Being overwhelmed can be beneficial if it leads you to understand you cannot have it all. Steeped in this fallacious boosterism throughout the 1970s and 1980s, baby boomers, in particular, swallowed it hook, line, and sinker to their unending frustration. Only by contracting out such difficult responsibilities like child rearing have many been able to fool themselves into believing they can have it all.
While generally skeptical of the idea that I could have it all, only after years of slow business growth, lack of satisfaction in my interpersonal relationships, and spiritual emptiness was I convinced about its mendacity. When I narrowed my focus I made meaningful progress. My journey as an Intentionalist began.
So when one of my Facebook fans recommended Greg McKeown’s new book Essentialiam: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less I ordered a copy right away.
Highly readable, the book makes its case for becoming an Essentialist. McKeown sets forth a three-step process through which you explore what is essential in your life, eliminate the nonessential, and execute the vital few things you identified in the first step.
Steeped as I am in living intentionally, I have already integrated two new practices and identified a third to work on down the road. One of the practices is based on McKeown’s assertion when deciding whether to take an opportunity, “If it isn’t a clear yes, then it’s a clear no.” True enough. But the simple evaluative tool he presents on page 111 turns his stock phrase into an actionable habit.
He unmasks such unprofitable beliefs as sunk-cost bias whereby people continue to invest in a project long after knowing it is a losing proposition simply because they have invested so much already. This and other insights into human nature will help you identify and change behaviors that impede your becoming an Intentionalist.
I have two criticisms. The first, though perhaps minor, comes from a book design issue. Several pages are highlighted through reverse printing: white text on black pages. While this technique is effective for sectional title pages, the regular text printed this way bleeds to almost illegibility.
The second is more substantial. McKeown seems to be advocating the minimalist perspective, popular among a subset of Gen Xers and Millennials. While I find nothing inherently wrong with this philosophy (it is a refreshing counterpoint to the ubiquity of marketing in today’s society) I see Essentialism more broadly as a methodology for pursuing Intentionalism, be it minimalistically or expansively.
This reservation aside, I recommend Essentialism as a valuable tool in your pursuit of being an Intentionalist.
How do you determine which opportunities to embrace?
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