Maturity Is Learning to Subtract

· November 2, 2017

The society in which we live has generated false needs that urge us to reach for certain goals in order to achieve the security and wellbeing that they promise us. These needs lead us to the desire to add to what we have which turns into a synonym of happiness, when in reality that wellbeing that we are eager for resides in understanding that maturity is learning to subtract.

We do not realize that yearning to add makes our lives much more complicated, difficult, and on occasion, unbearable. It causes us to stress out, and it seems like we don’t have enough time, when in reality that’s not true. What is happening is that we are filling our lives up with things instead of filling our souls up, which makes us feel empty.

 We believe that by adding more things or more people to our lives we will be happier. But, what does that really get us? Do we really need to all those things?

Maturity is learning to subtract

In a world where adding is seen as a good thing, where accumulating useless things is representative of wealth, and where having more friends means projecting a better image, learning to subtract becomes an act of rebellion. This will put us to the test, as we will go against the vision of the world that the majority of people have, which is quite a challenge.

When we do not show the behaviors society expects of us, those behaviors that the majority of society repeats without being aware of it, that is when the critics emerge. These are the people who judge our value and constantly review the way we act in order to guide us back into socially acceptable behaviors. To go back to believing that adding is important.

That place, the origin of many of our fears and insecurities, is where we start to put on layers and more layers in attempt to add. However, perhaps below that happiness with your partner resides a great fear of being abandoned, below that gratitude for having so many friends perhaps lives a deep dread of being alone.


Learning to subtract is nothing more than freeing ourselves from hundreds of useless layers that we have put on top of ourselves to guard ourselves from fears and insecurities.

How many times have we looked for approval from others? How often have we stopped prioritizing ourselves because we focused on the people around us? As a result, we project an image of a mature person who is responsible and surrounded by other. But at the same time, this has a price: the inability to learn to subtract and let go.

The liberation of embracing simplicity

Learning to subtract is very important for being able to stop adding useless things to our lives, many of which just bring us pain. Get rid of friends who are only self-interested, abandon relationships with people who actually do not love us, and stop to buy things that just fill up empty space, adding to our emotional emptiness

When we are able to see that the happiness we seek from always adding to our lives is a mirage, then we are prepared to change the perspective that we have had until now about the world. We will realize what we do not need, what is left over, what hinders us. We will know how to say “goodbye”.

In many occasions, we see how people with a lot of money feel empty or unhappy. We can also see that those people who have a lot of friends are alone in difficult times and…what about those who boast about their romantic relationship, but are always looking for someone who can really make them feel something.

In the end, finding refuge in the false security that comes with adding to our lives makes us cling to these things and pretend that we are comfortable with a situation that does nothing more than create turmoil in our lives. A turmoil that urges us to release, to let go of the complexity, and in the end which hurts us.

Learning to subtract is not just strip ourselves of everything that is occupying unnecessary space, but also learning to recover the balance that should rule our lives. A balance that makes us feel good and happy. Though this is only possible if we stop holding on to the complex and start embracing the simple.

“We have lost contact with reality, the simplicity of life”.

Paulo Coelho