One Year Ago: weekly calendar crammed with a zillion commitments.
Today: weekly calendar holds a few, carefully chosen commitments.
One Year Ago: daydreaming of driving 30 minutes away to hide out at a Holiday Inn Express.
Today: pouring time into what I care about most, with no guilt for what I’m missing.
One Year Ago: sitting at my computer until 1AM every single night because I was never, ever, caught up.
Today: evenings and weekends are saved for family and friends, relaxing and having fun.
So what changed?
I’d like to tell you that when I felt run-into-the-ground in late winter I slowed my pace. It’d be lovely to tell you that in the spring, when I was coming unraveled, I began to draw healthy boundaries. And how proud I’d be to tell you that when summer began, and I reached a breaking point, I instituted a serious self-care regimen.
But I can’t tell you these things, because embarrassingly none of them are true.
Here’s what really happened. I trudged along, exhausted and stressed, until one day a friend recommended this book, Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less. “Read chapter 11 first,” he said. And so I did. I got started one Sunday morning, and then armed with my newfound understanding of “the power of a graceful ‘no’” I headed to church—possibly one of the most difficult places to say no. And guess what? It worked.
This was only the beginning.
As I devoured the book I quit both my job and a weekly volunteer position (on the same day!). I began to release the pressure I felt to make everyone happy, to solve every problem, and to fill every gap. I finally began to say ‘no’ when I needed to—which enabled me to say ‘yes’ when I wanted to.
I re-centered my time around my highest values. This meant having to be honest with myself about my motives and my goals. This meant passing on some opportunities that sounded interesting or fun, because deep down I knew they were a distraction. And it meant having to be ok with being a little uncomfortable at times, knowing I’d disappointed someone.
Becoming an essentialist takes effort and intentionality, especially for someone who has been trapped in a do-it-all cycle like I was. But the good news is that it gets easier and easier as you begin to reap the benefits of shedding guilt and exhaustion, making progress in the areas you deem most important, and actually enjoying life again (gasp!).
Give it a shot—radically transform your life in 2016. Learn the disciplined pursuit of less, and find out how much more you have to give to the things that really matter.