Thoughtful Thursday: Life As An Essentialist

I recently read the book Essentialism by Greg McKeown. The book wasn’t one of those “I can’t put this down!” – kind of book, but it did bring up some thought provoking points, and I took away some great lessons for the way I live my life.

What does it mean to live as an “Essentialist”? According to McKeown, it means living by design. It involves a systematic approach to determine where one’s highest point of contribution is and removing all non-essentials. While a non-essentialist may believe that you can have it all, an essentialist believes in investing in a few things where we can make the most significant impact.

Essentialism is based on the pursuit of less. You focus ONLY on things in life that are essential. According to McKeown, the mindset has three core realities:

  1. Individual Choice. This means that you choose how to spend your time.
  2. The Prevalence of Noise. This means that almost everything in life is noise, and there are only a few things that are important or valuable.
  3. The Reality of Trade Offs. You accept that you can’t have it all and you can’t do it all.

Living As An Essentialist

The Essentialist lifestyle is a bit extreme for me, but here are some essentialist characteristics that I will incorporate into my life. I hope these can influence the way you live your life as well!

  1. Focus on the things and people that mean the most to you. Life is SO short. If you were going to die tomorrow, would you look back on your life and say, “that was a life well lived”?
  2. Reflect on your gifts and find a way to use them. What are you waiting for? Again, life is too short to do things that make you unhappy. This is something I struggle with. It can be difficult to find a way to take your passions and make a living using them, but I encourage everyone to find a way to do it. I believe that we were put on this earth to serve others. When you work hard and use your God-given gifts, you feel joy! I took a step forward in making this happen by enrolling in yoga teacher training this summer and look forward to learning how I can share my passion for yoga and health with those around me.
  3. Prioritize people and actions. Get rid of THINGS that don’t make you happy! And I challenge you to rethink your answer if you believe that a “shoe” or a “car” make you truly happy. In today’s society, it is so hard to get rid of materialism. The media positions us to want the latest clothes, gadgets, etc., but what’s left if you take all of that away? Find joy in the beauty of this world and in the beauty of relationships — not in stuff.
  4. It’s okay to say no. Many of us try to jam pack our schedules so we never miss out on anything — we have FOMO (fear of missing out.) Plus, many times we work late hours to get ahead. Essentialists believe in prioritizing the things that bring you fulfillment and saying no to the rest. Take time to be content with doing and attending just as much as you need to feel good. Don’t let a busy schedule stress you out.
  5. Live with purpose and commitment. Come up with a personal mission statement. It will predict how you make decisions and how you live your life. Make the mission statement specific. Think about your priorities and how you want to be remembered by others. Then, commit to it. Any time someone asks you to do something, pause and see the activity aligns with your mission statement before responding.
  6. Find time to escape. Pencil in time each week to reflect on your life and how you are living it. Don’t let your busy schedule get in the way of this task. Take 30 minutes to an hour to yourself to sit, breathe and relax. You could take this time to journal, to strategize, or just to let your mind wander. Let this quiet time foster creativity and peacefulness.

Are you an essentialist? Do you have any tips to live a less is more lifestyle?

Disclaimer: My explanation of Essentialism is based on Greg McKeown’s book Essentialism

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