There is a book that has been out for a little while now that continues to grow in popularity. It is called Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less. Have you heard of it? It is a New York Times Bestseller by business leader and public speaker, Greg McKeown. I came across it while watching a video interview of McKeown with Michael Hyatt, and I was intrigued by the book’s concept (“do less but better”), but I wasn’t sold. Essentialism kept showing up, though, on my social media feeds, Goodreads list, and some of the podcasts that I listen to that I decided to give the book a try. I’m glad I did. It is a book for leaders, but really it is a book for anybody who feels stretched to the max in a million directions with little return on their investment. I read Essentialism over Thanksgiving weekend, and I gleaned some needed guidance for streamlining my goals and focusing my vision as a wife, mother, and educator.
What Greg McKeown does is he effectively asks great, thought-provoking questions. I think this is why Essentialism is such a success. In other words, when you read this book, have your journal handy.
For instance, Greg writes about discerning the trivial many from the vital few in our day-to-day demands. On pg. 22, he offers three questions that we should ask ourselves in determining what is essential:
- What do I feel inspired by?
- What am I particularly talented at?
- What meets a significant need in the world?
The disciplined pursuit of less works in three stages: 1. Explore 2. Eliminate 3. Execute. Once we discover who we are and what we want to accomplish, we then let go of everything that takes us away from that. Ask yourself, “What is essential? Then eliminate everything else (pg. 237).”
Okay. So I was journaling away, making notes, thinking through the ideas of this book and a new question formed in my head only this time it wasn’t a question that I was answering, rather, it was a question that I was asking. I thought to myself, “Why are so many reading Essentialism? And not just business owners or corporate leaders, but moms, writers, teachers, artists, and others who may or may not fit the business mold?
I’m taking a stab at this…
We are not saying “NO.” enough. And women, we are the worst at this. For some of us it is because of fear. We are afraid to displease, to lose a friend, or to appear inflexible. For others it is because of the need to be needed. We want to be useful and helpful, and feel like we have a sense of purpose with EVERYTHING. “If I am needed for _______ or I help this person with that thing then this is a part of my purpose, or at least it must be because I was asked to do this thing or help this person.” Have you ever thought this? I have. I am getting better at saying no, but I have a long ways to go. For instance, at times when I say “No,” I feel guilty for doing so as if I am a sell-out or lazy and selfish. Maybe you feel this way too. Healthy boundaries are not selfish. Not everyone will get it, and some may even get mad when you are not as willing to help with this, that, or the other. And those who don’t respect your boundaries raise red flags as not having healthy boundaries themselves. This can be anyone- co-workers, friends, family, church members, children…children are the worst. Children are born boundary-less. Part of this parenting gig involves teaching them boundaries. That’s why we correct, train, discipline, and say “no” so that they won’t live limitless, insecure lives as adults disrespecting the law, other people, themselves and ultimately God.
Once we come to understand what our essential, personal vision is and what the goals are to get there we can then eliminate everything that interferes or distracts us from that vision. It is not that we say “Yes” to only what is essential and never help someone on a whim, but it is that we say “No” more often than we say “Yes.” Yes should never be our default- this is not the way of an essentialist.
Part of the vision of this blog is to encourage others to see their lives beyond themselves as contributors to more than a 9-5, but as legacy-leavers, impacting those in their sphere of influence. I think women can be self-deprecating, not really seeing themselves as worthwhile investors. Some of this thinking may have to do with many women being stretched too thin with little time or energy to put their best focus and effort into their greatest passion. Also, women need to be encouraged. The giving, helping, serving, fixing, rescuing, maintaining work that encompasses women’s lives can often bring discouragement, fatigue, and even depression. Some of the burdens that we carry can be lifted if we know what is essential in any given day- “What must be done today, and what can wait?” as well as in our overall lives- “Who am I? What is my mission? What do I care about and how do I want to make a difference in other people’s lives?”
These are some thoughts to consider, ladies, as we seek to live lives of purpose. We have what it takes, but it will take saying “yes” to the essential, and saying “no” to the other stuff. We are not everything to everyone. We have an intended purpose to fulfill. Our task is to discover that purpose, eliminate the distractions, and live within that purpose day to day.
“The Lord has made everything for its purpose…” Proverbs 16:4