Are You an Essentialist?

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At New Years, we are all bombarded with questions as to our priorities, goals, resolutions, etc for the New Year, which drives us to write down a whole bunch of actions and objectives.  Most of these will never be achieved, and many of the actions will stop within a month of the New Year (losing weight, for example). Why is that?

Over the holidays I picked up the New York Times bestseller essentialism by Greg McKeown. If you have not read this book, I highly recommend it. In his book Greg focuses on The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, and provides a novel perspective on what essentialism means.

“The wisdom of life consists in the elimination of non-essentials.”  – Lin Yutang (from Essentialism by Greg McKeown)

So what is Essentialism? 

How can it help us?  Let me share what Greg wrote in his book.

Well according to Greg, Essentialism is simply doing what is essential.  He points out that too many of us try to do everything and as a result, don’t do anything well.

“Essentialism isn’t about getting more done in less time. It’s about getting only the right things done. “ – Greg McKeown

Many people feel that they are stretched too thin. They feel overworked and underutilized. They are busy, but they are not productive.  They attend meetings that they do not need to attend.  They accept tasks or new work not, really thinking whether they should or not.  They don’t know how to say no or they are afraid to say no.  As a result they are pulled every way and by everybody.

As pointed out in the book, when did priority become priorities?  The word Priority came out in the 1400s and meant one thing – it did not mean many things. The actual definition of Priority is “a thing that is considered more important than any other.” 

And yet in the 1900s , as Greg points out, we started assigning priorities. What are your top ten priorities? How can you have more than one priority?  We now muddle everything by having more than one priority, when we should only have one.

So how does Greg define Essentialism?  Less but better. “ 

The way of the Essentialist is the relentless pursuit of less but better.  It means pausing constantly to ask yourself, if you are investing in the right activities.  It’s a about making a choice, your choice to take on work, or not to.  It’s about saying “No”.

“Essentialism is about making the wisest possible investment in our time and energy in order to operate at our highest point of contribution by doing what is essential.” – Greg McKeown

So being an Essentialist, means living by design, not by default. Instead of being reactive to making a choice, we take the time to deliberate and distinguish what is vital and what is trivial. By doing so, we eliminate the non-essentials or ‘noise’ and remove the obstacles so that we can have clarity.  Essentialism is then more about a disciplined, approach to assessing and choosing our activities.

Making a choice is the key element to being an Essentialist.  An Essentialist exercises the power of choice while a Non-essentialist forfeits the right to choose.  If we surrender our right to choose then we give others not just the power but also the explicit permission to choose for us. 

“The ability to choose cannot be taken away or even given away – it can only be forgotten.” – Greg McKeown

So I have summarized some of the main points of the book below:

  • Less but better;
  • Its about applying more selective criteria to what is essential;
  • Its about being disciplined and in control;
  • Its about the disciplined pursuit of less by following the process of explore, eliminate and execute;
  • There are so many differences between a non-essentialist and an essentialist:
    • A non-essentialist forfeits the right to choose while an essentialist exercises the power of choice;
    • A non-essentialist thinks almost everything is essential while an essentialist thinks almost everything is nonessential;
    • A non-essentialist views opportunities as basically equal while an essentialist distinguishes the vital few from the trivial many;
    • A non-essentialist approaches every trade-off  by asking ‘How can I do both?’;  the essentialist asks  the tougher but ultimately more liberating question ‘Which problem do I want?’;
    • A non-essentialist is too busy to think about life while an essentialist creates space to escape and explore life.

I have only been able to provide you with the main ideas of this book.  There is so much more and I recommend you read it in its entirety. 

Being an Essentialist may be what you need to give yourself more time, clarity, productivity and success, in your work and in your life.

“An Essentialist produces more – brings forth more – by removing more instead of doing more.” – Greg McKeown

About the author 

Deborah MacDonald

After almost 25 years as an entrepreneur, I continue to grow my business, my passive income streams and my wealth. And now I mentor others on their wealth journeys by teaching them how to fund their own freedom lifestyle.

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