Every year, many of us make the same New Year’s resolutions over and over again — exercise more, eat or drink less and the like.
There’s nothing wrong with deciding this is the year to quit smoking — there’s a reason those positive promises to ourselves come up so often — but if you haven’t decided what to do in the new year, I have a suggestion.
This is not a new idea. I blogged back in 2012 about author Laura Vanderkam’s good suggestions for using our time more wisely, instead of simply trying to do more and I shared a reblog from Zen Habits earlier this year about treating your calendar as a blank slate and starting over, adding in only the things that still really matter.
I get tired of the cultural value placed on busy-ness. Ask many people how they’re doing and they simply answer “Busy.” If your days are jam-packed with activities that truly enrich your life, maybe that’s good for you. But mostly I hear people sighing about social obligations they’d rather skip or time-wasting meetings or trying and failing to keep up with nonessential emails. It’s not making life better, it’s just keeping us from ever sitting still with our own thoughts.
The nature of bubbles is that some asset is absurdly overvalued until — eventually — the bubble bursts, and we’re left scratching our heads wondering why we were so irrationally exuberant in the first place. The asset we’re overvaluing now is the notion of doing it all, having it all, achieving it all; what Jim Collins calls “the undisciplined pursuit of more.”
This bubble is being enabled by an unholy alliance between three powerful trends: smart phones, social media, and extreme consumerism. The result is not just information overload, but opinion overload. We are more aware than at any time in history of what everyone else is doing and, therefore, what we “should” be doing. In the process, we have been sold a bill of goods: that success means being supermen and superwomen who can get it all done. Of course, we back-door-brag about being busy: it’s code for being successful and important.
Not only are we addicted to the drug of more, we are pushers too. In the race to get our children into “a good college” we have added absurd amounts of homework, sports, clubs, dance performances and ad infinitum extracurricular activities. And with them, busyness, sleep deprivation and stress.
The alternative he advocates is the lifestyle of the Essentialist. Consciously, purposely, ruthlessly eliminate time demands you don’t value to make room for those that do matter — including having downtime.
The groundswell of an Essentialist movement is upon us. Even our companies are competing with one another to get better at this: from sleep pods at Google to meditation rooms at Twitter. At the Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos this year, there were — for the first time — dozens of sessions on mindfulness. TIME magazine goes beyond calling this a movement, instead choosing the word“Revolution.”
People are beginning to realize that when the “more bubble” bursts — and it will — we will be left feeling that our precious time on earth has been wasted doing things that had no value at all. We will wake up to having given up those few things that really matter for the sake of the many trivial things that don’t. We will wake up to the fact that that overstuffed life was as empty as the real estate bubble’s detritus of foreclosed homes.
If you’d like some practical tips on how to reorient yourself toward being an Essentialist, cutting out time wasters so you don’t constantly race from place to place and get by on too little sleep, check out McKeown’s full article on HBR.org.
Other Newvine Growing posts about New Year’s resolutions and life goals:
- Focusing on one change at a time for two months each
- Making resolutions you can keep
- How are you coming on your New Year’s resolutions?
- Are you making a new year’s resolution?
- New Year’s gym crowd, you should stay or you should go
- Guest post from Zen Habits: The Three-Day Monk Syndrome
- You don’t need a new plan – a reblog from Chris Brogan
- Decide what you want and declare it in no uncertain terms
- My vision board as a painting by my artist husband, John Tebeau