Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown

A couple years ago a book called The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up had everyone scrambling to clean up their spaces.  Author Marie Kondo introduced us to this Japanese method of decluttering and organizing that would transform our lives. It was not so much a method as a mind-set, that once realized, would assure us a clutter-free life surrounded by items that bring joy. 

Recently I came across a brief article recommending 5 Personal Development Books everyone should read that included McKeown’s Essentialism.  I was intrigued.  It was, “essentially”, the magic of tidying up for life rather than houses.  At times McKeown even makes some closet comparisons in explaining what he calls The Way of the Essentialist. 

So many good points in this book, beginning with our freedom to choose.  By avoiding decision-making, we give others permission to choose for us.  Learn to say no more often.  Essentialism is a disciplined pursuit of less but better.

McKeown notes that the word priority came in to the English language in the 1400s and was singular, denoting the very first or prior thing.  It wasn’t until the 1990s that it became plural.  The reality is, when we attempt to make many things “first”, nothing is.  When everything is important we become stretched thinner and thinner, making a millimeter of progress in a million different directions.  Without clarity of focus, we become distracted from our highest level of contribution. 

As new technologies have made our lives “easier” and more efficient, we have been overwhelmed with the pursuit of having it all. Women especially fall into this exhausting trap but perhaps the tide is turning. Michelle Obama recently stated that the whole “you can have it all” thing is a lie, denouncing specifically the lean in method made popular a few years back by Facebook executive Sheryl Sandberg. The Way of the Essentialist brings much-needed margin to the frantic pace to which many of us have become accustomed.  As we look to a fresh start in 2019, may we resolve to “discern the vital few from the trivial many”.