Essentialism - Finding What Is Essential

It’s truly amazing how much we can accomplish in our everyday lives. As humans we can do anything we set our minds to, however we cannot do everything. With so many options, choices and requests being presented to us on an hourly basis, we must get crystal clear on where we want to go and how we want to spend our time. This is why it’s so important that you follow your True North. Everything else becomes “extra noise” which can easily lead you off course.

In order to deliver on our greatest purpose, and bring our grandest visions and dreams to life, we must be mindful of how we spend our energy and what we say yes to. Before we act, it’s important that we ask ourselves the tough questions to make sure our soul’s in alignment. Does the situation, request or opportunity line up with my soul?

When we have the courage to ask ourselves these questions and not be afraid of the answers,  we can become extremely selective with our time and discerning with our projects, partners and life choices we choose to align with.

This selective process is derived from the theory of Essentialism. The concept is best explored by expert and best-selling author Greg McKeown. His book, Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, gives light to the idea we don’t need to do everything, instead we need to focus on doing the right thing and doing it better to make the best contribution we can. When we become this selective to what we feel is essential, we gain better control over our time, energy and effort which helps us accomplish the goals that really matter to us.

I love McKeown’s teaching of Essentialism because unlike another set of self-motivational tasks you need to remember, he describes it as a new way of thinking. When you’ve prioritized what’s essential in your life, you’re disciplining yourself to think in a different mindset ––one that benefits you and the people around you.

In a way, Essentialism is to your mind what your True North is to your soul – your internally selected goals, values and vision. Your soul would never want you to feel stretched too thin or want to you feel overworked yet underappreciated. Your soul isn’t in alignment when you’re following someone else’s agenda and not your own. This is why Essentialism is so important in our lives. To be selective, you must have the courage to say “no,” in order to say “yes” to your dreams and goals.

It might sound easy to separate all the “no’s” from your ultimate “yes” but we’re put in many situations and presented many opportunities that aren’t always so black and white. In addition to knowing our purpose, we also need to be mindful of how we spend our time. Essentialism makes you think about how precious your time really is. As McKeown once pointed out in a podcast, if you don’t prioritize your life, someone else will.

Speaking of the people in our lives, who we align ourselves with matters just as much as the choices we make and how we spend our time. For some, the challenge of  following their True North is finding the courage to not to be a people pleaser and yet still maintain a good relationship with others. There’s an anonymous saying making its way around Instagram that reads, “The only people who get upset about you setting boundaries are the ones who were benefiting from you having none.” Practicing Essentialism is a wonderful way to start setting those boundaries. Being an essentialist doesn’t mean you’re selfish. While you’re obligated to making the highest contribution possible towards your chosen goal, it doesn’t mean you’re not helping others. What this mindset does is force you to weigh the cost of others’ requests against making your highest contribution.

Is Essentialism a mindset you can apply to your own life? McKeown’s main steps to follow this discipline are:

  1. Define in your life what is essential
  2. Define in your life what is non-essential
  3. Create a system that makes executing what’s essential as effortless as possible

Are too many “non-essential” aspects of your life keeping you from following your True North? Will applying the concept of Essentialism help your alignment? It’s something to think about as we learn to put our souls first.



With all my soul,

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