The other day I got this text from my husband: “If you don’t prioritize your life, someone else will.”
Although it sounds a bit like an insult when you’re directing it AT someone, his text had me grinning because I knew it meant he’d started listening to the book I recommended, on his drive into work.
As Mary Oliver wrote, “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”
This book, Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, had my mind twirling nonstop with how to answer that question, AND it gave me tools to help me follow through. Because I don’t want to forget the things that struck me — and because I thought it might help you too — I’m sharing my top five takeaways.
1. Cutting nonessentials lets us live at our highest point of contribution. The author asks us, at the end of your life, “Is it at all likely that you will say, ‘I wish I’d been less true to myself and done all the nonessential things others expected of me’?”
2. Three fallacies we need to let go of: “I have to,” “It’s so important,” and “I can do both.” How often have you tried to do both and ended up disappointing yourself and the people you committed to? (Too often.) McKeown says we need to replace these fallacies with, “I choose to,” “Only a few things really matter,” and “I can do anything but not everything.”
3. “Essentialists see trade-offs as an inherent part of life, not an inherently negative part of life. Instead of asking, ‘What do I have to give up?’ they ask, ‘What do I want to go big on.’”
4. Don’t make other people’s problems your own. I thought this was revolutionary. McKeown believes that when we assume someone else’s problem, we do both parties a disservice. We burden ourselves, and we take away the other person’s opportunity for growth. The key is finding ways to support the person without taking ownership of the problem.
5. “Essentialists invest the time they have saved by eliminating the nonessentials into designing a system to make execution almost effortless.” Systems allow us to execute the essentials in a way that is as friction-less as possible. (One simple application: Staying on top of the day-to-day housework allows me to be more present with my family in the moments that count.)
Now my question for you (and really, for myself) is basically the crux of this book: What things do YOU want to go big on? What is your “why”?
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