Have you ever heard the saying “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear?” Well that is what Greg McKeown is for me–a teacher. I am on my second reading of his book Essentialism. I discovered this book last year thanks to a course I was taking online by Hilary Rushford (she taught a great class on doing less by the way!) and this book changed my life.
So now that I have made some MAJOR changes over the last 9 months personally and professionally (we’ll talk about those more soon – I promise!), I decided to read it again. I knew that I would hear things that I didn’t hear the first time around because I am already in a different place thanks to my pursuit of a simpler life and my resolutions to find more joy and love myself more.
I think the biggest gift from Greg’s book is this:”If it isn’t a clear yes, then it’s a clear no.” WOW! Talk about a litmus test for what to allow in your life! And I don’t know about you, but I think I have a harder time dealing with some of the small things like whether to go out with my girlfriends on a weeknight vs. staying home and getting a good night’s sleep than I do with big business decisions sometimes. But whether the decision is big or small, this concept makes the choice crystal clear. If you waiver at all, the answer is no. What a relief that is to me in so many ways. It stops the conversations in our heads, the guilt, the waffling. What a lot of time this one concept can save in our decision making and in our lives in general. Time that we can spend doing something truly meaningful.
Greg and I have a similar vision about people. I love to help others find their passion and purpose, live their best life, find happiness and joy in their businesses and in their homes. And I see so many people doing things because they think they “have to” but not because they want to or like to. And I have definitely felt that way at times. But the truth is this…
Very few things are essential. There are so FEW things that we really must do to be happy or profitable. This is completely in line with my mantra “Say no to the good so you can say yes to the best.” What stresses us out, overwhelms us, makes us want to escape work and life, is saying yes to all those non-essential things that we somehow can’t say no to. How many times I have heard people I am consulting with on their businesses say “Well, they aren’t my ideal client but they were a referral from a friend so I HAVE to take them on.” No you don’t! Or what about when people say “You know, I don’t want to offer that service, I don’t even like doing that, but I feel like to be in this business we have to have that service or people will not hire us.” Ok, so they don’t hire you – you don’t like working that way anyway! The list of things that I hear people doing daily that they don’t want to but “have to” is endless and if we are perfectly honest, it’s also a lie. We DON’T have to do it. We have a choice.
Oh wouldn’t life be so beautiful and people so happy if they had the courage to live a life that is true to themselves. I want this for my daughter, heck I want this for me! I want this for my niece and nephew, my husband, my mom, my brother, my friends. I want this for our world. A life of authenticity, to truly be who and what you want to be. That would be the most refreshing and inspiring world I could possibly imagine.
I can’t say enough things about this book by Greg McKeown and how this way of thinking has changed my mindset. And it builds so beautifully on other great books I have read like Tim Ferriss’ idea in The 4 Hour Work Week of making as much money as you can in as little time as possible so you can spend the rest of your time doing what you want. Yes, that definitely fits my idea of the essentialist lifestyle and it’s a plan I am putting into place more now than ever.
I don’t know about you, but hitting mid-life made me re-think what I want for the next half of this life. And I definitely want more listening, pondering, meditating and enjoying the most important people in my life. One of the most interesting things in the book to me was discussion of priorities. The word “priorities” only became plural in America in the 1940s. Prior to that is was priority, singular, because really you can only have ONE MOST important thing. But in the ’40s, Americans started trying to do more and be more and at work we were expected to accomplish more.
And now in our lives and businesses we talk about priorities and the list could include dozens of things. DOZENS! Then we wonder why in the world we are so tired, so overworked, so confused and so ineffective all the time. This way of thinking is a sure-fire way to fail every single day. And I don’t know about you but I feel like that often. I rarely feel like I win when I go head-to-head against my to-do list. But if we had one true priority every day, could we really hit that? I suspect we could. If we removed all the non-essentials from our to-do list, it would probably be really short.
So I want you to know the JOY I am finding in Essentialist thinking and in the quest to move closer to this way of living. It is definitely what helped me find more Joy in Quitting and I know that the more I practice the “Disciplined Pursuit of Less but Better,” the more Joy will surely come into my life and the lives of those I love. Cheers to Essentialism!