Do you find yourself burning the candle at both ends?
Do you feel overwhelmed by everything you need to do?
Do you secretly desire to escape from the madness of it all?
Recently our family made a key decision when we decided that our 13-year-old son will be attending a Boarding School in Quebec this coming September. This choice did not come easily for us, but we trust it was the right decision to make for our son.
However, not everyone sees it this way.
We’ve heard the questions and opinions from others asking how we could let our son leave home to attend a high school six hours away. And their questions and concerns are fair; they’re real.
But why am I talking about this personal example when you’re the one who is feeling overwhelmed and stretched too thin? When you’re the one who wants to find a way to escape from the madness of it all?
And that’s a great question.
The answer lies in the topic we’ll be grappling with in today’s post. Author Greg McKeown will be introducing us to the way of the essentialist in his best-selling book, Essentialism, The Disciplined Pursuit of Less.
“Dieter Rams was the lead designer at Braun for many years. He is driven by the idea that almost everything is noise. He believes very few things are essential. His job is to filter through that noise until he gets to the essence. For example, as a young twenty-four-year-old at the company he was asked to collaborate on a record player. The norm at the time was to cover the turntable in a solid wooden lid or even to incorporate the player into a piece of living room furniture.
Instead, he and his team removed the clutter and designed a player with a clear plastic cover on the top and nothing more. It was the first time such a design had been used, and it was so revolutionary people worried it might bankrupt the company because nobody would buy it. It took courage, as it always does, to eliminate the nonessential. By the sixties this aesthetic started to gain traction. In time it became the design every other record player followed.
Dieter’s design criteria can be summarized by a characteristically succinct principle, captured in just three German words: Weniger aber besser. The English translation is: Less but better. A more fitting definition of Essentialism would be hard to come by.
The way of the Essentialist is the relentless pursuit of less but better. It doesn’t mean occasionally giving a nod to the principle. It means pursuing it in a disciplined way.
The way of the Essentialist isn’t about setting New Year’s resolutions to say “no” more, or about pruning your in-box, or about mastering some new strategy in time management. It is about pausing constantly to ask, “Am I investing in the right activities?” There are far more activities and opportunities in the world than we have time and resources to invest in. And although many of them may be good, or even very good, the fact is that most are trivial and few are vital. The way of the Essentialist involves learning to tell the difference – learning to filter through all those options and selecting only those that are truly essential.
Essentialism in not about how to get more things done; it’s about how to get the right things done. It doesn’t mean just doing less for the sake of less either. It is about making the wisest possible investment of your time and energy in order to operate at our highest point of contribution by doing only what is essential.”
In the end, we chose a boarding school in Quebec for our son because the school integrates excellent academics with an excellent hockey development program. Their focus and mission is to help our son develop and thrive as a person, student and athlete. They will tangibly help him filter through all the noise and chart a course that will empower him to focus on what is vital to him – what is essential for his success.
To that end, it’s important to remember that the discussion of Essentialism raises the question of values: “What is important to you, and what does it give you?” If you and I are going to live our lives from a place of clarity of purpose we must address the question of what is important to us and what this gives us.
Today’s Unitas Project:
- I invite you today to say “no” to someone; to anyone who asks you to do something for them. This person may be your spouse, boss, child, neighbor, friend or colleague, it doesn’t matter. Begin to exercise the muscle of saying “no” with firmness and grace.
- And why should you begin to say “no” more often? It’s so you can ask yourself this: “If I could be truly excellent at only one thing, what would it be?”
- When you and I start to courageously live our lives from this question, we will experience a peace and joy that is deep and alive.
Until next time…
Be You. Be Unitas.
Photo via Shutterstock images