Essentialism is best described as pursuing the Right Things so that we are able to Focus More on the things we Enjoy Most!
I’ve been writing about the value of simplicity for nearly 20 years. I enjoy breaking down certain mindsets of positive thinking or actions into bite-sized pieces to gain a deeper understanding of the terms or phrases that may present a new way of thinking. I’m a 60s baby and in the last 30 years, we’ve observed our music, vocabulary, schools of thought and even our food change in rather drastic ways!
I recently stumbled across the word “essentialism” during an Internet search. It is highly possible that Essentialism just might be a new and better way of describing what so many of us seek when pursuing minimalism or a simple life. I recently noted a book on Essentialism that defines it as “The Disciplined Pursuit of Less” by Greg McKeown. I read a summary of it that could certainly be the statement of the way I do life.
So what is Essentialism? Simply put, it is the identification, and then the continual choice, of living (doing, buying, seeking) ONLY what is essential. Quite similar to a life of simplicity, Essentialism elaborates on the saying, “less is more” to make it a declaration that “less is better.”
I have considered myself a “minimalist” since 1999. Something about the all around scare-tactics etc., of what Y2K may bring or cause, got me to thinking that I wanted to focus on making better and more meaningful choices in my life. Homeschooling offered my girls and me the opportunity to have a Cottage Industry that provided various income streams to fund the interests we had as well as wonderful opportunities to add much-needed skillsets equating to an interesting and well-rounded educational experience.
After a divorce in 2003, and armed with a belief that God has and always will have a plan for me that is better than I could ever design for myself, I set out to learn what was most important, most enjoyable, and most aligned with God’s best for me. My goal was to best utilize what He had taught me in my life up to that point.
The biggest obstacle I faced was determining what defined me and what would be the important pursuits of my life going forward. Basically I learned to ask myself often, “Based on where I am and what I’m facing, what is the next basic right thing that will lead to the outcome that will positively impact me and everything / everyone I hold dear?”
Here is what I have learned: The Most Important Thing I Can Do is to Develop Healthy Boundaries, which basically means: Self-Control. Boundaries provide a Structure for Success in Life & Work.
Here is what that looks like:
I have been given the privilege and responsibility to prioritize my life! If I avoid doing it, someone else may step in and take on that role in a way that serves their needs best. As we all know, those we surround ourselves with may act as if they know best how we should be living and what we should be doing, especially if they observe us mostly flying by the seat of our pants. Taking the time to prioritize our life and choices eliminates our being tied and / or obligated to others expectations.
I continually ask myself, whether I am at work or play, “Is this the most important thing I should be doing with my time and resources right now?” It helps me to zero in on what is most important in the moment. If it isn’t important to me at the present time, I simply choose to redirect my focus to what matters and what will have the most impact on the purpose I am seeking to achieve.
I want to live a life of Essentialism by design and, therefore, not default to living based on what is happening to me. I want to effectively learn to master my response to situations, good and bad, and be able to turn things around, and gain a positive outcome, if at all possible. This requires that I continually choose to focus on what is most important in any given moment and then act accordingly. Therefore, if unexpected circumstances attempt to throw me off balance, I have reserved my emotional energy to quickly and easily return to my “design” of living life, based on pursuing the right thing and focusing on what I enjoy most.
I don’t want to have it all and I don’t need to do it all. At one time, I actually believed that I could and would do and have it all. Over time, I learned that this kind of thinking actually eliminates and distracts me from experiencing the highly desirable choices and experiences that I most enjoy. I find it to be critical to first clarify and then be willing to make the necessary trade-offs in order to pursue what is most important to me. One of the things I remind myself when I am struggling to stick with my plan is this: “I choose to NOT trade off what I want MOST for what I want right NOW!”
I have learned that I do not need to be ‘plugged into’ all that is happening either virtually or globally all of the time. Rather I have decided that the most important thing for me to focus on is what’s front and center of my actual world at the present time. I continually find that focusing on the few essential ideas right in front of me is typically more rewarding, and offers greater potential, than the many that may be trying to distract me.
The best form of Self-Control (Healthy Personal Boundaries), is learning to say no to the nonessentials so I can say yes to the things that really matter. It is an ongoing temptation to say ‘Yes’ to far too much and end up sacrificing time and energy on things that don’t really improve the quality of life. I find it easier not to commit if I’m not certain that I can give 100%. And, it is always easier to turn a ‘No” into a “Yes’, if I find that I can jump in and do what is requested of me. This requires me to have the courage to say no firmly, resolutely and gracefully so that I can say “yes” to those things that I truly value and where I know I can purposefully make a difference.
The effectual pursuit of simplicity (essentialism / minimalism) is about arriving at a deep understanding of what leads to a happy and meaningful life for each of us personally. It has never just been about sacrificing or getting rid of stuff.
Sheri Geyer is a Mentor, Writer, Realtor, Wife & Mom