What is essentialism?? According to Greg Mckeown, author of Essentialism:The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, it involves pursuing the things that are truly important to you and eliminating the rest. When I first heard of this concept I thought it was fascinating, but didn’t know if it was do-able. At this point, considering the evolution of technology, the amount of distractions in life are endless. I wondered if it was possible to tune this out. What I found out was that you aren’t necessarily “tuning out”, but really just “honing in” on the things that you actually find meaningful and important.
I’ve found that this is just like adopting any other healthy habit. Instead of focusing on what you are NOT going to do…ex:”not eating fast food”, focus on what you ARE going to do ex: “cooking at home”…Put the emphasis on what you are in control of, versus what you are avoiding.
Upon looking at my own habits, I realized I had a few goals that were going unmet, and meanwhile I was wasting time every single day doing things that I really didn’t care about (looking at gossip websites/magazines/social media/ blah blah blah). I am still at the beginning stages of adopting this philosophy, but was able to recently listen to a talk at a work conference on a similar subject, and had a few lightbulb moments.
As a real “people-pleaser”, it sounds heavenly to be able to focus on what really matters, while letting go of the rest… aka JUST SAY NO. I’ve been trying to use the word “no” more this year, and it’s surprisingly satisfying.
Between my own experience, and from the extra materials I’ve been listening to, here are 4 tips for adopting essentialism:
- Know what you want. This is ABSOLUTELY the most important. It’s impossible to decide what doesn’t matter, if you don’t know what does matter. This may take a little soul searching, but think about what you want in life. How you want your life to feel. Consider your work life, home life, relationships, and even your personality type. Keep in mind, what looks good/fun/exciting on the outside, doesn’t always feel that way from the inside. If you are lost, I highly recommend listening to this podcast.
- Create a mission statement. After deciding what absolutely matters most (again this can include any/all aspect(s) of life… home life, family life, personal, spiritual, etc), create an overarching mission statement that will help guide your decisions.
- Accept the fact that saying no to what doesn’t matter = saying YES to what does matter. It gives you more time and resources to focus on your mission!
- Post your mission statement. In the conference I attended, we were encouraged to post the mission statement in a frame on a nightstand or on a bathroom counter, or even your desk. This ensures you are looking at it multiple times a day, and you can reflect on how your choices are measuring up.
Since I’ve had the topic of essentialism on my mind, I’ve been able to ask myself regularly “is this activity that I am doing right this second something that is leading me to my goals?”. Keep in mind this doesn’t mean going-going-going non-stop. Part of my mission statement includes nurturing my relationships, specifically with my husband. So if we are sitting on the couch together watching TV after a long day…well that’s time well spent! I’m mindful of the other activities we do together, but I don’t feel pressure to be chasing the grind 24/7.
One thing Greg said, that I thought was interesting is that people (esp in the beginning of a career/new job) want to be the “yes” person. While this may help you get ahead at the beginning, it’s no way to spend a career. You end up unable to focus on what you are good at or where your talents really lie. He mentioned that people actually end up getting farther ahead when doing what they are good at! Imagine that. #nobrainer
As I continue to adopt the practice of essentialism, I will continue to update with any changes I notice!
BTW here’s a great article from NPR, and there’s an interview with my girl-crush Chalene, on episode 3 of her podcast.