Thanks to her trendy Netflix show and popular book, Marie Kondo has everyone giving minimalism a try and following the 'KonMari' method of keeping only the belongings that 'spark joy'.
Minimalism, though, is arguably just an offshoot of essentialism.
Adding to life by...subtracting??
Essentialism is one of the founding documents of Struggleism. In it, Greg McKeown talks about how, in the same way we're reluctant to get rid of our non-essential physical goods (i.e., those that don't spark joy), we're bad at eliminating non-essential commitments we've made. He says there are three tendencies at play deep inside our thought processes:
Sunk cost fallacy: we keep investing in X because we've already put so much into X
Endowment effect: we value X more if X is ours or if X is part of our self-identity
Status quo bias: we keep doing X because, well, X is what we've been doing
Also, I'd add, FOMO.
But to accomplish your personal vision, to achieve whatever you want most, you may need to quit the other commitments competing for your time, energy, money, and attention.
Like master gardeners, we must prune and curate our lives. While this often means dropping the trivial and unimportant, it sometimes means quitting even the very good for the sake of the highest good.
Greg says this type of life-editing has to become a way of life, and it helps to have a system. Others seem to agree. For example, Bob Goff quits something every Thursday. One's system doesn't have to be complicated.
I imagine there are some Thursdays when ol' Bob is not immediately sure what he should quit, or even what he could quit. Maybe nothing's top-of-mind so he has to brainstorm some candidates. On those Thursdays, to kickstart the brainstorm and trigger ideas, he might benefit from a list of the many different kinds of commitments one might consider quitting.
Perhaps you'd benefit too.
The Quit List
Consider quitting any of these types of commitments:
actions, including recurring
example: oiling your boots
example: using the dryer
amusements, i.e., time-fillers
example: Candy Crush
example: Youtube videos
backburner items, i.e., 'someday/maybe' projects
example: learn Spanish
example: write that book
example: food (i.e., temporary or intermittent fasting)
example: sex (i.e., you can practice temporary or indefinite abstinence)
example: I'm a loser
example: the earth is flat
example: comparing yourself to others
example: waiting until the last minute
example: the shirt you haven't worn in a year
example: the books you keep because they look impressive on your bookshelf
calendar items, including recurring items
example: 'touch base on [project Y]'
example: bi-weekly team meeting
example: the country club
example: so-and-so's band's record release
example: Aunt Karen's birthday party
example: win the presidency
example: gain 20 lbs
example: your city
example: your house
example: lip balm
example: cracking your knuckles
example: collecting stamps
example: following the Bears closely
example: start this
example: tweet that
example: all of the newspaper (vs just the front page)
example: every columnist who's mildly though-provoking or entertaining
example: journal every day
example: complete a crossword puzzle every week
example: romantic relationship
example: Sales Manager
example: Uber driver
example: read Brothers Karamazov
example: buy a pair of Bean Boots
example: the labor union
example: seriously, Facebook
example: the local evening news
example: The New York Times
example: become an early-round investor in startup Z
example: run for re-election
example: your triumvirate
example: your involvement with the firm
example: Jacob is better than Edward
example: we should wait to have kids
example: retain all of your paper receipts (I used to do this!)
example: use Mint to track your finances and categorize all of your expenses
projects and programs
example: renovate the living room
example: re-design the website
purchases, including recurring
example: Starbucks every day
example: Subscribe & Save
example: keep in touch with Larry
example: friendship with Susan
example: perform weekly review every Sunday evening
example: perform yearly review the last week of December
example: books on shelf must be alphabetized
example: mate must be 5'8"or taller
example: mailing list
example: flash cards for your organic biology course
example: Getting Things Done (GTD)
example: complete an outline of the book
example: draft another chapter
example: disturbing thought A
example: scary thought B
time map items, i.e., any other things you do regularly
example: cuddle after the alarm clock goes off [WARNING: quit this at your own risk]
example: floss teeth in the morning
example: Social Justice Warrior
Isn't it amazing how much of our self-identity consists of what we do, plan to do, have, plan to have, think we like, or like to think?
If you're on the fence about whether to drop a commitment
Why are you currently committed to the non-essential thing, anyway?
If it's because you've already put a lot into it, drop it!
If it's because you like thinking of yourself as someone who does it or has it, drop it!
If it's because you've always done it, drop it!
You could always run what Greg McKeown calls a reverse pilot: remove the thing for a while and see if anything bad happens. If nothing bad happens, it's okay to make the change permanent.
Why are you thinking about quitting the thing?
If deep down you know it's actually essential, and you're thinking about quitting it just because it's difficult, keep it!
The Don't Quit List
There are some things that, generally, you shouldn't quit. It's a pretty slim list, but here are the commitments that are best left in place, if you can help it:
allegiance to a specific sports team, unless certain conditions are met
community, in general
medical treatment, without consulting a doctor
obeying the law (pay your taxes, people!)
roles in which others are completely dependent upon you, like fatherhood
There are probably a few other things on both lists, but this is all I can think of right now. Let me know what I've missed, and I'll update the lists!
Quit something TODAY
Scan The Quit List above.
As you scanned, what came to mind as something you could/should quit?
What would stop you from quitting it today?
Adding to life by...adding
At the risk of suggesting a system you'll just want to quit later...
I often forget what I've quit, which is just silly because I end up investing additional resources in something I've already decided to pull back from and then have to make the decision (to quit) again, later, once I've come to my senses.
I have a weekly (Thursday ;) OmniFocus task to Quit Something. When I complete the task, I record the dropped commitment in the notes field.
Resources I like
Essentialism by Greg McKeown, because discerning what's most important and saying no to nearly everything else might just be the skill to cultivate in the 21st century
What's Best Next by Matt Perman, because clarity about what it means to be truly effective is critical
Like what you read? Feel free to feature this in your own piece - just be sure to cite me