Change your life — for the better — is always hard. Say you want to start a business, or to lose weight. Making the positive change is always difficult. So how do you make real and long lasting change?

There are only two ways to make changes in your life. These are to add something new to your life, or take something out. I’ll call them, “change by addition,” and “change by subtraction.”

Change by addition is the way most people want to improve their life. Why? Because it is easier. It is perceived as a magic pill. Anything that is thought to be easier will be tried first.

People (you and I) want to add one additional ingredient to what we are already doing. For example, if we want to start a business, we’re often told to do something small each day toward that goal. For me, my entrepreneurial spirit wants to have a new business. So I’ve been told to “just visit this a business-for-sale” web site every day. It is just a small little thing to do; isn’t it? Adding that small thing seems so obvious, doesn’t it? But I’ve known to do this for years, and I’ve not gotten it done at all. Why is that?

Or maybe you’re trying to lose weight, and you’ve been told to do one additional small thing to reach your goal. Maybe it is to buy a gym membership, buy a one-a-day diet pill, or read a new diet book, or count calories, or joint a weight loss group. Each of these sounds so easy, right?

Marketers know that “change by addition” is a major secret to getting people to buy things. It is a million-dollar key if you ever wanted to get-rich-quick. All you have to do is sell the promise that adding your one small product to their life, then they’ll get massive results that they wanted. This technique works every time it is tried (presidential elections included). Everyone wants a quick fix to their problems, and just adding one small thing is so very seductive. It is so easy to believe that adding one small ingredient will bring substantial results in your life.

Change by addition “can” work. But it rarely does. Any improvements in your life don’t seem to take hold, and after a burst of activity towards your goal, you soon find yourself back where you started from as the flame of desire fades away.

Change Your Life By The Subtraction Method

On the flip side, “change by subtraction” is very difficult step to take. You don’t want to remove something from your life, because having a stable life where you can predict what is going to happen tomorrow is very comforting. People (you and me) crave comfort. Putting that comfort at risk on purpose is extremely difficult. Why? If you had to remove something from your life, it is hard to predict how that affects all the other areas of your life. Uncertainty is a major fear that may be nearly impossible to conquer.

For example, maybe you are thinking about quitting your job to start a new business. If you did that, what will be the affect in your life? It could mean marriage problems, because now your spouse is upset that the steady income you had isn’t arriving every week like it used to. It might mean that you would have to move out of your current home to find something smaller and more affordable. If you do that, your children may have to change schools.

You get the concept. Making a change in your life by way of subtracting out some activity is extremely difficult to do because it is more than just removing one thing. It also implies that you have to add several other things. Just go back to the example of quitting your job. It may mean having to add a new house and a new school for your kids, and a new lifestyle of eating beans and rice for quite a while.

And once you make a “change by subtraction,” it also means that there is no going back. It is permanent. You probably will never be ever able to go back to the old job you just quit.

On the other hand, change-by-addition always allows you the option of going back to the comfort position you had in the past. Making a change by subtraction removes “options.” People consider having options, as having freedom. They will fight tooth-and-nail to protect freedom, especially the freedom to return to the comfort and safety of the status quo.

That is why change by subtraction is much more useful if you want to make a permanent change to your life. It is like the sea captains of the early American pioneers that would burn the wooden ships that transported them to the new world. Once you burn the boats, there is definitely no way of going back to the status quo. Is there?

But what makes it more scary is that making a change by subtraction does not guarantee that you’ll reach your goal. And that is the final reason why most people will not try this method of self-improvement. Just because you’ve burned your boats as you’ve landed on the shore of opportunity, it doesn’t mean you’re going to succeed. You can still starve to death in the new world.

The only thing that people know for sure, is that change-by-subtraction will result in a permanent change. But they don’t know if that change will be good or bad, let alone the other repercussions of that change in your life.

Take a look at this bible passage, and notice the two methods of change.

Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other…  Ephesians 4:31-32 (NIV)

Today, I just want you to consider the differences between “change by addition” and making a “change by subtraction.” What are the rewards and the pitfalls of each method? Really ponder what these methods mean. Consider what I’ve said here, and how it might relate to your own life.

In the future, we’ll look into the bible, and see how these two methods of change play out. Until that time, remember to “Be Fruitful.” It is one example of a change-by-addition that is guaranteed to work.

Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 Biblica. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.

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