Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less

I recently got turned on to Essentialism, a book by Greg McKeown, by way of a podcast  interview conducted by one of my favorites, Michael Hyatt.  Upon first listen while working out, I found it disruptively clarifying and enlightening.  I remember nodding while walking around the gym floor in agreement with so much that was being offered.  Weeks later, I was in Barnes and Noble, reading the book.  And just a few weeks ago, I listened to the podcast all over again in order to apply one of its most important principles.   I will build up to this biggest principle after first sharing a few other valuable takeaways that I’ve gained from Greg’s teaching.  Here it goes – enjoy and prepare to say “Ah ha!” MAKE YOUR LIFE A CLOSET OF YOUR MOST LOVED PIECES The first lesson is important to get clear on.  Do what is most Essential to you.  Do what you would LOVE to do.  Imagine your life as a closet.  You have a finite amount of space.  So when you have pieces of clothing that you want to add in, unless you want a crammed, unusable closet, you have to take items out.  Likewise, in your life, make sure to trade things out before you take things on.  Now comes the next important step: Editing your wardrobe.  How do you decide what items you are going to keep vs toss?  Do you keep things because you “might wear them again one day,” because “you might fit them again one day,” or God forbid, because you “just already own them?!”  Well, here’s a concept: only keep the things that you LOVE.  Ask yourself, “Do I absolutely LOVE this piece?” or even better, “Would I buy this piece all over again?” In the same way, set up strong filters for what takes up your life.  Do the things that you LOVE to do, not merely the things that already exist.  Ownership of a piece of clothing or of things in your life can be very tricky.  If something has real estate in your life by virtue of simply being owned, then it doesn’t deserve your time.  Only if you LOVE it and would DO IT ALL OVER AGAIN should you consider continuing to do it.  And THAT is one of the biggest distinctions from Essentialism! GIVING YOURSELF THE SPACE TO MAKE A SOUND DECISION Our next challenge is giving ourselves space in which to apply this distinction before making decisions.  Oftentimes, we make decisions hastily or under pressure.  And oftentimes, we are quick to say “Yes” because we want to help, because it’s uncomfortable to say “No” and because we want to be accepted.  But there is a trade-off and the trade-off is being in this position of having a crammed closet full of non-essentials.  So, how do we give ourselves space to get to clarity before saying “Yes” or “No” to something?   Simply say this instead:  “Let me get back to you,” “Let me think about it,” and then take the time that you need to  confidently decide, based on what YOU want to do. If you really want to be radical, practice saying “No” and then only change your mind if you find yourself wistful over it!  Here’s what it comes down to: If YOU prioritize your life, OTHERS will prioritize it FOR you! OPPORTUNITIES EVENTUALLY BECOME STUMBLING BLOCKS: This sounds so wild, but if opportunities remain unchanged in your life, they are actually stumbling blocks preventing you from advancing.  Opportunities should be continually evolving, growing, and expanding.  If you are saying “Yes” to the same opportunities today that you were saying “Yes” to several years ago, those are now stumbling blocks.  You will have to say “No” for a little while in order to create space for different opportunities to develop.  Understandably, this is scary and is probably the reason why most people stay in the same place: because it’s more comfortable to stay busy than to be still during inactivity.  But again, there’s a tradeoff: Saying “Yes” to the same opportunities and not advancing. SCHEDULE A QUARTERLY OFFSITE TO “GET ESSENTIAL” Now that you know some important practices, here is the Headliner Practice that you’ll want to really hone in on and that ties everything together.  Use the power of 3: Every 3 months, take 3 hours, and figure out the next 3 most important goals for your life.  This is how you get clear on that million-dollar question: What’s Essential? and then use the rest of these tools to protect that! Any bonafide business is taking time to get off-site to ensure clarity on their vision and their business.  We, as individuals, can benefit from this same practice.  So, start setting aside a quarterly offsite during which you do the following: Look back on the last 90 days of your life.  Be a journalist and investigate your life.  Read over your journal entries looking for the news.  Look for the trends.  Look for the essentials.  Look for the nonessentials.  And then, be the editor and decide what needs to be edited and write your new plan.  Ask yourself “What are my new goals?” and plan the next 90 days of your life. Every 90 Days, dedicate an OffSite Day to: Thinking, Reading your Journal, and Evaluating in order to  “Get Essential!” BONUS: MAKE TIME TO READ, THINK, & DREAM: This is often seen as a luxury or worse, even as a waste of time.  Well, rebrand it as a priority and use this as your affirmation: Bill Gates, one of the richest, most successful men in the world, sets aside time to think and read FOR 2 WEEKS out of every year!  He actually schedules one week twice a year during which he goes away with tons of articles and books and does nothing but read and think.  He has been doing this for decades so that means that even at the height of Microsoft’s life, he was taking time off to do this.  Now, if that isn’t proof that reading and thinking is time spent wisely, I don’t know what is! BONUS: MAKE TIME FOR: Sleep (7 hours) – It will promote productivity Play – It will promote Brain Elasticity Think – It will promote Essentialism BONUS: BOUNDARIES, BUFFERS, RULES & HABITS Sometimes, creating little rules helps preserve or even create your Essentials.  For example, Greg offered the following examples that he’s implemented in his life:
  • One or even two days designated as date night for himself and his wife where nothing else can compete
  • A day dedicated as a “Give back” day during which he will entertain requests to “grab coffee” and such
I really love this habit and have consciously begun setting up rules for myself within my schedule, in regards to what jobs I take, etc and I find that simply clarifying these things for yourself frees you from the deliberation involved every time if you were to make decisions on a case-by-case basis.  It’s so powerful and nobody has to know what “rules” you’re applying – they’re just for you, based on what’s Essential for You! Check out the full podcast that inspired this whole post and my slew of new habits and I wish you a Life transformed from the UnDisciplined Pursuit of More to the Disciplined Pursuit of Less!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *