- I have to.
- It's all important.
- I can do both.
Like mythological sirens, these assumptions are as dangerous as they are seductive. They draw us in, and drown us in shallow waters. To embrace the essence of essentialism requires we replace these false assumptions with three core truths:
- I choose to.
- Only a few things really matter.
- I can do anything but not everything.
What if society stopped telling us to buy more stuff and instead allowed us to create more space to breathe and think? What if society encouraged us to reject what has been accurately described as doing things we detest to buy things we don't need, with money we don't have, to impress people we don't like? What if we stopped being oversold the value of having more?
Essentialists invest the time they have saved into creating a system for removing obstacles and making execution as easy as possible. These three elements, explore, eliminate, execute, are not separate events as much as a cyclical process. And when we apply them consistently, we're able to reap greater and greater benefits.
One paradox of essentialism is that essentialists actually explore more options than their non-essentialist counterparts. Whereas non-essentialists commit to everything, or virtually everything, without actually exploring, essentialists systematically explore and evaluate a broad set of options before committing [...]
[...] leads to staff meetings where as many as 10 top priorities are discussed with no sense of irony at all. The word "priority" came into the English language in the 1400s. It was singular. It meant the very first or prior thing. It stayed singular for the next 500 years. Only in the 1900s did we pluralize the term and start talking about priorities. Illogical.
[...] trying to keep everyone happy, I had sacrificed what mattered most. On reflection, I discovered this important lesson. If you don't prioritize your life, someone else will.
The way of the essentialist involves learning to tell the difference, learning to filter through all those options and selecting only those that are truly essential. Essentialism is not about how to get more things done, it's about how to get the right things done. It doesn't mean just doing less for the sake of less either. It is about making the wisest possible.
Dieter's design criteria can be summarized by a characteristically succinct principle captured in just three German words, "weniger, aber besser". The English translation is "less, but better".