Here in America, the holiday season is in full swing. We kick off the season with Halloween, my 3-year old’s new favorite holiday. In her words “I go to the door and say trick-or-treat, then they give me candy and then I say thank you!”. I love this time of year, but I find that over-consumerism has become to plague the simplicity of our celebrations. We are obsessed with having more and doing more. Unfortunately, this mentality has seeped into our professional and personal lives as well.
I live in a country where over-consumption is an epidemic. Even though we are one of the most prosperous countries in the history of the world, we are afflicted with anxiety, debt, and depression. Many of us seem to be overscheduled and strained for time.
Here is where Greg McKeown’s book Essentialism, comes in asking:
“What if businesses eliminated meaningless meetings and replaced them with space for people to think and work on their most important projects? What if employees pushed back against time-wasting e-mail chains, purposeless projects, and unproductive meetings so they could be utilized at their highest level of contribution to their companies and in the careers?”
Before I had children, I was working outside the home. I felt that a lot of my time was wasted in meaningless meetings that never seemed to end in anything productive. I would sit in a meeting for an hour and think “wow, I could’ve gotten a lot more done at my desk”. I realized the importance of meetings to offer time for collaboration, brainstorming and raising awareness of organizational issues, but I often thought there had to be a better way. Were these meetings always essential or did these meetings make me lose focus on my true intent throughout the day?
McKeown further addresses the issue of essentialism in our personal lives by stating:
“What if society stopped telling us to buy more stuff and instead allowed us to create more space to breathe and think? What if society encouraged us to reject what has been accurately described as doing things we detest, to buy things we don’t need, with money we don’t have, to impress people we don’t like?
What if we stopped being oversold the value of having more and being undersold the value of having less?
What if we stopped celebrating being busy as a measurement of importance? What if instead we celebrated how much time we had spent listening, pondering, meditating, and enjoying time with most important people in our lives?
What if the whole world shifted from the undisciplined pursuit of more to the disciplined pursuit of less…only better?
I have a vision of people everywhere having the courage to live a life true to themselves instead of the life other expect of them.”
As I have thought more about the idea of “essentialism”, I’ve realized that I am in the perfect position to make some changes in my life. With two children, I could easily fill up every minute of my day without actually accomplishing much of what I intended to do. I’m so easily distracted that I lose sight of my main focus. Through a conscious effort, I have tried to begin my day with one focal point and then creating my daily activities around that focus.
I’ve also tried to emulate the expression of “less is more”. I often feel a sense of competition from buying my children the latest and trendiest, devoting time to activities that aren’t really important to me and wanting to go over the top in so many different aspects. In a time when we have access to so much information, it can often become overwhelming.
“We overvalue nonessentials like a nicer car or house, or even intangibles like the number of our followers on Twitter or the way we look in our Facebook photos. As a result, we neglect activities that are truly essential, like spending time with our loved ones, or nurturing our spirit, or taking care of our health.” – (McKeown, Essentialism)
I love the idea of going back to basics – taking time to contemplate what is truly important to us and then letting go of everything that isn’t. Each individual is going to have different priorities and they will change throughout different phases of life; which is why it is so important to take the time to evaluate what is most important to us. Once we have established our priorities, we need to create a life that honors our core values.
Photo credit: Sam Leighton (Flickr)