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After spending some time reading ESSENTIALISM by Greg McKeown, I soon realized the path to knowing what is essential is paved with much intentional thought and discovery.


To begin this journey, we must learn the difference between the two types of people, whom McKeown defines as Essentialists and Non-Essentialists. To sum, Essentialists are about getting the RIGHT things done, rather than the Non-Essentialists who are of the mindset of getting MORE things done.  He defines Essentialism as “a disciplined, systematic approach for determining where our highest point of contribution lies, then making execution of those things almost effortless.” “WOW!” I think to myself. I want to get the RIGHT things done. I want to live by design. I want to be purposeful in my choices and experience real happiness along the way. How do I begin this trip along the road to becoming an Essentialist?


McKeown discusses 5 practices in exploring what is essential. He states that these 5 practices are non-negotiable when one is pursing the path to less.


  1. ESCAPE- You have to make yourself unavailable to any distractions. You have to allow yourself to concentrate and focus on thinking. That’s right, carving out time to do just that: Think. Think about what is essential to propel you to the next level or the next step to greatness. Escaping your busy life to think is the first step to narrowing down what is essential.
  2. LOOK- Allow yourself to see the big picture. Keep a journal, notice details that are missing, discern what is essential that will, in the end, get your undivided attention.
  3. PLAY- Get outside and PLAY! Reflect on what brought you joy as a child and, as an adult, rediscover that activity. Play has been proven to reduce stress, open our mind, and also improves the “executive functions” of the brain.
  4. SLEEP- Yes! Your eyes are not deceiving you! Sleep is a necessary – no – a required practice when one is narrowing down what is essential. Lack of sleep can impair decision making, cause serious health issues, and causes irritability, among other side effects. With a good night of sleep ones productivity, creativity, and general brain power level all increase.
  5. SELECT- Be selective. Exhibiting discernment is absolutely crucial to continue on the path to knowing what is Essential. My biggest takeaway here is, “If a choice/decision isn’t a CLEAR YES, then it absolutely is a CLEAR NO.”


Join me on this path to becoming and Essentialist- which I will begin with a good night’s sleep after a day of play!

Author Haley O'Brien

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