Minimalism has become a bit of a buzzword. We have never really been “clutter” people. (It stresses me out and does bad things to my mental health.) But a few years ago when I started actively trying to become minimalist, my husband said, “That’s very LEAN of you to eliminate inventory.” (So I thought this topic would fit well here.) I’ve been on my minimalist journey for years now, but I only recently stumbled across an Essentialism book written by Greg McKeown. I thought it might be helpful to discuss the differences between minimalist vs. essentialist. (Then share a few takeaways from the book.)
Disclaimer: I am in no way affiliated with or endorsed by the publisher or author, and am receiving no compensation for writing this article. The opinions expressed here are my own.
Minimalist vs. Essentialist
At a glance, minimalism and essentialism look similar from the outside. Both are about simplifying and removing excess. The minimalist movement tends to focus on the external clutter. It is simplifying by removing excess physical possessions. Essentialism is more internal. It is based on the idea that very few tasks/ideas are actually important, and we shouldn’t waste our time or energy on the trivial many that aren’t. Essentialism is the idea of “less but better.” So minimalism tends to work from the outside in, while essentialism works from the inside out.
Fewer Possessions vs. Fewer Commitments
Minimalists are very intentional about the possessions they allow into their physical spaces. They make sure that each item brings value and serves a purpose. Essentialists take a similar approach to their commitments. They are very mindful of the tasks they are willing to take on, and only commit to activities that allow them to operate at their highest level of contribution.
Essentialism Book Takeaways
I really loved the chapters at the beginning of Essentialism about mindset. They focus a lot on choice and helping the reader realize that they have choices unless they let someone or something choose for them. There are tradeoffs everywhere, so it’s about what you want to take on and where you want to focus your effort and energy.
I also loved the comparison about making a millimeter of progress in a million directions vs. focusing your effort in one direction and taking great strides forward.
The chapter on routines was very helpful, as well. The idea being that once you identify what is essential, you design a routine that makes achieving it the default position, so execution is almost effortless. This is the second book I’ve read recently that referenced Charles Dewhig’s book The Power of Habit, so I’ll be reading that one soon.
One last topic I wanted to mention from the book is mindfulness and being present. McKeown poses the question: “What’s important now?” (or WIN for short.) I think it’s a very empowering idea that essentialism can give us the mental space and clarity to be in the moment and focus on what really matters.
I’ve considered myself fairly minimalist for a while, but after reading the book, I see clear benefits of the essentialist mindset. I look forward to practicing these principles and living in my highest level of contribution.