The Joy of Cancelling Things

An adventurous Peace Corps friend of mine named Matt loves to say “Livin’ the dream man!” Sometimes he’s talking about himself and sometimes he’s talking about me.

I love that he says it. It reminds me that we all have that opportunity: to live the dream.

More specifically, we all get to live our dream. There is no “dream” that we all share, it’s a very personal thing.

My dream involves having a lot of time alone and with my wife. I love being in the woods, writing a lot, reading a lot, and sharing what I am learning with others. I love one-on-one conversations like when I am coaching or working with entrepreneurs or amazing leaders. I also love meditating, being mindful and having time to myself so I can think and reflect. Living the dream for me involves living in a small town where I can sit outside on the porch, walk across the front yard and jump into a swimming hole, or lay in a hammock between the trees listening to the creek in my backyard. It involves working out of my home office, but connecting to people around the world in Mongolia, California, Vermont and New York.

And living the dream for me didn’t happen all at once. Quite the opposite. It’s been slow and steady, like a long game of cards where you have many chances to trade in your hand and try new cards. I’ve traded in and traded up from good projects to better projects, from enough income to better income, and from good situations to great situations. I try to focus on being grateful and doing the best I can with what life has put in front of me.

As Neil talks about in his new book The Happiness Equation: Want Nothing + Do Anything = Have Everything, the more I focus on wanting less and doing a wonderful job at what is in front of me, the more I am surrounded by wonderful opportunities and great people.

I also have learned that “living the dream” involves way more subtraction than addition.

It involves me looking at my schedule and going through a simple exercise…

Every time I have an event scheduled on my calendar that day, I ask myself this question:

If this event was cancelled, would I be excited about it?

You might be able to relate to this. Have you ever had someone cancel a meeting at the last minute, or a conference call, a dinner or some other obligation and then you thought, “Wow, perfect! I didn’t really want to go anyway.”

I call this The Joy of Cancelling.

I’ve definitely had periods in my life where I had a couple of those even in a single day! My day was full of things I secretly wished would be cancelled.

I know there are plenty of things we “have to do" and we don’t feel in control of those. But I started to question that.

I started to see that everything I “had to do” was actually a choice. They weren’t so much “have to's” as they were “get to’s.”

I choose to have a cell phone, so I get to pay for it.

I choose to live in a nice place, so I get to pay the rent.

I choose to do work and interact with people, so I get to have a schedule.

And so on.

I also get to subtract things if I choose. There are consequences sure, but they are manageable.

The more I cut, the more surprised I've become. Nothing has been the end of the world. Things keep moving along. And the Joy of Cancelling has slowly become the Joy of Freedom.

Now, after having done this a while, when something gets cancelled I often think, “Aw, that’s too bad. Well, I’ll just have to reschedule that.”

Whether it’s a meeting, a conference call, a dinner or something else, now they are often things I am leading and loving. I feel lucky to work with the people I do and I try, more and more, to fill my days with things I really enjoy.

I think that’s how living the dream works. The dream is a day full of doing things you love with people you care about. The dream is a life where you don’t want things cancelled. Your days are full. Your life is full. And in my case, it’s a simple and happy life doing work you love surrounded by people you love.

Whatever it may be for you, I hope you are able to think about what “Living the Dream” means for you. I wish you all the luck in pursuing it and making it happen.