By Rev. Mary Ann Moman
Mary Ann is currently Development Officer for the United Methodist Foundation of Indiana. She is also an associate pastor at St. Mark’s UMC in Carmel, IN.
Greg McKeown, in his book Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, makes the argument for a systematic discipline that helps us to separate what is absolutely essential in our lives and then to eliminate everything that is not.
His reasoning for doing this is to increase our capacity to make the highest possible contribution to the things that we value most. McKeown is not arguing that Essentialism is one more thing to add to our list. He argues that it is a completely different way to live our lives.
We value the freedom we have to make choices. We can make choices because we have resources: time, money, connections. Our challenge is to make choices that give life. We can choose less in order to give more. Our task is not to get more done, but to get the right things done.
There are myriad ways to spend our time and our money. What criteria do you have for making the most impact with your resources of time and money?
McKeown challenges his readers to define the three criteria by which they will choose from many good things. I found this process to be very helpful.
If a request comes to me, it must meet all three of the criteria I have set for my decision-making. Two out of three is not enough. We must fight the fear of saying “no” in order to give in ways that make a significant contribution. This is the disciplined pursuit of less.
This is what I have learned from practicing the disciplined pursuit of less:
- Creating my list of three criteria has taken longer than I expected. I wanted to add a fourth and then a fifth. Choosing three helped me be clear about what I wanted to accomplish.
- Anne Lamott once said: “No” is a complete sentence. When I say no I often feel the need to provide an explanation for my refusal. I’m learning that “no” is enough.
- As McKeown says setting boundaries is freeing. Even though I could spend a lot more time each week working, I might not be as productive as when I have time for rest, renewal, and time with family and friends.
- Staying in the present moment is crucial. It is important for me to not let the future get in the way of living in the present. I can be distracted by what has to be done tomorrow and not do what needs to be done now.
- Practicing what is essential in my life is good stewardship. I am able to make a greater impact on the things that matter most to me.
The busy life is not necessarily a productive life. What are the essentials in your life?