Whether I go camping, pack for a trip, do my regular job, or make dinner I always choose simplicity. I am always looking for the essentials and what can get cut out to make things easier.
But what about you? If you had to choose between making something simple or complicated what would you choose?
I think you would say you want things simple. But even though a lot of us see the beauty in simplicity it can be hard to really choose it. It can be even harder to say yes to one thing and no to others.
We live in a society that says “bigger is better” and bigger is more complicated. If I choose bigger I have to cook the entire time I’m camping, check my suitcase, take forever to complete a simple task at work, and create a five-course meal every night. It’s exhausting.
Why Choose Simplicity and Only the Essentials?
When we are talking about choosing simplicity in our lives we are talking about saying no to a lot of stuff. In fact, we are talking about saying no to saying everything but the essentials. But why would we do that? Why would we choose simplicity?
Have you ever heard about the greedy monkey and the gourd?
The monkey sticks his long limber fingers into a small hole in the gourd. It grabs a big handful of the goodies inside but it can’t pull its hand out because it’s full. If the monkey won’t let go he loses his freedom and is killed by the hunter.
It’s the same with us. If you had to choose between simplicity and “the bigger is better approach” you would really be choosing between freedom and having everything but nothing at the same time.
I think it’s easy to see why we would choose to focus on the essentials and have freedom.
Why Do We Have to Choose?
A lot of people want to “have their cake and eat it too.” They want to commit to everything and say no to nothing. Simply put, they don’t want to choose.
But you have to make a choice. You can’t go to a concert at 7:30 and a party at 8 and enjoy both. If you accept one job opportunity you are probably saying no to a lot of other jobs you could have.
Every time you say yes to one thing you say no to a lot of other things. But every time you say yes to everything you are also saying no to everything because you will probably miss the benefit of it all.
That’s why you have to focus on what’s essential. You have to choose. What will benefit you the most? Where can you make your biggest contribution?
How will you go about making your decision? There are three important steps to take.
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Step 1: Do Your Research
In his book, Essentialism, Greg McKeown explains how you can make the best decisions in every part of your life. In it, he explains how to look for the essential, most important, most impactful things and always choose the best option. That is the essentialist way of life.
Essentialists understand that they have to make a choice. They want that choice to be the most beneficial for their goals and they want it to be simple so they can focus on the steps that will make the biggest impact.
The first step an essentialist would take when making a decision is to explore.
First, think about all the options you have for this given situation. Which one takes you towards your goal? What would make the biggest impact or bring the most enjoyment? Which choice would you best contribute to?
If you had to choose between going to a concert or a party you would think about whose party it is and what it represents and how your attendance would contribute. Then you would think about the concert and all the reasons you would want to go.
You would take your time and make your decision. You would understand the simple truth that you could only choose one to fully engage in.
You can explore any time you have a decision to make. Always ask yourself, if I say yes to this what am I saying no to? What deserves my focus the most? What would I regret missing out on more?
Step 2: Eliminate Options
Now that you have explored your options you need to make a decision. Make sure you are rested and feeling good. You are going to choose the thing that is most in line with your goals and values and you are going to let go of the rest.
Essentialists always choose “less but better”. Think about how much you can contribute to and benefit from the choice you make if you can fully engage in it.
You can help people, grow your career, be there for life’s most important moments, and enjoy your life, only if you can identify the most valuable things and FOCUS on them.
For example, maybe you decide to go to that party instead of the concert because you know it will mean a lot to your friend if you are there.
Or maybe you decide to turn down the mediocre job you were offered because you still have a chance to get the job you really want.
When you eliminate options you have to say no. That’s true. But every time you say yes you say no to something else. Just make sure you say yes to the essentials instead of the extraneous things.
That’s why it’s so important to learn how to say no in a smart way when you need to.
As Greg McKeown says you are trying to discern the “trivial many from the vital few”. Choosing to say no to all the extra choices will leave you with the most meaningful option.
Step 3: Give It Your Best!
So now you’ve made your choice. You’ve decided on the most meaningful option. What happens next?
I have seen people who continue to research their options after they have made their choice. They agonize about whether they have made the right choice and if they can still change it. Is that you?
If it is, you need to stop! Instead of agonizing over or changing your choice, commit to it. Look at your decision as an essentialist and start to execute actions that will make it succeed.
When an essentialist starts to execute actions based on the decision they have made they look at it and decide what’s most important for success. Again, they look for the essentials. Then they streamline their actions in accord with that.
A simple example of this is that you could write a list of things you need to do to apply for your dream job and then you select the top three things that will make the biggest impact. Maybe that includes finishing specific education, getting practice in your field, or creating a resume.
Whatever the most important tasks are is what you should focus on. Do not get distracted by a bunch of extra details. Focus on the essentials. Do “less but better”.
Will You Focus on the Essentials?
As I said at the outset, we all want simplicity, success, and meaning in our lives. But often times we do not follow through with our actions. We want to keep all our options open and have all the things because that makes us feel free.
If we choose that course we will be like the trapped greedy monkey. We will not choose the important things and we will let others decide how we fill our days, years, and eventually our entire lives. Greg McKeown gives this warning; “If you don’t prioritize your life someone else will.”
A very sad example of this he shared in Essentialism is the day that he felt pressured and went to a work meeting right after the birth of his first baby. Nothing came of the meeting but regret.
If you choose to simplify your life and focus on the essentials, the truly important things, that won’t happen to you. You will start thinking like an essentialist. Instead of missing the most valuable moments of your life you will see them for what they are and enjoy them. And instead of being stuck in a hamster wheel of missed chances, you will start making steady progress towards achieving your dream!
Minimalists Choose the Essentials
So should you be a minimalist or an essentialist? Here’s the good news. This is a choice you don’t have to make because if you are an essentialist you are a minimalist too. Both ideas promote the idea of looking for what’s most important and getting rid of the rest!
If you want to learn more about essentialism, especially in regards to your career, I highly recommend that you grab Essentialism by Greg McKeown.
But what if you want to simplify your home, your chores, and your schedule so you can free up time and energy to achieve your big goals and enjoy your life?
No problem! I can help! Check out the Doable Simplicity (minimalism for normal people) e-book and start the minimalist lifestyle today!