Last night I just finished a book on ‘Essentialism’. I came across it throughout my travels on the net, as it came up in comments sections of a lot of Minimalism stuff I’ve been reading. Essentialism basically sells itself as the work-life balance counterpart to Minimalism. That is, where Minimalism is concerned with the cognitive and emotional drain caused by physical clutter; Essentialism is concerned with the job or todo list clutter that permeates your work, and can creep into your personal life. The basic mantras of Essentialism are: “Do one thing, well”; and, perhaps more pertinently “If you don’t priotise your life, someone else will”.
To be honest, there was nothing particularly groundbreaking in the book for me. I’ve done a lot of reading around lifestyle and happiness things and they all basically boil down to one thing, which is balancing hedonistic pleasure with purposeful and mindful activities. Essentialism did reinforce my personal work practice of not half-arseing two things but whole-arseing one thing, and why it’s a lot more productive to work this way in both employed labour and personal activities. The only thing which stood out to me really was the explanation of the word Priority and its place in everyday parlance.
According to the book (and I didn’t check its sources yet; though it did list them), the word Priority entered the English language in the 16th century and means literally “the thing that comes first”. Pretty straightforward. The interesting thing is that it didn’t have a plural form until the turn of the 20th century, when the Industrial Revolution had propelled modern Capitalism to grand heights. I realised then that I’ve only ever really heard people ask me what my “Priorities” are, never the one thing that’s most important to me. So I guess I want to talk about that.
I could list the things most important to me, and they’d sound a lot like the list everyone else would give: enough money so that I can not worry about a roof and food, plus a little extra for treats now and then; the flexibility to make sure that I can enjoy my training regularly; keeping good company, both romantic, sexual, and friendly; access to good food and water.
They’re all way too generic really, but I think they all boil down to one simple theme which I will be taking up as my single priority from now on: Strength. All of the above listed things make me a stronger human being in some way shape or form; they provide means to strengthen my body, mind, and emotional core (spirit?). I guess that means I could theoretically fit everything into that mould, but what I really want is to start asking myself “How does this make me stronger?” for everything I do. It’ll help me discern what play-time is required for recharging batteries and stimulating creativity vs what is a habit formed by addiction (ie Netflix). It’ll make me reflect on how and when I ‘treat’ myself to snack food, when actually I need to balance the emotional gratification with the nutrients my body needs to thrive.
Anyway, it was nice to know that other people have the practice of shutting out the clutter, and it reinforced my fortitude for continuing to do so.