Sometimes you add to your life by subtraction

The thought I ponder this year will be very appreciated by teachers.

“Sometimes you can add to your life by subtraction.”

I think in America that we often equate MORE with BETTER.

But MORE does not always equal BETTER.


Too much to do to be happy

We have too many activities, too much to do, too many places to be, too much to read, too many things on our list, too many goals, too many tasks, and even too much to choose from.

We're not made for this!

Doing an activity is like throwing a rock in the pond of our life and watching the ripples move in circular beauty.

But, we often cannot enjoy the ripples of the first rock because we're throwing thousands of tiny pebbles in as fast as we can. All we see is tumultuous waves and not any peace. Instead of “plop” we have CRASH! Instead of seeing the mark made by our big rock, we look at the thousands of ripples and wonder if we make a difference at all!

The stressed out generation

I often think that the children I teach are WAY to stressed out! They run around trying to make the grade, make the starting line up, make the part, make it to the next level of their video game, and make their mark and often don't have time just to enjoy being a kid! Not surprisingly, life doesn't MAKE sense to these kids who just see an endless barrage of activity. Even vacation is work with parents who try to cram in every sight!

It is time for a little subtraction!

I am looking at the plethora of activities and commitments for I and my children and asking myself:

“Does this add value to my life? Do I feel called to do it?”

If not, it is a waste of the life I have left. There are a lot of good things out there to do, but by trying to be good, we often miss out on being our own best person.


The secret to good marksmanship with a gun is to focus on the target. Perhaps many of us are not reaching the goals in our life because we fail to focus on them!

When my kids pick and activity, I ask them — “Do you like it? Is it fun?” If not, get rid of it. Do what you like.

Give the kids a choice!

If you look at many of the great people in history, most of them determined at a young age what they were passionate about. Sir Isaac Newton journaled his scientific observations in middle school. No one had to sign him up for the science club!

Too many parents are living vicariously through their kids. Consequently, the kids end up doing things they hate! My sister HAD to play the piano and quit well past her “hatred point.” She doesn't know how to play the piano any more. I played for 11 years and asked to quit. My parents let me make the decision and I still play the piano.

Its about the relationships

I will never get a grade on being a good mother. My grade will come when my eyes dim and my children still grace my door. I want them to want to be with me.

Sure, I want my children to succeed. But if I deny them the joy of being a kid because I want them to achieve everything TODAY then I have truly done harm.

Yes, I read to my children. I teach them study skills. I am a pretty “type A” Mom. But I'm also a Mom that wants what is best for my kids and sometimes what is best is to allow them the choice to subtract something from their life.

When my daughter quit dancing

When my little girl quit dancing and all the other girls didn't, I had to hear it from the other Moms! But you know what, my daughter didn't want to dance. She didn't want to! She was 6 and didn't want to.

I let her quit and we savored the extra family time. She's never regretted it and I've never regretted it. And those same Mom's who told me that “my child didn't know what she wanted” and “all the other girls are doing it” now tell me they wish they had quit at a younger age and enjoyed the peace instead of haggling over something their child didn't want to do.

Some things I will subtract this year:

  • Activities I'm not called to do
  • Activities my kids don't want to do
  • Relationships with people who are negative and unkind
  • My words

I want to determine the goals that my family and I have and focus on those. I want to focus on my family. I want to do the strangest math I've ever heard of and subtract the unimportant so that my life will have more.

What do you think?

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Vicki Davis

Vicki Davis

Vicki Davis is a full-time classroom teacher and IT Director in Georgia, USA. She is Mom of three, wife of one, and loves talking about the wise, transformational use of technology for teaching and doing good in the world. She hosts the 10 Minute Teacher Podcast which interviews teachers around the world about remarkable classroom practices to inspire and help teachers. Vicki focuses on what unites us -- a quest for truly remarkable life-changing teaching and learning. The goal of her work is to provide actionable, encouraging, relevant ideas for teachers that are grounded in the truth and shared with love. Vicki has been teaching since 2002 and blogging since 2005. Vicki has spoken around the world to inspire and help teachers reach their students. She is passionate about helping every child find purpose, passion, and meaning in life with a lifelong commitment to the joy and responsibility of learning. If you talk to Vicki for very long, she will encourage you to "Relate to Educate" or "innovate like a turtle" or to be "a remarkable teacher." She loves to talk to teachers who love their students and are trying to do their best. Twitter is her favorite place to share and she loves to make homemade sourdough bread and cinnamon rolls and enjoys running half marathons with her sisters. You can usually find her laughing with her students or digging into a book.

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Anonymous January 11, 2007 - 1:51 am

Vicki, it sounds like you’re putting your priorities in the right order. Good for you! Unfortunately too many people realize that life lesson after a tragedy.

Emma January 11, 2007 - 9:35 am

Thank you for such a useful post, Vicki!
It’s pretty much the same in the UK – the more you do, the “better” you are.
I have very clear memories of a discussion with a Dutch friend, there, the view is that if you are at work after hours, it’s clearly because you can’t do it all in the time given. In the UK (and, I’m betting US), the view is that if you’re there after hours, you’re dedicated/ hard working/ whatever.
I much prefer the Dutch view! (Though I guess you’d have to ensure that you do have a workload that’s do-able in the given time).

Anonymous January 12, 2007 - 4:19 am

Vicki, once again you have hit the nail on the head. For years, I played basketball because my dad wanted me to. I hated it. So, my junior year of high school I stopped playing. The best thing I ever did. My New Year’s Resolution is to learn to say “No”.


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