Essentialism the Path to No Regrets

In Essentialism Greg McKeown quotes Bronnie Ware’s blog post “Top 5 Regrets of the Dying” reposted in Huffington Post to make the case that one of the benefits of living in the essentialist mindset is living without regrets. McKeown quotes number 1. I include number 2 below.5 regrets of the dying

“1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

This was the most common regret of all. When people realise that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people had not honored even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made.

It is very important to try and honour at least some of your dreams along the way. From the moment that you lose your health, it is too late. Health brings a freedom very few realise, until they no longer have it.

2. I wish I didn’t work so hard.

This came from every male patient that I nursed. They missed their children’s youth and their partner’s companionship. Women also spoke of this regret. But as most were from an older generation, many of the female patients had not been breadwinners. All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence.

By simplifying your lifestyle and making conscious choices along the way, it is possible to not need the income that you think you do. And by creating more space in your life, you become happier and more open to new opportunities, ones more suited to your new lifestyle.” (emphasis mine) 

First, clear the mental clutter to know your dream. When I was in Iowa I ate a lot of pork and beef and very few vegetables. I experienced pains in my stomach and so naturally I thought it was either constipation/digestive trouble or cancer. I was awake in the middle of the night pondering what I would do if I was dying of cancer and had only a year to live. The answer came to me with certainty: I would write.

So why is my own writing the last priority in my day to day life? I get everything else done before I get started with my writing projects. Since childhood I have wanted to be a writer and dreamed of writing a book. I would regret not getting that done before I died. Once I recognize the personal importance of writing, it makes it easier to say no to working on other projects I am tempted to take on for the money.

(Bronnie Ware has a blog and book expanding on the ideas of living a life without regret.)

Less is more, really?

This is only a partial picture of Willow Creek Community Church from the "outlook".

This is only a partial picture of Willow Creek Community Church from the “outlook”.

The standing room only crowd at the Storyline Conference break out session called “The Hidden Lies that Keep Our Schedules Overwhelmed” indicates that Joshua Becker is on to something. Not that you can tell from looking at the American evangelical church from the outside. Look at the building we were gathered in (above). Willow Creek Community Church is perhaps the premier megachurch in the USA. The campus is larger than many colleges. It screams “More is more.”

Joshua Becker shared the 7 lies we tell ourselves to keep ourselves busy.

Joshua Becker shared the 7 lies we tell ourselves to keep ourselves busy.

Scripture, however, supports Joshua Becker’s supposition that if you are looking for contentment, happiness or even just the time to follow Jesus, you are better off if you get down to the essentials. It will not be found in your stuff.  More possessions demands time to take care of it, time to work to pay for it, or time worrying about paying for it.

Part of the challenge is pervasive advertising. When I sold everything and moved to New Zealand, my sense of purpose made it easier to do and then maintain few possessions. It also helped that I was not exposed to much advertising. Without television I avoided the constant onslaught of messages that I am not enough without (fill in the blank___).

I also got away from the many demands on my time–the social network that expects me to say yes at work, at church, with family, and with friends. It can be like the million and one emails I have received from the Democratic Party this election cycle. Except that the relationships I have with people make it much harder to press “delete.”

Peeling it all back to the essentials is one of the reasons that I look back on my time in New Zealand with such fondness. It has been difficult to maintain the mindset since my return to California. It takes vigilance. I must stay present and take a long pause before responding to requests.

It also helps to have a plan. Watch this space for practical steps to getting back to basics.

Essentialism: less but better

I was listening to Michael Hyatt‘s podcast and he reviewed Greg McKeown’s book, Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Love. Intrigued enough to download it onto my tablet, I dove in and read it this weekend. I want to embrace this lifestyle so I am going to reread it more slowly and do a series of blog posts.

What is essentialism? It is the idea that more is not necessarily more. In our world with proliferating choices our quality of life often depends on focusing on those things that really matter to us. As McKeown writes, “Essentialism is not about how to get more things done, it’s about how to the 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 investment of your time and energy in order to operate at our highest point of contribution by doing only what is essential.”

If you are interested in learning the discipline of essentialism, which includes learning to gracefully say no, making space to think and play and sleep, and how to get over the fear of missing out, then join me. Read the book and participate in the conversation in the blogs that follow.Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less

Delight and Awe = Inspiration

A sample of Little Cotton Rabbits, Fox, and Elephants by Julie Williams

A sample of Little Cotton Rabbits, Fox, and Elephants by Julie Williams

Is it just me or do find these creations irresistible? It is like Beatrix Potter took up knitting!

I am enjoying all things Little Cotton Rabbits today. I woke up feeling a little under the weather and in need of a little comfort. I found this artist and blogger on Pinterest and have dedicated my lunch hour to reading her gentle blog.

I need the inspiration. I have not picked up my knitting since I got home from France. And I needed some whimsey. Dare you to look through her creations and not smile.



Robin Williams Still Making Me Laugh

I wish we could have had a Robin Williams Week (like Shark Week only funny) before he died, when we could have watched his old clips and laughed out loud. Instead it took his death to appreciate what a truly talented person he was. I also remembered I have a lot in common with him. We are both politically liberal, Californians, cyclists and huge bike racing fans. 

Of course his fame made it possible to ride in the team car behind Lance Armstrong when he was tearing up the Tour de France.  (He subsequently expressed his disappointment in Lance and still loves cycling.)

I am enjoying old interviews with Robin Williams because 1) he talks about cycling, 2) he shares my disdain for France. (My recent adventure has confirmed that I have had enough of France and French attitudes for a lifetime.) For example, on Fresh Air they replayed a 2006 interview between Terry Gross and Robin Williams and this line almost took me off the road, “When I speak French in Paris they say to me ‘Stop speaking French. No. Speak englais.’ Then they give their baby a cigarette.”

He really lets loose on The Daily Show. Check out the second interview where he riffs on the French for much longer. 

And go ahead and laugh out loud. It is the best way to honor Robin Williams.

War Horse as Act of Remembrance

Winding up my Tour de France adventure, I enjoyed my last 24 hours in London. I stayed at the exquisite Ampersand Hotel in South Kensington. They sent me an email a few days before my arrival asking if there was anything they could do to enhance my experience. My friend suggested seeing the stage production of War Horse. The concierge efficiently fetched tickets and after an afternoon of fossicking around bookshops in South Kensington, I duly trundled off to New London Theatre on Drury Lane to see the play.

I tried to read to the book by Michael Marpurgo and got emotionally swamped. It is told in the horse Joey’s point of view. And like Black Beauty it is gut wrenching. I may have seen about 5 minutes of the Steven Spielberg movie and could not stand the idea, again, of horses suffering even if make believe. Afterall, they did suffer cruelly in World War I, as did people. So I was a little nervous about seeing a stage production. I was also curious about how they would handle the staging and the horse characters. 

Wow. I mean WOW!!!!  Just the puppetry was worth the admission price to witness. It is amazing. I have since found an awesome Ted Talk that describes how they created Joey. Please watch.

The play beautifully illustrated the complete stupidity of World War I. While it is not unique among wars (all wars are stupid), it is the first where technology completely bamboozled strategists. I can understand sending the cavalry in once against machine guns. But again and again? Stupendously stupid. It was all the more poignant for me because of my Grandma Hazel Olson’s beloved horse sold to the US Cavalry. I can only hope that he never made it to Europe–that maybe his high spirits made him too difficult to work with or too attractive to some officer who was on active duty at the Mexican border. 

It is a very moving production, even more thrilling seen in a smallish theater with actors running by right in front of our seats. I realize War Horse has been on stage and travelled the world already so I am not on the cutting edge of theatre. If you have not seen it, make the effort. You will be richly rewarded.

Researching and honoring my great uncle Frank Denham on Le Tour Adventure was worthwhile and added some emotional depth to my experience. I am not going to stop learning about the war either. My favorite conversation on the topic was with my cabbie who gave me a lift from the train station to the Ampersand. With his East End accent he held forth on a number of topics. I told him about my interest in World War I and he said the machine gun was invented by an American living in London, but the British officers did not want to use it (at first) because it “wasn’t cricket.” (meaning that as gentlemen it was not the proper way to conduct warfare). I responded, “But the Germans have never played cricket.” We both shared a rueful laugh. 

All of this remembering while the conflict in Ukraine results in a civilian jet liner shot down, and Gaza rages on; it is a wonder to me that mankind has not wiped itself off the earth yet. Perhaps the reason we yet remain is found in the sparks of creativity that still ignite in puppeteers and writers and many others who choose to spend their energy creating beauty and celebrating truth rather than the dark arts of war. This is the path I choose.