Subtraction should be considered as a better solution


Isabella Chen, Contributing Writer

Although course selections have already been finalized for next year, students may still be reevaluating activity selections. Many students think they should fill their time with activities to help with college applications, but that isn’t always the case. If you feel like you are being weighed down and don’t have enough time to develop yourself further, it is time to tailor your schedule because quality ultimately matters over quantity.

In life, humans tend to default to searching for additive transformations, overlooking subtractive ones, while solving problems. The idea that our lives might benefit more from subtracting than adding is not a natural inclination we usually have, but it is often accurate. In an experiment conducted by the journal Nature, around 90% of respondents chose solutions that required addition, even though subtraction would have been more straightforward and efficient.  

Subtraction can be the solution to the problem of students with information-overloaded minds and packed schedules. Try subtracting when you find things in your life aren’t adding up by editing out complications and removing obstacles and barriers. 

When much is going on and too much on our plates, we tend to be less creative and reactive. Stanford’s Emma Seppala writes, “The idea is to balance linear thinking-which requires intense focus-with creative thinking, which is born out of idleness.” Fitting less and not more into each day can give you more idle time for creative thinking.

Furthermore, the state of having too much is not necessarily fulfilling or emotionally satisfying. Research shows the fear of missing out increases anxiety and takes a toll on your health in the long run. Adding too much to our lives can take time away from what we want to do, enjoy, and what matters to us. 

While it is harder to give up things you have been doing for a long time, sometimes it may be necessary. When we learned addition and subtraction as children, subtraction often felt more complex, involving more rules and taking longer to understand. Like navigating high school, performing subtraction is challenging but beneficial for you. This lesson is one for math class but also applied to your decision-making. Set your priorities, focus on what you care the most about, and work to excel. Less is more.