I often find myself in discussions with individuals and families regarding the personal and financial priorities that seem to continually push and pull on people. I try to get people to think and focus on what is essential to them and the lives that they want to lead. This focus is about making the wisest possible investment of your time and energy to achieve your lifestyle and financial objectives.
A related book on this very subject, Essentialism by Gregg McKeown, stresses that by investing in fewer things, we have the satisfying experience of making significant progress in the things that matter most. Essentialism is a disciplined, systematic approach for determining where our highest point of involvement should be and then to make the execution of those things almost effortless.
Essentialism – three “core truths”
McKeown breaks Essentialism into three “core truths” that help to reduce, simplify, and focus on what is essential by eliminating everything else. “The right thing, the right way, at the right time.”
Systems help us to make decisions by design, rather than default.
Below are a few suggestions from McKeown’s book to help you design a better way to help you determine what is essential.
Apply Selection Criteria
McKeown also offers a simple, systematic process you can use to apply selection criteria to opportunities that come your way.
By definition, if the opportunity doesn’t pass the first set of criteria, the answer is obviously no. But if it also doesn’t pass two of your three extreme criteria, the answer is still no opportunity.
Another evaluation method would be to think about the single most important criterion for that decision, and then give the option a score between 0 and 100. If you rate it any lower than 90 percent, then automatically change the rating to 0 and reject it. This way you avoid getting caught up in indecision, or worse, getting stuck with the 60s or 70s.
It takes asking tough questions, making real trade-offs, and exercising serious discipline to cut out the competing priorities that distract us from our true intention. There is also a need for planning and to prepare for different contingencies which go hand in hand with developing a wealth management plan. The effort can be certainly worth if due to the clarity of purpose and peace of mind that it can bring.
To discern what is truly essential we need space to think, time to look and listen, permission to play, wisdom to sleep, and the discipline to apply highly selective criteria to the choices we make. Albert Einstein once said: “When I examine myself and my methods of thought, I come to the conclusion that the gift of fantasy has meant more to me than my talent for absorbing positive knowledge.”
Two other quotes that stood out to me while reading this book were by Lao Tzu, who said, “In work, do what you enjoy. In family life, be completely present.” and “Beware the barrenness of a busy life” by Socrates.
If you don’t prioritize your life, someone else will.