Natasha’s Study: “Essentialism” and the Disciplined Pursuit of Less

Essentialism book cover

 

Why I picked up this book:

This book was recommended to me by one of my mentors. It’s a New York Times bestseller.

Who Should Read Essentialism:

Essentialism has important implications for boundary setting and clarifying focus and direction for all individuals who want to live their lives on purpose. I think this book will also be captivating and freeing for those who work in corporate environments, or feel there are certain things they have to do to become successful. The truth is, when we narrow our focus, we can be more effective in the things that make us unique which can put us in positions to make better choices for our present and the future.

What’s in Store for You:

With the subtitle, “The Disciplined Pursuit of Less,” the author attempts to get the reader to do just that—pursue less. More specifically, the author is encouraging the reader to focus on “one thing” and to let go of everything that does not advance the one thing.

The book opens with the quote by Lin Yutang:

 

The wisdom of life consists in the elimination of non-essentials.

 

The author beckons the reader to immediately ask the question: What is essential in my life? He quickly drives home the point that: Everything cannot be essential, and everything cannot be a priority. When there are too many essentials and too many priorities, nothing is really a priority and you find yourself yielding to the demands and needs of others, and even becoming a servant to your own schedule. Your calendar should actually be in service to you.

We need to create space for our priorities, and this intentionality also helps us gain creativity. “Essentialism is not about how to get more things done: it’s about how to get the right things done.” On the quest to essentialism, the author challenges the reader to:

  1. Explore and Evaluate: Do I love this?
  1. Eliminate that which you don’t love by cutting out the trivial many.
  1. Execute: Remove obstacles and make execution efforts by following through on what you have prioritized and what you know.

 

Essence: What is the core mind-set of an essentialist?

  1. Individual choice: We can choose how to spend out energy and time.
  1. The prevalence of noise: Almost everything is noise, and very few things are exceptionally valuable.
  1. The reality of trade-offs: We can’t have it all or do it call. So ask the honest question: “Which problem do I want to solve?”

 

The practice of essentialism is not to automatically eliminate everything. The idea is to first explore and evaluate all of your options before making a commitment, and then being very selective in your commitments.

Consider: What do I feel deeply inspired by? What am I particularly talented at? What meets a significant need in the world?…We are looking for our highest level of contribution: the right thing the right way at the right time.

The book starts with big, clear concepts and then narrows its focus to very practical and manageable choices like setting boundaries, play, sleep, and journaling. I allow these basic life skills to falter regularly, but they are “life-giving” acts that are critical for “self or soul care,” and therefore need my attention.

In conclusion: We must learn to say, “No.” “The point is to say no to the nonessentials so we can say yes to the things that really matter. It is to say no—frequently and gracefully—to everything but what is truly vital.” The personal challenge is to become the journalist (discovering what really matters) and editor (the one who uses deliberate subtraction to add value) in our own lives.

 

My personal take-aways?

On one hand, I acknowledge that the “essentialist” conversation is a privileged one. Some people do not immediately have the option of starting a self-conversation about what they love. They are simply trying to survive, pay their bills, and put food on their tables. On the other hand, many of us—those who would purchase and read a book like this one—suffer from another problem, the reality of having too many choices. Having too many “good” choices, can put us and keep us in a state of confusion and bondage.

I write about this in the beginning chapters of my book, Mentor for Life. The reality is that far too many Christians do not priority the essential “to make disciples” because their lives are crowded with so many other “good” things like work, children’s sports, family time, hobbies, and senseless entertainment. As with everything else in this world, we know what we truly love by where we invest our time and money.

I’m clear that my top priority as a Christian is to be a disciple (follower, student, and learner) of Jesus, and to make disciples of Jesus. I’m also clear that God has uniquely wired me and positioned me in a certain time period, with a certain history and life story, in addition to the passions, skillsets, and spiritual gifts he wants me to use for his work and glory. The challenge for me as a professional woman, minister of the gospel, wife, mother, community servant, and friend has been discerning what is best right now.

 

In our own professional or private lives we can make course corrections by coming back to our core purpose.

 

I’m taking time this summer to make some course corrections for clarity and purpose. I’m beginning the conversation now about what I want to go big on in the future! I’ll share more about those essential steps for a leader soon.

 

Twitter-worthy:

“If you could do only one thing with your life right now, what would you do?” @GregoryMcKeown

“The best asset we have for making a contribution to the world is ourselves.” @GregoryMcKeown

“The right ‘no’ spoken at the right time can change the course of history.” @GregoryMcKeown

 

Quotable:

Learn to say, “No.” “When we forfeit out right to choose, someone else will choose for us. So we can either deliberately choose what not to do or allow ourselves to be pulled in directions we don’t want to go.” – Greg McKeown

Is there a point at which doing more does not produce more? Is there a point at which doing less (but thinking more) will actually produce better outcomes? – Greg McKeown

 

Next Up on This Topic:

Journeys to Significance: Charting a Leadership Course from the Life of Paul by Neil Cole

Maestro: A Surprising Story about Leading by Listening by Roger Nierenberg 

© Natasha Sistrunk Robinson 2016

 

 

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