One of the first books of the New Year I purchased and read was Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown.
The recommendation came to me via my strength coach, who listed this as one of the books that I needed to read as part of my journey to better myself. I dithered for a while (almost a year) but found myself in the place where I needed a new injection of thinking.
The book itself was a wise purchase. McKeown's philosophy - that of finding what is essential to one's life and focusing on that while allowing the non-essentials to wither away - is the sort of thing that I find both exciting and impractical: exciting in the sense that it is a philosophy that I can understand and get behind, impractical in the sense that the application of it is often something that seems a great distance from the milieu in which many of us live and work (my primary example always being try telling your direct supervisor that you are not going to complete a task because it is not essential as you see it). But ultimately the book forces you to answer a simple question:
What is essential to your life?
It is not as easy a question to answer as one might think. As I sat and thought about it myself and then generated a list, what I found is that the list as I perceived it differed significantly from the list as I actually practiced it. Most people (I think) when pressed would state that their personal beliefs and family rate as essential items - yet how many (including myself, apparently) treat them as such in the allocation of time and resources?
McKeown pushes for a ruthless internal accounting of what is and is not essential to our lives and making decisions based on those realities. It is an accounting that most of us shy away from - I suspect because we know deep down that what we profess to be essential is quite different than what we actually treat as essential. But if we organized our lives along such thinking - what truly is essential - how different would would our lives be?
Which really brings things down to two questions:
1) What is really essential to my life?
2) Am I willing to change my life to reflect that reality?