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Discerning The Vital Few from The Trivial Many

By Karen Vally on 23 Apr 2022



In his bestseller, "Essentialism The Disciplined Pursuit of Less," author Greg McKeown, tells many wonderful stories. The one that struck me the most, was about a man whose three year old daughter had died. While grieving, he decided to create a video of her short life, as he had taken video footage of every place that they had visited. As he began collating the content, he realized that he had an endless supply of the sights they had seen, the meals they had eaten and the landmarks they had found, but that there was hardly any close up footage of his precious daughter. He had been so preoccupied with capturing his surroundings, that he had failed to record what was essential.

Another moving story was related to the author by Stephen Covey's daughter, Cynthia. She described an unforgettable occasion when her dad had promised to take her out for dinner at the end of a really big presentation. After the presentation, an old school friend, whom he hadn't seen for years, came up to him and invited him to dinner. " I'm so sorry," said Stephen, "I would love to spend time with you, but I have promised my daughter that I would take her out to dinner." She described that moment as her fondest memory of her father.

" Almost everything is noise and very few things are exceptionally valuable. This is the justification for taking time to figure out what is most important. Because some things are so much more important, the effort in finding those things, is worth it."

" Essentialism is about creating a system for handling the wardrobe of our lives. In the same way that our wardrobes get cluttered as clothes we never wear accumulate, so do our lives get cluttered, as well-intended commitments and activities to which we've said yes, pile up...It's a method for making the tough trade-off between lots of good things and a few really great things. It's about learning how to do less but better, so you can achieve the highest possible return on every precious moment of your life...It will teach you a systematic way to discern what is important, eliminate what is not, and make doing the essential as effortless as possible." It is, in essence, the disciplined pursuit of less.

There are three simple steps to Essentialism :
Step 1 : Explore
Step 2 : Eliminate
Step 3 : Execute

Essentialists explore more options and they systematically evaluate some options to ensure that they pick the right one.

" The purpose of the exploration is to discern the vital few from the trivial many."

Essentialists eliminate certain options by saying no and in order to make execution easy, they remove obstacles. They do the right thing, for the right reason, at the right time. The author suggests that we should act as good journalists, by sifting through the "who, what, when and where" of our lives, to find out what really matters, and as good editors who know exactly what to eliminate or subtract from our lives.

" Being a journalist of your own life will force you to stop hyper-focusing on all the minor details and see the bigger picture...you'll be able to focus on the larger issues that really matter."

" Becoming an Essentialist means making cutting, condensing, and correcting a natural part of our daily routine."

Essentialists understand the importance of sleep, play, having a steadfast routine and cherishing the present moment. 

" The Essentialist looks ahead. She plans. She prepares for different contingencies. She expects the unexpected. She creates a buffer to prepare for the unforeseen." 

" Becoming an Essentialist is a long process, but the benefits are endless."

 " Once you become an Essentialist, you will find that you aren't like everyone else.When other people are saying yes, you will find yourself saying no. When other people are doing, you will find yourself thinking. When other people are speaking, you will find yourself listening...While other people are living a life of stress and chaos, you will be living a life of impact and fulfillment. In many ways, to live as an Essentialist in our too-many-things-all-the-time-society is an act of quiet revolution."

Essentialism takes courage. It necessitates the asking of challenging questions, carrying out real trade-offs and being steadfastly disciplined. It's not about success. It's about living a life filled with meaning and purpose.


 

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