We all make choices. We choose what we eat, we choose what time we wake up, we choose to have that last alcoholic beverage before we drive our car but how much do you actually stop and think before you make your choices? The simple fact is that every single time we make a choice it’s not black or white, what I mean by this is sometimes we choose to not choose. 

“If you seek tranquility, do less. Because most of what we say and do is not essential. If you can eliminate it you’ll have more time and more tranquility. Ask yourself at every moment, is this necessary.”

– Marcus Aurelius , Meditations. 

An example of choosing not to choose…

Sometimes, we make choices just because we feel obligated to. A friend asks you to go to that party or event, you really don’t want to, you know you’d be much happier just sitting at home relaxing reading a book because you had a long week at work but you feel obligated or maybe you just aren’t good at saying no – ever been in a situation like this? I have friends ask me all the time to go on the boat this weekend or take a spontaneous trip to Mexico and before I say yes or no I ask myself, do I really want to go? I should either be excited to go or not want to go at all but going just because you have nothing better to do is a terrible way to think about situations when presented to you, I’ll explain why.

The way of the Essentialist

The best way to make choices is to use something Greg Mckeown calls “extreme criteria.” We make thousands of choices every single day and every choice we make is either getting us closer to the best version of ourselves or taking us further away from becoming the best version of ourselves, there is no in between. One of my favorite personal growth books ever has a simple explanation on how we should make our choices. In the book Essentialism by Greg Mckeown the author discusses something called “extreme criteria.” Extreme criteria is a way of making choices that explains decisions should be answered with either a “Hell Yes!” Or “Hell NO”, there is no in between. It’s either serving us and bringing value to our life or it’s providing a disservice and bringing you down in life. There is no middle ground here – to help you understand it better I’ll write it a little more clearly. When presented with a choice your answer should either be “Fuck yes I’m doing that” or “Fuck that shit, I’m not doing that”, now does it make sense? This is a strategy that I have adopted to almost everything I do. From what I eat to what I do on the weekends. I have adopted this way of making decisions and it has made all the difference. Greg Mckeown’s book is a NYT Best Seller and for a really good reason, the book is really good, I mean really, really good. It’s the essentialist attitude, everything in life is either essential or non-essential there is no in between. Simplifying our life or as the new age calls it “minimalism” is one of my favorite concepts and I have adopted this practice in many areas of my life. From wearing a white shirt almost every day, throwing away my clothes I haven’t worn in months (definitely years), getting rid of random things in my house, owning only 2 pairs of shoes, cancelling most of my subscriptions, and focusing on only those things that bring me more happiness and health. I’m able to keep the most important things at the top of my list when it comes to where my time, energy, and attention flows. The concept of Essentialism is so popular and becoming widely adopted. We seem to be taking on too much too often. We try to do everything at once and end up giving our time and attention to the wrong things. 

If you had to make a list of all of your priorities or most important things it would look something like this:

How often are you choosing something else that doesn’t fit in this list or how often are you prioritizing one over the other? When we choose to drink soda or skip another workout we are compromising our health. When we are at the dinner table spending time with our family we are not present because we are on our phone. When we say yes to obligations to things we don’t really want to do we are sacrificing our happiness for someone else. 

It’s that simple. Use extreme criteria when making decisions and choices and you will start to incorporate more essentialism in your life.


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