A while back I wrote a review of a wonderful book entitled Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown. The book is about consciously choosing where to invest one’s time and energy in order to feel fulfilled and make a true contribution. My summary of the author’s premise is this:

Most of us become caught up in the daily demands of life and overly influenced by others’ definitions of “success” in ways that lead us in the opposite direction of meaning and joy. We stay really busy and point to our productivity metrics but lack true fulfillment.

McKeown’s counterpoint to this type of busy-ness is purposefulness. He defines essentialism in this way:

“It’s about challenging the core assumption of ‘we can have it all’ and ‘I have to do everything’ and replacing it with the pursuit of ‘the right thing, in the right way, at the right time’. It’s about regaining control of our own choices about where to spend our time and energies instead of giving others implicit permission to choose for us.”

Since reading the book I’ve come to appreciate that making these choices is really hard! It takes continuous discernment about what really matters. Including a willingness to pause, consistent honesty about my priorities, ongoing courage to say “no”, and sustained personal strategies and routines that help me stay true to my purpose.

That’s why I was really excited when McKeown announced a weekly podcast called What’s Essential. The podcast feels like a weekly inoculation of the encouragement, reminders, and practical tools I need to stay on this learning path.

McKeown’s interviews with other authors and thought leaders illuminate new sources of wisdom that inform my essentialist journey. However, I find his coaching sessions with selected readers and listeners to be most inspiring. They come onto the podcast with the same kinds of dilemmas and questions many of us face and over the course of an hour McKeown patiently asks questions, mirrors back to them the truths they are naming, and shares his own challenges. I always come away from these podcasts with greater clarity and motivation for moving forward.

For more about my personal journey in leading an essentialist life, see this blog entitled Leadership and the Art of Subtraction.

Image credit: Christian Fregnan

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