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Essentialism and The Danger of Saying “Yes” To Life

Simple Truths, Part One

written by Kris Verlé December 9, 2019
Essentialism and The Danger of Saying

As an online life coach, I’m usually the one who gets to ask the annoying questions. So when a potential client recently returned the favour by wondering which philosopher I identified most with in my coaching practice, I panicked.

Luckily, having worked in politics for fifteen years, I have a response ready for everything – mostly the wrong one. I answered:

The one who walked always backwards and lived in a barrel.

I continued…

He [Diogenes] always sounded like a trooper to me. He may have been a cynic, but he was a hippie at heart with a sense of humour. He also loved screaming obscenities and exposing himself in public. The story goes he killed himself by holding his own breath. Practical man.

A well-considered reply, I thought, but our conversation ended shortly after.

Being a rather practical man myself, conceptualising isn’t my strongest point and philosophers don’t capture my imagination in quite the same way as the Real Housewives do, for instance.

Nevertheless, her question rattled me, so I gave it some further thought.

It occurred to me that the message I try to get across in my work is mostly one of simplicity – in behaviour by doing less (essentialism); in ownership by getting rid of more (minimalism); and in one’s mind by worrying less about things we don’t control (stoicism).

So, in this first article of a three-part series on leading simpler, more meaningful lives, I’m honing in on the idea of essentialism.

I’ll borrow rather heavily from Greg McKeown’s excellent bestseller on this topic. I’ll also serve you with nine practical tips on how to edit most non-essential commitments out of your life.

If the idea of leading a simple life causes you hives, you might want to close your eyes while reading. But otherwise, feel free to email me your own stories and tips on how you’ve managed to simplify your life.

The Danger of Saying ‘Yes’ to Life

Most of us grew up believing that “saying yes to life” is the key to happiness:

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