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?

Success from Failure

It’s not our successes that matter. Rather it’s our failures: here is where we grow.

I don’t remember where I heard this first or who said it, but it hit a chord with me. Fear of failure often stops me from embarking on projects or setting goals because, well, I might fail. However, it is in the act of recovering from failure that I learn and grow. I see that walking the smooth path to get to a destination is all well and good. I can check out the sites along the way. And it’s all nice and good when I arrive at my destination, but I haven’t learned anything.

I’ve aged, but I haven’t grown.

Ask yourself the question: which vacation do you talk about the most? Is it the one where everything went completely as planned or the one where everything went wrong? It’s the unplanned events that happen in a vacation that make it memorable: the trip to the local emergency ward, the flat tire in the middle of a river, even the visit to the police station to report a robbery. It’s the out of the ordinary things, the unpredictable, the ‘failures’ that give us the stories of our lives.

In failing, I learn. By falling I learn how to get back up again. By being road blocked, I seek another way around. This is where the growth happens. By learning what doesn’t work I am one step closer to learning what does work. And once I have learned what does work, I don’t have to repeat the lesson the next time I am passing through a similar situation. I can learn from my missteps and mistakes. I am a different person from when I started out.

It’s still a struggle for me. I don’t want to fail. I don’t like to fail. Sometimes I don’t even attempt things because I fear I might fail. That’s the perfectionist in me coming out. So I push myself to try new things, to go new places and meet new people. I am not satisfied in maintaining the status quo: I want to move forward. And part of that includes trying things that don’t or won’t work.  So I am working on changing my perception of failure, one day at a time, one step at a time.

Actor Will Smith gives us his take on Failure in the following video: Fail Forward

 

Creativity and Inspiration

Creativity is not something you wait for. It is something that waits for you. You must decide to be creative, not wait to be. You must challenge yourself. Pick up the brush. Grab hold of the camera. Turn on the computer. Start cooking the meal. Get to the workplace early. Propose the solution. Advance the idea. Become the answer…be the inspiration...Neale Donald Walsch

 

I’ve been writing here for more than a year and a half and I’m often asked where I get my ideas for the blog articles I write. At first it was difficult. Like everything new it was outside my comfort zone and I was a bit nervous about the results. Would there be enough material to write about?

Today I see the ideas everywhere. A year and a half ago I made a decision to write two articles a week and since then I have noticed that the process of finding inspiration gets easier as I write more articles. I find topics because my mind is more attuned to pick out what might be the inspiration for an article. It’s not that I am any brighter or gifted or creative than others. It’s because this is what I pursue.

Writing has become a very important part of my life, along with working to discover more about spirituality and myself. The two go hand in hand. I also belong to a local writers’ group and research writing. If I wish to be a writer, I have to write.

Every one of us has desires and talents that we don’t explore. We tell ourselves that we won’t be good enough or that is just a silly dream. I know, because that’s what kept me away from writing for many years although I was always drawn to it.

If you want to be a painter, then paint. If you want to drive a motorcycle then learn how to drive a motorcycle. You will never skydive from your living room sofa. Nor will you build that cabin in the woods by watching YouTube videos.

If I want to change my life, be creative, learn to enjoy life more, then I have to start ‘doing’. A painter gets better at his art by painting. A driver improves his skills by driving I can’t think about stuff alone; I must get up off of my duff and do. Only then can I put into practice and improve, becoming my ‘answer’, my own inspiration.