“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” – it was this quote by Mary Oliver that struck me as I read Greg McKeown’s book, Essentialism – The Disciplined Pursuit of Less.

A few months ago, I wrote a post titled A Simple and Extraordinary Life. In this piece, I was starting to reach the point in which I was a little overwhelmed with all of my stuff. Being someone who moves around a lot, I am often sheepish as I sift through the mountains of crap I have accumulated since the last move. Things I absolutely had to have at the time – things that now suffocate me with their presence.

As I read this book, I realised that the clutter is not restricted to my closet. If we have a cluttered mindset, we will have unneeded, unwanted distractions throughout every facet of our life that keep us from our goals and true desires. We pile a whole lot of stuff between ourselves and our own dreams.

Where this really hit home for me, was when Greg spoke of the workplace. When we are competent, we become the go-to person. Someone those around us can rely on to get-shit-done. And for some of us, the rush of this responsibility can be intoxicating. So what do we do? We become compulsive yes-givers. We stop prioritising what is really important to align us with our highest goal and we continue to be super helpful to everyone, without filtering.

We become hoarders. We hoard experiences, people, jobs and objects that really have no place in our lives anymore. Instead of explaining further, I will include a quote from the book that I believe eloquently describes this potential revolution.

“Everything changes when we give ourselves permission to be more selective in what we choose to do. At once, we hold the key to unlock the next level of achievement in our lives. There is tremendous freedom in learning that we can eliminate the non-essentials, that we are no longer controlled by other people’s agendas, and that we get to choose. With that invincible power we can discover our highest point of contribution, not just to our lives or careers, but to the world.

What if schools eliminated busywork and replaced it with important projects that made a difference to the whole community? What if all students had time to think about their highest contribution to their future so that when they left secondary school they were not just starting on the race to nowhere? What if businesses eliminated meaningless meetings and replaced them with space for people to think and work on their most important projects? What if employees pushed back against time-wasting email chains, purposeless projects, and unproductive meetings so they could be utilised at their highest level of contribution to their companies and in their careers.

What if society stopped telling us to buy more stuff and instead allowed us to create more space to breathe and think? What if society encouraged us to reject what has been accurately described as doing things we detest, to buy things we don’t need, with money we don’t have, to impress people we don’t like?

What if we stopped being oversold the value of having more and undersold the value of having less?

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.

What if the whole world shifted from the undisciplined pursuit of more to the disciplined pursuit of less…only better?”


Much love XX

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Hi, I’m Katie. I am a kiwi neuroscientist with a love for consuming and creating content. This site is where I share my personal thoughts and the thoughts of incredible minds from around the world. PhD in Neuroscience, University of Otago.

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