Tuesday, June 24, 2014

What is essentialism?

Something happened to me in the past week. Well, the last four days, actually.

Here, I'll show you. This is a blog post I wrote on Friday night but was saving to publish until I had internet access again.

The original title of the post was . . .

How Are Your June Goals Going?
Well . . . they're sort of going.
I've been walking in the mornings. Not every day, but often enough that I'm currently beating my dad on our 7-day fitbit steps. So that's pretty cool. And when I don't go in the morning I try to make it up in the evening after work. 
I finished Blink. But I did not finish Northanger Abbey. I did finally finish A Tale of Two Cities, which I've been reading for years. 
What else did I say I was going to do? 
This is why I have a problem with goals. I set them, but if I don't post them in big block letters on my wall or something, I tend to forget them only a week or two later. 
Okay. . . Now that I've looked them up, apparently my other goals were: 
1. To go to the temple every week and
2. To write a nice note every day. 
Yep. Definitely didn't do either of those things. 
Oh, well. The nice thing about forgetting your goals is that you can always set them again. Or adjust and try something else. 
The point is to keep improving one way or another until you become practically perfect in every way.

Since then, I've had a major shift in thinking. It started when my dad passed off this book to me:

Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less

I think I've become addicted to setting goals. I think I have been doing too much of the diagram on the left and not enough of the one on the right.

That's an image from the book, by the way. 

All things considered, I am not a renaissance woman. I'm not interested in that lifestyle. I would rather do one thing and make my highest possible contribution than be mediocre or fail at a lot of different things.

I know I need to think about balance. It's true. I can't spend every waking hour devoting myself to work. I'd go crazy. But I feel like I've been spreading myself too thin for too long and trying to please too many people.

I need to know my limits. I don't want to have eighteen top priorities on my to-do list. That's an impossible, or at least an unsustainable lifestyle.

So instead of trying to be practically perfect in every way, I'm now planning to concentrate my efforts, say no more often to things I don't actually care about, and focus on the ones that I do care about.

In part this coincides with one of the major lifestyle changes I've been dealing with since moving to Utah. In California, I spent a lot of time with my friends. Like A LOT. And I worked fewer hours per week, which gave me time to volunteer and take on extra-curricular projects. These days, that time is gone. I miss it. But I don't at the same time. That's because I value the work that I do and how it's shaping me as a person. I guess what it all comes back to is that there is a time and a season for everything.

But when I set goals I don't think about the seasons. I tend to think about all the good things I could be doing right then if only I pushed myself a little harder and squeezed in a few more things in place of the time I waste doing things that don't matter. So I come up with more and more good things, not realizing the trade-offs that I'll be forced to make. If I want to learn to play the banjo, that will mean less time for writing.

All I'm saying is, I'm tired of setting goals that I immediately forget, that don't play into my overall purpose in life, and that don't even make that much sense except as a momentary experiment.

I would rather figure out what I'm really passionate about and pursue it consistently through small, measurable steps and improvements.

So stay tuned for that. 

And in the meantime, stop trying to do it all. What is actually essential in your life? How could you make your highest possible contribution?

Oh, and read the book. It's awesome! And I'm probably not explaining it well so you should really go to the source.

1 comment:

  1. I LOVE that book! I listened to it from Audible and then bought the hard copy and have been going through it marking my favorite lines. I have to say that illustration is my favorite. Whenever I feel overwhelmed with too many options or obligations, I imagine that picture and think, "What do I need to do right now?" or "What do I want to do right now?" It's definitely helped me to feel happier and better able to deal with stress. :) I'm so glad you like it too!