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My takeaway

When we surrender the ability to choose, someone or something will step in and choose for us. Think “I choose to” instead of “I have to.” Make decisions by design, rather than by default.

My notes

These are my informal notes from Essentialism. It contains a mix of key highlights as well as my own thoughts and lessons.

  • Only once you give yourself permission to stop trying to do it all, to stop saying yes to everyone, can you make your highest contribution towards the things that really matter.
  • The way of the Essentialist is the relentless pursuit of less but better.
  • Essentialism is not about how to get more things done; it’s about how to get the right things done.
  • In many cases we can learn to make one-time decisions that make a thousand future decisions so we don’t exhaust ourselves asking the same questions again and again.
  • If you don’t prioritise your life, someone else will.
  • The more choices we are forced to make, the more the quality of our decisions deteriorates.
  • Remember that it’s not just information overload; it is opinion overload.
  • When we don’t purposefully and deliberately choose where to focus our energies and time, other people – our bosses, our colleagues, our clients, and even our families – will choose for us, and before long we’ll have lost sight of everything that is meaningful and important.
  • Essentialists spend as much time as possible exploring, listening, debating, questioning, and thinking. But their exploration is not an end in itself. The purpose of the exploration is to discern the vital few from the trivial many.
  • What if we stopped celebrating being busy as a measurement of importance? What if instead we celebrated how much time we had spent listening, pondering, meditating, and enjoying time with the most important people in our lives?
  • We often think of choice as a thing. But a choice is not a thing. Our options may be things, but a choice is an action.
  • While we may not always have control over our options, we always have control over how we choose among them.
  • Options (things) can be taken away, while our core ability to choose (free will) cannot be.
  • When we forget our ability to choose, we learn to be helpless. Drip by drip we allow our power to be taken away until we end up becoming a function of other people’s choices – or even a function of our own past choices.
  • The overwhelming reality is: we live in a world where almost everything is worthless and a very few things are exceptionally valuable.
  • 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.
  • “Think of a journal as like a storage device for backing up your brain’s faulty hard drive. As someone once said to me, the faintest pencil is better than the strongest memory.”
  • The best place to look is for small changes we could make in the things we do often. There is power in steadiness and repetition.