Youtube is full of channels of people who have changed their lives dramatically–built tiny houses so they can be debt free, changed their eating so they can be healthier, or are flipping real estate in order to earn extra money. Everywhere we can see people wanting to show us the secret to their happiness but first we have to figure out what makes us happy.
Greg McKeown wrote a very impactful book for me, called “Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less”. I have posted about it here. My husband and I read the book a few years ago and it woke us up to start thinking deeply. We will be the most successful when we know what is essential for us and our families and focus on making that happen. As I looked up the definition of essentialism it means “something absolutely necessary; extremely important.”
1.Take some time this week to think deeply first with ourselves, and then with our spouse, on what are our foundational core beliefs we are modeling and teaching our children.
2. Pick our top five and write them down, where we can see them throughout the week. Here is where the real meaningful work begins. We can begin to align our lives to these core values.
If we say that our family is important to us, are we spending enough of our time and energy with them to support that core value? If being healthy is one of our core family values, what does that look like every day?
The secret to unlocking essentialism in our lives is in the second half of Greg McKeown’s title, The Disciplined Pursuit of Less. It’s a lifelong job to cut out all of the options available to us, all of that “too much”, and I have tried to be so mindful of what is important to me and what is not.
3. Realize that this activity of saying no to the unimportant will be a life-long practice. We will never arrive and have life all figured out, but as we eliminate distractions and stuff from our lives, that will help us improve our lives dramatically. We will see our lives continue to progress in worthwhile ways as we actually live our core values.
4. Choose to be patient with ourselves and family members. Living authentically takes a lot of teaching, mistakes, repentance, and nurturing. Story-telling and being a good example can cause these ideas to go way down into our children’s hearts. Consistent time together where we can teach our families what is most important is critical.
We know more technology in our lives creates new ways of living. This means we will have to learn to manage ourselves better. Those of us who can turn our backs on what is unimportant, and focus on what matters most will have a better chance at finding meaning in our lives.
As I have pondered and wondered what is essential to me, I came up with my list:
- Putting Christ at the center of my life has meant everything to me. As I have felt drawn to Him, I have to thank my parents for giving me a strong foundation. My parents were faithful, devoted people. I have seen my life improve, and see the peace that enters my life. I want to be like Jesus Christ. I want the peace He offers and to have worldly concerns to fall away as I learn to trust Him more, and follow His way of living.
- My marriage has been supremely important to me. When I was dating my husband, I watched closely how my future-in-laws treated each other and could feel the spirit of love in their home. They were very united and compatible. As a marriage starts there is hopefulness that we will be what we seem to be. As we try to fulfill those hopes and expectations, the real work of a marriage begins. Romantic love turns into something even better, if we can trust each other and be vulnerable.
- Having a big family was important to me. My husband and I have gone without a lot of things in order to do that. We both grew up in large families and saw and enjoyed the benefits of “more the merrier”. I always felt lucky that I had so many siblings and playmates, and some of the best memories of my childhood are of my brothers and sisters playing with me and teaching me how to live. I know I am looking back on those busy, stressful years of raising my own six children with rose-colored glasses but I would absolutely do it again. This choice has given so much meaning and purpose to my life.
- Knowledge is important to me. I love to read, study, learn–and teach! I love reading books, magazines and newspapers. I love book groups where we can discuss our insights. I make time for this important pursuit.
- Managing our money has become very important to me. When we realized how destructive our debt was, and what interest was costing us, we woke up in our mid-forties and became much more intentional about what we did with our money. We realized freedom was deciding how we would spend our days and we wanted more options than showing up for a job everyday and working for somebody else. The more time and focus I put towards this stewardship means more choice in how we get to live our future lives.
- Connecting with family and friends is important to me. I love to be with people, one on one, or gathering a large group together. This is one way I nourish myself, is being with and listening to people. It has taken me a long time to be a better listener, and to learn to validate people’s feelings and concerns. I have become better at opening up and trusting people and have learned to “mourn with those that mourn.”1 I have found that really seeing people, finding out what their story is, and what is important to them, feeds my spirit in very meaningful ways.
Having the latest car, or clothes is not important to me. A friend that sells designer clothing told me once with wonder in her voice that she noticed I put more stock in my home, than my clothes. I laughed at her–compliment?
When we know what is important to us and what we want to focus on, we can start letting go of the energy suckers, the mental and physical clutter and start to guard our precious time. What is important to you? I challenge you to think through what you are putting your effort and time into. Write it down, talk to your spouse and friends. It really makes a difference when we take the time thinking how we will spend the currency of our lives–our days–in either doing crucial or irrelevant things.
1.Mosiah 18:9 from the Book of Mormon)