Why Subtracting more than Adding
Is the Key to a Beautiful Life

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There’s a sculpture at Brookgreen Gardens in Pawleys Island, South Carolina of a man chiseling himself out of stone.

It’s called Self-Made Man.

You can see the beautiful form emerging through grace and grit from a solid piece of stone.

I’d often grab a cup of coffee and stare at the sculpture thinking about how I wanted to be a self-made woman, a woman with enough courage, creativity, and faith to create herself.

So many of us have created a life that feels like we’re stuck in stone– full of limiting beliefs, a calendar full of shoulds, people pleasing, self-doubt and fears that are obeyed instead of challenged.

But, what if …..

… Creating is more about letting go than adding?
… More refining than stuffing?
… And, more artistry than formulas?

Let me frame it a different way:

To create a new self, you must break up with certain parts of yourself.
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You must literally chip those parts away.

The Clarity of the Chisel

French Kissing Life is all about living in the possibilities and seeing the world as your playground.

It’s living your life as a work of art, as an expression of your deepest truth.

In order to do that, you must chisel away all that keeps y0u shackled.

Many women tell me that they don’t know what they want.

If you think about it from the Self-Made Man, he’s chiseling away all that he doesn’t want.

As he does, his true self-emerges.

I often hear things like, “I’m confused,” or “I don’t know where to start.”

When I started on this path a decade ago,

I didn’t know I’d be writing to you right now.

And, I couldn’t dream that there would be a day when I wasn’t obsessing about calories and a number on a scale.

I had no idea that I’d be living in a charming cabin in the Colorado mountains.

I certainly didn’t dream I’d have a company called French Kiss Life with over 90,000 women in our global community.

But, here I am.

I just kept carving away the shoulds, limiting beliefs, nasty habits and frumpy clothes and what’s emerged is a completely different woman than the one who was stuck in stone.

And, I keep chiseling.

With each chipping away with the rasp, my truest self-reveals itself even more.

Clarity comes through chiseling.

With each step, with the letting go and fierce commitment to your own creation, you’ll start to see your own creation materialize from the stone.

How to best use the time around the New Year to “chisel”

I love the idea that we get to create ourselves and design our lives.

The end of a year and the beginning of a new year is a natural time for self-reflection.

Let me ask you some serious questions as you approach this new year:

>> Do you see yourself as the creator of your life or just a participant in the stands watching it play out?

>> Do you feel stuck in stone or freely expressed?

>> Do you intentionally choose your thoughts and actions to create your life?

>> What would it look like if you were to become a Self-Made Woman over these next 365 days?

>> What if you were to refuse to live in the stone of your own creation one more minute and had the courage to pick up the rasp and start carving, shaping and emerging into a new self and future?

As we enter the New Year, instead of resolutions (which only 9% of people actually follow through on), perhaps you can consider a better approach:

Suggestion #1 — Instead of Resolutions, focus on Elegance

Ever since my first trip to Paris, I have sought an elegant life.

Elegance asks that you let go of the ineffective and unnecessary.

Elegance is all about chiseling away what’s not working.

In other words, you stop doing things that are keeping you stuck in the unchiseled stone.

Ideas for your “Stop Doing List”

  • I will stop saying “yes” to the invitation even though I don’t want to go.
  • I will stop wearing that outfit that makes me feel drab.
  • I will stop constantly comparing myself to others.
  • I will stop not doing what I really want to pursue because of fear of what others will think.
  • I will stop eating sugar to escape my life.
  • I will stop obsessing about finding “the one.”
  • I will stop ignoring my finances.
  • I will stop drinking too much.
  • I will stop putting play and fun on the back burner.
  • I will stop starting too many projects, leaving me disappointed with half-assed results.
  • I will stop wasting time — on social media, binge-watching Netflix, and other time wasters.


  • I will only say “yes” to invitations that light me up.
  • I will only wear clothing that makes me feel fab.
  • I will celebrate the awareness when I catch myself thinking self-critical thoughts.
  • I will take one bold step at a time to pursue what I desire even when feeling afraid.
  • I will learn to feel my feelings instead of eating to avoid them.
  • I will focus on loving myself as I am.
  • I will make managing my finances fun!
  • I will put play and fun on the front burner.
  • I will mindfully choose one project to complete before starting the next one.
  • I will choose my time wisely with regard to media.

Suggestion #2 — Instead of Resolutions, choose a “Word / Phrase of the Year

To create requires that you have a focus.

This is why around the New Year, I keep my tradition to choose a word (or two) to guide me through the next 365 days.

Here’s why I love the Word of the Year concept:

  • No, it’s not a new years resolution.
  • It focuses on the feeling you desire to achieve (and it’s always the feeling that we’re after).
  • Each year, I choose my word(s) to embody something that gets me excited when I wake up each morning, and yet challenging enough that I have a few doubts to work through. Facing these doubts is the key to the next step in my own evolution.
  • I have clarity when I choose a word or phrase to be my guide when making decisions on where to spend my money, my time, and my mind.
  • And it is much more creative and fun, too.

A couple years ago, I chose the luxury brand “Hermès” as my word of the year.

Last year, it was faith (and oh boy, did I need it!).

…..but this year?

How I chose this year’s “Word of the year.”

I’ve been thinking of the Self-Made Man a lot these days.

In fact, I had a dream the other night that I was that sculpture.

I woke up the next morning and told Glenn that my word had found me.

(It always does.)

This year, my word is:


Yes, this year, I plan to look at my daily life as an artist.

For me this means:

Following my curiosity. I’ll trust the questions that are brewing in my soul and have the courage to follow the unknown and unfamiliar.

Presence. Putting down the phone. Looking people in the eyes. Really listening. Enjoying the suds on my hands while washing the dishes. The artist loves the possibility found in the present moment and that’s where you’ll find me most of this upcoming year

Taking risks. Without risk, there is no art. This year, whether it’s an outfit or a business endeavor that’s tugging at my soul, I will be brave enough to take it.

Fully self-expressed. Art and conformity can’t coexist. This will be my year of going all the way with my self-expression. If you didn’t like me before, you’ll definitely not enjoy the “Tonya” of right around the corner.

Open to criticism. Most people don’t create because they are afraid of what others will think. An artist, on the other hand, doesn’t take it personally. She knows it’s part of the process. Instead, they either ignore or use it to improve their craft. I am willing to be criticized because I desire to live my life as art. You can’t have one without the other.

Crazy Appreciation. An artist is constantly looking for beauty to appreciate in order to be inspired. I will find it every single day, no matter where I’m standing or who I’m standing with.

Unapologetic Imperfection. Making art is messy. And, every artist knows that perfectionism (hidden beneath fear) has stolen more art from this world than any other emotion. I will write with typos, record videos without a professional crew, create programs and other things that will change lives without every flaw worked out. I will show up for my life unapologetically imperfect because that’s what an artist does. She knows that the improvement only comes from the willingness to be imperfect.

Trust my gut. You can’t follow everyone else’s opinions and expect to create art. A true artist trusts her deepest intuition and follows it faithfully. This is what makes her art original; it comes from her soul.

A bit of madness. The greatest artists were passionate to the point of being called “mad.” However, to be an artist requires that you break free from the status quo to create something original and inspiring.

Disciplined. All of the above needs to be harnessed or else it will be lost.

I am obsessed with the fact that we get to create ourselves.

You, too, can be an artist of your life: A creator, a professional, an inventor, a master craftsman and an artisan.

Your life is a masterpiece — a canvas for an unlimited possibility, wild creativity, and unbounded self-expression.

It doesn’t matter what happened yesterday, last month or last year.

You get to create yourself and live on purpose.

I’d like to leave you with a conversation that’s inspired me.

It’s a dialogue that is believed to have happened between Michelangelo the Pope:

After marveling at Michelangelo’s statue of David, the Pope asked the sculptor,

“How do you know what to cut away?”

Michelangelo’s reply?

“It’s simple. I just remove everything that doesn’t look like David.”

Yes, this will be my year of chiseling away at anything that doesn’t look and feel like Tonya.

And, just wait until you see what’s around the corner.

I’m The Artist, and I’m going to live my life as art.


JOIN THE CHIC CONVERSATION: Now, I’m turning it over to you.

As we enter the new year, I’d like to pose to you two Questions:

  1. Do you choose a word or phrase for the year? If so, what’s yours?
  2. Holding that word in your mind’s eye, what do you need to chisel away?

I can’t wait to read your comments below.

Cheers to us all having our best year yet!

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37 Responses to Why Subtracting more than Adding
Is the Key to a Beautiful Life

  1. Uncanny….my word is RECONNECT as in reconnecting with my self. I will be chiseling away a lot of old defeating self talk and the automatic dismissal of those tugs on my heart and those inspired nudges.

  2. After much thought, I’ve decided my word of the year is FLOURISH. to grow or develop in a healthy or vigorous way, especially as the result of a particularly favorable environment. This word is perfect to describe the year I will create.

  3. Simplessify (Simple + Less + Fy (making it a verb)– I am getting to a healthy weight for my height and reducing then organizing my possessions. Then I want to create my congruent persona through your Idol course. I am so ready to reconnect to the enthusiastic, self-motivated, creative person I was before I became this responsible, boring adult.

  4. My word for 2018 is “intention.” I plan to live 2018 intentionally in each aspect of my life. I’ve been doing WOTY/OLW since 2007, when I was first introduced to the concept through scrapbooking.

  5. My word found me too!! Regeneration!
    Regenerate my body, my mind, my passion, my finances, my joy you name it I want to release all but the best, most loved, and the most valued thoughts, feelings, people and also things.

    Much love,

  6. My word is Refinement—
    1. the process of removing impurities or unwanted elements from a substance (or self : )
    2. the improvement or clarification of something by the making of small changes. OUI!
    3. cultured elegance in behavior or manner. OUI, OUI!

    Great post Tonya! Merci!

  7. My word found me as well and it was inspired by you, Tonya. My word is Sparkle. I have come out of my shell and then retreated as a pattern in my life. I want to sparkle – it’s subtle yet oh so lovely. Catching the light and twinkling in the everyday makes me smile. I love your word and everyone’s that I’ve read. I can’t wait to see what we all create for ourselves in 2018!

  8. My word this year is balance. I am looking to chisel away what no longer serves me and to add new ideas and experiences. To make sure I don’t have too much or too little, but the right amount that brings happiness and balance.

  9. After much thought, my phrase for this year is “Cultivate wisely; create wildly.” I want to get rid of excess, grow and tend the things I love in my life, and move from the endless over-planning phase to the act of creation with my writing and teaching. Tonya, your statement that you will release things before they are perfect is inspiring – thank you for this great post.

  10. I have gone back and forth on several words or phrases, like Sparkle or Create. My word last year was LOVE. This year, I think FAITH feels more right to me. I need faith in myself to really accomplish my goals, I need to have faith and trust the process of my journey, I need to trust my boyfriend, and I need to trust that everything will work out for my highest good. So, yes, faith.

  11. I have two words – one my Mum channels for me every year, and one I choose for myself. This year they are running in parallel… “exponential” & “resonance” Interestingly enough, they are both about doing less and intensifying and expanding the possibilities.

    • Choose as many words as you need, Lisa!

      I love how you defined them.

      My experience is that by focusing and doing less, we are able to create better results.

      Cheers to a year full of possibilities!

  12. I have chosen je t’ aime,because I have to start loving myself before I can love others. I have learned a lot from your blog. And your Christmas story about the snow shoes really hit home . I need to start relying on myself and not wait for something that will never happen.
    Thank you Tonya!,

  13. In 2017, my word of the year was “Curate” and it was a wonderful word for my life — I added in wonderful friends, edited out clothes, lost weight, gained skills, and am touched by the beauty that was poured into my life. This year, my word will be “Wealth” — as in financial wealth, yes (!), but also a wealth of time, a wealth of friends, a wealth of love and gratitude. I want to be generous with others, kind, and financially healthy. Here’s wishing everyone a fantastic 2018!

    • My word for 2018 is “Alignment”. When I think of the word, my inner being gently but clearly comes to the fore. With that as a focal point, resistance and everything that’s not important fall away. I am quietly excited about discovering how to practically live in the world with all its demands in order to remain aligned with who I essentially am – a multifaceted being, who has a lot to give and create, blessed with the gift to appreciate all the beauty, grace and abundance life has to offer. Thank you, Tonya and the community! For me, you are one of the best things about 2017!

  14. My word for the year is Refusal based on Coco’s quote referenced by Evelyn above. I will refuse things that aren’t good for me. I will refuse to over purchase. I will refuse negative self talk. I will refuse bad behavior and teach people how I will be treated. I refuse to be defeated. I refuse to only exist. As Tonya said, I will refuse what doesn’t feel like Janet. As I am really finally understanding, “Elegance is refusal.”

    To 2018 and all the great words!

  15. Last year my word was “Paris” – chic & confident, like the city. That’s what I wanted to feel while building my business.

    This year my word is “Serenity,” which links surprisingly well with your blog post, as I have this strong urge to leave a lot of white space in my plans for unexpected opportunities in 2018, & I’m chiselling away excessive “stuff” in my living space, creating a serene space to work in as I move towards a serene confidence; a confidence that feels perfectly at peace with who I am and feels no need to be defensive or reactive. Serenity.

    Loving seeing everybody’s words and desires. We got this!

    • Oh, I love this post! It meets me right where I’m at. <3

      The word SERVICE found me last month, and the word SPACIOUS is seducing me as well. I live by the archetype of the courtesan, and your post reminded me of Hermès and so in that style, I think I will also adopt CHANEL as a theme.

      Can't wait to see what this work of art looks like by the end of 2018! 🙂

      P.S. Go Tonya! You are an inspiration. <3

  16. My word is unassailable. I am too often faced with situations that detract me from achieving my long held goals and I am determined to achieve mine this year. I have uncluttered my home, my wardrobe and my relationships and am ready to achieve new goals in my life. I am also going to focus on using the beautiful things I own more frequently so that beauty is not relegated to a few hours of the day, such as the evening, but to every part of the day. Thank you to all of you for sharing your words and thoughts with us.

  17. Bloom :come into or be in full beauty or health; flourish.
    :to mature into achievement of one’s potential.
    This is my Word for 2018…to change, grow or develop fully. Such a perfect fit.

  18. My words for this year are Create and Explore. I will be creating art and re-creating myself. I will be exploring by learning new skills and having new adventures. I will explore new concepts and use them in creating a more beautiful life.

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