Essentialism

“When we don’t purposefully and deliberately choose where to focus our energies and time, other people–our bosses, our colleagues, or clients and even our families–will choose for us and before long we’ll have lost sight of everything that is meaningful and important.” Greg McKeown, Essentialism

My life is sometimes not my own. It’s my own fault. I have several apartments that I look after. There is always something that needs to checked on or repaired. Tenants have reasons why the rent is late. The short term stay apartment has to be ready at a moment’s notice. There’s always the pool to vacuum, plants to water, decks to wash. It’s never ending. I can go from one task to the next and not stop. The big maintenance projects, well, they’ll just have to wait for another day. If I don’t watch it, my whole day is consumed with solving little things and not getting to or being too tired to start the things that I really need to do as well as things I want to do.

Life is like that. We go from one thing to the next and one task to the next without really thinking about it: I have to do it. And gradually the day is done and I haven’t accomplished but half of what I wanted to do.  Greg McKeown in his book Essentialism suggests that if we are going to get to do what we really want then we must begin by deciding what is important to us. What is it that I value? What am I trying to accomplish here? What are my goals and where do I want them to take me?

Few people take the time to sit down and make this evaluation. As it often goes, we spend 80% of our time doing things that are not important to us, not essential,  and 20% of our time, if that, doing what is. Everyone will ask us for our time and our talents. There are always going to be little fires to put out here and there. It would probably be a better solution to discover the source of those little fires in the first place.

Essentialism often means saying, ‘No!’ I can’t be everything to everyone. Yes I want to be the nice guy and help out but if it’s not important to me and if it’s not my responsibility, I have to ask myself, just why I am doing this? If it is taking my focus away from my priorities then I can say no to joining yet another committee, or going organizing another office function. And yes, the first time I give a firm no! I may ruffle a few feathers, especially if I have always been the one to say yes. But sticking to the essentials will allow me to use more of my time to on my priorities.

I would rather do one thing well than divide my attention and try to do several things just okay. Perhaps that’s the reason why I am running around trying to solve a whole lot of little problems. Rather than let work, friends, and even family decide where I want to focus my energy, I purposefully and deliberately choose where I will focus my energy.

Essentialism won’t solve all the challenges in life. There will always be things that broadside us when we least expect them. But if we have the majority of our lives organized then the chances of it knocking us of our balance are much less. In the end it will help me to accomplish much more.

What’s important to you?

Self Sabotage

Somehow addicts and alcoholics have a way of doing something very well, until a certain point. Then, just when they are about to have a great success, they go on a party spree that completely ruins their chances at success. In the movie “Flight” with Denzel Washington, just when his character was about to be free and clear of any charges, he has that fateful drink and drinks the complete mini bar in his hotel room. This is very typical of an addict before recovery and once in recovery as well.

Why is it that when I am about to make changes in my life that are going to be beneficial to it I suddenly stop doing those very things that will help to improve me or my life? Why do I give up just when it seems that most of the work has been done? Why do I sabotage my success?

It comes down to feelings of self esteem and self worth. I don’t feel that I deserve to reap the benefits of what I do. I don’t think I am good enough to be doing whatever I am wanting to do. I feel that I should accept my lot in life and not ‘tempt the gods’ or make notice of myself. These feelings of self esteem were planted in my in my early years by family, friends, community, religion, school and self. I do not blame anyone for how I feel today because I also know that I have the ability to make changes in how I think and feel.

Also wrapped up in this is a fear of success as well as fear of failure. If I fail I am sure I will feel depressed about it. And if it’s successful? Then that implies changes in my life and I’m not sure about what the changes will be and how that will affect me. I might have to step out of my comfort zone. I let myself focus on all of the negative aspects and fall into the vicious circle of lots of thought and no action.

I can change how I relate to the world and how I allow it to affect me. I have done that through my recovery and working the Twelve Steps. I know how to recognize when I am in my ‘moods’ and when I can change them. I can recognize when I am acting in a manner that is not in keeping with how I want to be acting. I can focus on the positive and stay away from the negative. Do I always do these things?

I wish the answer was yes, always.  But that’s not so. I fail to live up to my standards, too often. I know from listening at meetings that I am not alone in this spiral of negative thinking. So I focus on one thing a day. I don’t have to accomplish everything right now. Just one thing. Ask someone a question. Do the investigation. Write part of the report. Once I get down to the task I feel better about myself and realize that the fears I had really are unfounded. One small step today. Another small step tomorrow and in a week I can look back and measure how far I have come. I know there is still more to be done but I look at the gains I have made and those can help me to take today’s step forward.

It all starts with just a small action: mine.

hand pen writing plant

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My Gift to Me

For many years in the past, when I have heard people saying that they bought somethings for themselves for Christmas that that was the height of Ego Arrogance.  I just didn’t see the point of giving yourself something. I buy what I need when I need it and it’s not necessary to have a special day to buy something for myself.

In truth though, I am learning that it is important to mark occasions such as one’s birthday and Christmas with a special gift. If I am giving gifts to others at those times, why not give myself something out of the ordinary? I am not talking about something that you would have bought anyway. Put at least as much thought into what you are getting yourself as you put into what you wish to buy for your best friend or spouse.

Why? Why should you gift yourself with something? Because you, better than anyone else know if you’ve been naughty or nice. You have put a great deal of effort into the past year and you deserve a treat that is out of the ordinary. We have been told it is better to give than receive, but I believe that we have to receive in order to give if there is to be a flow of positive energy. We live in a universe of abundance, so splurge a little and get yourself something that you deserve.

It’s a false sense of humility that says you don’t deserve a present. There’s no need to feel guilty about it. You know how hard you have worked the past year or so. You do deserve it. Nor should you thing that if you get yourself something, that it shouldn’t be anything too expensive. If it’s a gift for anyone, it has to mean something, cost is beside the point here; it should mean something for you whether it costs nothing or a thousand dollars.

Your gift to you doesn’t have to be a thing.  What about getting yourself a day at a spa, or a massage. Go for a day or two to a place that’s special to you. Have a meal out at a restaurant that you normally wouldn’t dine at. Buy yourself flowers or a plant that will give you months of pleasure every time you see it because it is a constant reminder that you are worthy. Yes, you do deserve it.

What does giving yourself a gift do for you? Gifting something to yourself is a tangible sign that you really do matter in this world that increasingly treats people like a robotic commodity. Self giving increases your self-esteem. It confirms that the universe is a place of plenty. And when you then give to others you give from a place of understanding and joy; your generosity and gratitude will bloom from this.

You need not shout it from the rooftops what you have given to yourself. If anyone asks you can say it’s from a Secret Santa or a close friend. Nothing more needs to be said if you don’t want to.

So enjoy your gift to yourself.  No, it’s not a guilty little pleasure, it’s a well deserved present from someone who appreciates how far you’ve come along in your journey.

Merry Christmas and Season Greetings to All.

flat lay photography of baubles and ornament

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