenticity to the message. It’s a reminder that true fulfillment comes from within and learning to appreciate what we already have. Keep up the great writing, and hope you’ll visit my website also.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Aw yis. I’m all about the personal anecdotes, because without them, I’m no different than an AI-generated listicle. Love that you brought that up. Thanks so much for adding value with your lovely comment!


  4. I really really like the line “preventing me from the necessity that is boredom.” Only a few days back, my brother and I were discussing how necessary it is to feel the boredom if one wants to go forward, if one needs to create something and you just hit the nail on the head.

    Liked by 1 person

    • We live in a world where boredom has become a luxury, lol. With just one device, nobody ever needs to be idle anymore, which is a shame, really, because one of the best motivators in life is to not feel bored. Thanks for your lovely comment!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Pingback: The Things I’ve Removed For A Better Life – Eliza June Sapphire

  6. Thanks for this post! I’m reminded of that Marcus Aurelius quote: “If you seek tranquility, do less.” I feel that it’s mostly true.

    But knowing myself, I also tend to struggle with being too free. So to some extent, I’m more productive when I have multiple projects going on, otherwise I just wouldn’t get anything done. I guess my quest in life right now is to find that sweet spot where I don’t get burnt out or become idle. Haha.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I can relate too, since I’m a hobby collector. But perhaps doing less isn’t about having a freer day. Maybe it’s about having lesser options, yet filling your days with said options.

      I sure do wish I don’t need to juggle between the blog and fiction sometimes, but both are necessary for my career growth, I feel. My definition of less would be focusing solely on fiction. Now wouldn’t that be a dream.


  7. What a great post! It also hit a bit too close to home ahah! I am the queen of making excuses, seeking perfection, wanting instant results and distractions, and it is something I really have to work on, because I know it does nothing for me and actually prevents me from getting the results I want. This is especially a problem in my language learning practice: I want to speak perfectly, not make any mistakes and know everything without practicing… well, my progress has not been great for this reason! Thanks for the wake-up call!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Lol that’s exactly how I feel with my writing, and you’ve captured that perfectly. I don’t even know what a perfect post is, but I’m always paralysed by the drafting stage because I’m afraid of writing a bad draft. Like what the heck. Always appreciate your input!

      Liked by 2 people

  8. Wow. This was an excellent read. Thank you so much for sharing this. It’s really making me rethink some of my bad habits and putting things in a better light for me. Thank you again

    Liked by 1 person

    • Rethinking bad habits is always a good thing. In fact, rethinking life in regular intervals is a great practice. Wishing you all the best with your introspection, and thanks for stopping by!


  9. I love this sentence – “The hedonic treadmill is real, and constantly running is not the path to happiness.” There’s so much to takeaway here and one that especially stands out is the idea that we’re all one bad decision away from homelessness. That’s honestly a terrifying thought 😂
    I agree with your thoughts about prioritising lifelong growth over results – not chasing perfection makes work seem a lot more fun, haha!
    Brilliant write!

    Liked by 1 person

    • While life is about averages, I really do believe we have the power to significantly alter our lives. Which also swings in the negative direction. So yeah, that helps me not take the tiny things for granted e.g. regular drinking can result in liver disease, which stops my ability to work, etc.

      Thanks so much for your lovely comment! What a pleasure it was to read!

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Sometimes life isn’t on a grand scale; sometimes it’s the little things that ARE important, on a smaller, daily scale. Sometimes your cast iron pan needs seasoning, needs a little love, because it’s been neglected while you focus on the ‘grand scale of things.’
    Nothing wrong with giving yourself permission to take a day off, excuses or not. You seem a bit hard on yourself over trivial, short-lived situations.
    No decision is insignificant. If it was a wrong decision, learn from it. If it was a right decision, reward yourself for taking the correct turn at that moment in your life.
    Giving in to excuses on occasion is okay, you know, it’s called being human. It’s when you give in to them on a daily basis that raises problems with your inability to set/reach goals. Be more gentle with your imperfections.
    Umm…who is Ryan Holiday? (I refuse to waste time Googling to find out.)
    ‘Prioritize lifelong growth over results.’ Or maybe these roads are not meant for you; perhaps none of them are your path, so get over it.
    You’re a daydreamer, an idealist, a thinker (and very funny). Any chance you’re also an Aries? They’re great at starting tasks, have wonderful ideas, but can’t seem to complete anything (speaking from my own experience).
    If a necessity is that boring, DO SOMETHING ELSE or DO IT ANOTHER WAY.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Haha, I’m a Gemini, and I suspect that they too are great at starting tasks that they don’t see through to completion.

      Ryan Holiday, much like Mark Manson, is someone who found mainstream success by first starting off in online writing. I respect him because he’s managed to make something for himself through a very niche subject: Stoicism. Like, if Holiday can find his path in simply writing about Stoicism, then what’s there not to achieve?

      Hm, reading your comment, I think I should go season my pan now, just because :P

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Quite a great piece of advice and an exhilarating blog post Stuart. I can definitely fathom that we should approach problems in life from multiple angles and also removing things that lead us to doom

    I love the examples of the things that you removed or about to remove for a better life for yourself and that’s great. I have to say seeking perfection is something I can remove within a heartbeat because it is just insane to believe one can attain perfection, what is key it is to just do it and vomit everything out without thinking about seeking a 100% record , to reach greatness it takes time and serious pursuit. Also, I like what you said that if you are happy with what you have now then you surely can be happy with whatever will come your way whether you have a million bucks or not.

    What matters in life it is that if your inner self is contented and happy with what it has then that makes life a better place because you can have riches but still be unhappy on the inside👏

    Liked by 3 people

    • Wow, your comment game has been on point lately. Almost like a mini blog post.

      I say that seeking perfection is a waste of time, but subconsciously I still try to aim for it. Such a problematic mindset. Thankfully, once I think about only getting words out, it becomes much easier to deal with.

      And yes, I’ve been trying to be happy on the inside lately. Have been in more ‘successful’ places but still feeling crap inside, and am just learning how to differentiate between the two. Here’s to us always moving in congruence with your inner values!

      Liked by 2 people

    • About three years of networking on the WordPress Reader, visiting and commenting on at least twenty blogs, every single day.

      That number has dropped somewhat because I’m focusing on other areas of the blog, but that’s what basically got me here.

      I’ve shared my methods in my free e-book (a pamphlet, really) which you can get through the newsletter button on this article.

      Liked by 2 people

  12. Wow, I didn’t know you were such a fan of fountain pens! I love the idea of cutting out unnecessary (or even negative) things from our lives. I’ve generally cut out TV and processed foods from my life (for the most part), and I feel better about both of those choices. I’m also working on the pointless social media scrolling; it’s easy to get sucked in, and I have much better things to do instead!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Processed food is really worth cutting out—I’ve been doing so by learning to cook. Though TV can be a problem for me, because mine comes in the form of YouTube.

      And yes, I love all forms of writing instruments, and that ranges from pens to keyboards. I would’ve splurged on an Alphasmart Neo too, were it not so expensive.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I admit that I do still use YouTube, but Amazon Prime is where I typically watch movies these days. I have a weakness for Tollywood films and I can find a bunch on there with subtitles. 😁


  13. Incredible post Stuart, such wisdom! I’m with you on the ‘too many hobbies’ train. I’m great at starting and not so great at follow through. I never considered why but you’ve given me food for thought. I always love reading your posts. Thanks.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Ha, maybe it’s something we’ll need to embrace. Maybe doing many things is our specialty. Maybe we’re just catering to society’s expectations of excellence. Your comment gave me lots to think about too. Always appreciate you stopping by, Roze!

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Preaching to the choir bro! I too am simplifying this new year (happy 2023 btw). I’ve stepped away from social media for 12 months to do some deep cleansing and detox. Still blogging though, but will cut down to one op-ed a week this year instead of two, in hopes it’ll force me to improve my writing too! This is also how I internalize what you wrote in Tip #2. Cos regular blogging is a promise I made to myself. So even on weeks when I am drowning in work and family, I must soldier on and keep my promise to my blog. So here’s to us both; for another smashing year of writing our hearts out! Rock on Rockstar Stu!!

    Liked by 3 people

    • Love that you’re not afraid of experimenting with your publishing schedule. Am looking forward to seeing how it affects your writing.

      And yes, soldiering on is always the better choice, as uncomfortable as it can feel sometimes. Wishing you all the best for 2023!

      Liked by 2 people

  15. I love how you ended this “Do less, but better’. I used those exact words in a recent blog post. I’ve always hated time when I feel like I’m spread too thin.

    I’m currently reading “Things That Matter” by Joshua Becker. It’s reinforces the concept of focus and eliminating things that distract us from what really matters in life. If we all set a goal to do a little bit less, it would free up time to do the things that make us happy. But it takes discipline to do that in our “have it all” society.

    Thanks, as always, for an inspiring and thought-provoking post, Stuart.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ooo, I really need to check that Becker book out then, because I’m still very susceptible to taking on things just for the sake of having things to do.

      Yeah, ‘spread too thin’ is the perfect way to describe it. I don’t mind working hard at something. But trying to juggle ten things but not working hard at any of them is a different kind of miserable.

      Liked by 1 person

  16. “I have a bunch of dreams I wish to achieve in life, but I have this knack for doing anything but the actual tasks that get me there.”

    Well done, you soothsayer you. Took the words right outta my head.🙂🙌🏾

    Liked by 2 people

  17. What a great post for the start of the year!
    “Seeking only perfection” is difficult to get rid of when you strive for perfection in everything that you do. But life is such that sometimes we do have to let go and see how it turns out!
    A lot of times I just don’t write because I keep waiting for the perfect time/space/mental state. But that leads me to nowhere. Your idea of just putting the words out there seems a great solution!!

    Liked by 2 people

    • This is why I’m thankful for having journalism experience. Because it’s there that I learned that my feelings or headspace doesn’t matter when it comes to meeting deadlines, lol. And I also learned how much more capable I was than I thought.

      Here’s to more growth this year, and here’s to putting out your first million words (if you haven’t already)!

      Liked by 3 people

  18. The husband and I were just talking about how we hope the empty shelves we keep finding (and expect to find for the foreseeable future) at the stores help us learn to live a life without so much stuff. We hope it shows us – and everyone in this consumeristic society – how much we have that we don’t need. I still need donuts, but all the other stuff I can live without. ;)

    Liked by 3 people

  19. “crying in your Lamborghini.” Succinct, funny, and truthful!
    Love the whole hair analogy. :P
    “Would I do this for a billion dollars?”–Great way to assess your true motivations!
    “snorting coke off somebody’s ass” eeewwwwww!!!! But(t) descriptive!
    “Like baking. Or fountain pens.” Lol. And later again with the fountain pens. I love when you have a repeated theme going on in these posts. Though it’s also okay when you don’t. No pressure. I don’t want you to be all, “What can I repeat several times in THIS post. If I don’t, Betsy will notice.” :P
    Good stuff, as always, Stuart! :)

    Liked by 1 person

  20. I am in the process of forgiving both my excuses and impatience Stuart. I made many excuses over the years and bled impatience with some aspects of my life. Revealing unconscious fears fueling each seems unpleasant but creates the fast track to removing, to forgiving and to letting go in order to find out who I really am. Fabulous post my friend.

    Liked by 2 people

  21. “tinkering too much with my fountain pens” surely you jest! I am guilkty of #2 and #5. Actually #5 I refer to as the BSO syndrome (bright shiny objects). Stumble upon something new or exciting = 110% of my attention.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Ha. Maybe part of the fountain pen hobby is the actual thinking of what combo I want to have next. Maybe it’s not in the writing itself. I don’t know. Am still using a Stabilo ballpoint at the moment :P


  22. This time of the year when everyone is busy adding more and more dreams and hops and expectations, it was so refreshing to actually see what can be removed from our life. Afterall we can’t keep filling our cup even when its full.

    This is one of those posts I didn’t realize I needed before I read it and now I am wondering how was I supposed to life without it. Its kind of hilarious and serious at the same time.

    Thank you for sharing this post.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I love the full cup analogy, so thanks for adding to the conversation! I’m actually a huge proponent for doing all we can, both adding and removing, but I guess my minimalist tendencies came out with this post. Anyway, thanks for your lovely comment!

      Liked by 2 people

  23. Great post Stuart. Less is more, cutting things out are essential, procrastinating can open creativity, prioritizing is essential. ❤️

    hahahaha and this…
    “because I get fed-up of not searing a piece of steak without turning the damned thing into shoe leather, even though I’d attempted it a grand total of five times my entire life. Then I hop onto the next shiny thing that promises me a funner time. Like baking. Or fountain pens.”

    Always good to read you! 🙏🏼

    Liked by 3 people

      • You know, i do too Stuart and I’ve finally accepted I will never do one thing. It’s taken me a long time to get here but there are so many gifts in the process of living personally and professionally. But yeah, it would be nice. Maybe next life for me.. lol Silver lining for sure!💞😂


  24. Great post. I think I suffer from all of them. Among them, probably trying to escape is the most prominent cause of my manifold dysfunctional brain wave. Yes, our life’s problem is probably what propels us to write, but on the other hand, the problem can grow into a bigger problem to damage our life and the writing process. It is hard to balance everything, especially when one is also battling one’s own narcissistic upbringing. LOL. Life is a mess and it is a miracle that we have all muddled and huddled through somehow…

    Liked by 4 people

    • I think that’s the secret to life. That we’re all broken in some way, so there’s no need to try and ‘seem better’ than the next person. We’re all fighting our own demons, and that allows us to have compassion for our fellow humans. But easier said than done, for sure. Thanks for your thoughtful reflections!

      Liked by 1 person

  25. I think as we get older, Stuart, we become more adept at identifying the things which mean less to us. I like your thoughts on perfection. I have been reading about Wabi – Sabi recently, which promotes the ideal of imperfection, impermanence and incompleteness. Maybe this is the key to creativity, being able to accept that perfection is only a concept and can vary from one person to another?

    Liked by 5 people

    • Oh yes. So many yeses. Perfection varies, which means a universal standard doesn’t exist. So why torture ourselves by trying to achieve it? You’ve put it in such a great light. And I like wabi-sabi as well. It’s such a great philosophy to live by. I just reread my post and edited some typos out, but I should’ve kept them there for the wabi-sabiness. Thanks for your comment!

      Liked by 2 people

  26. Thanks for sharing this with us, Stuart. Your point about instant results is something everyone should think about. I remember how some people were raging after joining the service like Duolingo, just because they weren’t picking up their language within a week to a month.

    These people don’t realize that picking up a language is not an easy thing, never was and never will be. Unless we can download that knowledge into our brains, but at that point, we are not learning.

    Same thing I have seen with programming: people dismiss classic books because they are not fast enough, abandon languages just because they are not becoming instant gurus in them, and the list goes on.

    Liked by 3 people

      • I still read lengthy blog posts or anything that mirrors my writing style. The content itself is enlightening because it shows me how people process their habits and shows room for growth. Damn, now I need to do the same for my works. It’s just weird to keep creating and nobody’s engaging with the author or barely wanting to know more about who you are before and during the creative process.

        Thank you for writing this.

        Liked by 2 people

    • Yeah, I fall victim to the instant thing, I have to admit. Always frustrated when comparing my few-months-old pursuit to experts who’d spent decades practising.

      And the things I myself have spent decades practising—like writing—seem like they haven’t grown, and that can be discouraging too.

      Which is why I find it important to go back to the process rather than only aim for results. Cliche, but I’m starting to see this perspective better.

      Liked by 2 people

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