As I reflect on my word “Abide” for the year, I just finished a book that encapsulates a lot of what’s whirling around in my heart and head. Surprisingly, this book is not spiritually based. Instead, this unexpected source of inspiration comes from the business book Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown. It’s about “how to get the right things done” (read: not necessarily more things done), essentially pursuing the idea of doing less but better. Leadership expert Michael Hyatt lists Essentialism as one of the 37 best business books that he’s ever read.
While reading the book, I listed almost 50 questions that McKeown addresses on how to find and live into what is truly essential in your life. From this list, I compiled what I view as the 7 top questions. I’ve listed them below, but you can read further explanations with their real-life application over on my Career Flight Plan blog. Answering these seven questions, though they can be intimidating at first, will give your year a focus. With that focus, comes the ability to prioritize and make meaningful progress toward the areas that matter most… which is why of any book to read at the start of the year, it should be this one.
- If I wasn’t already doing this (i.e. job, activity, commitment), would I start now?
- What do I want to go big on?
- Do I have clarity of purpose?
- If I could be excellent at one thing, what would it be?
- How will I know when I’ve succeeded at that one thing?
- How can I generate small wins?
- What’s important now? (as in, right this second)
As McKeown points out:
“When individuals are involved in too many disparate activities – even good activities – they can fail to achieve their essential mission. One reason for this is that the activities don’t work in concert, so they don’t add up into a meaningful whole.”
Did you notice that? Even doing a lot of good activities that fit into your passions and talents won’t lead to a meaningful life. Instead, you must ask yourself, what do I value most?
I also read several other books between Thanksgiving and the New Year, soaking up the time to read what I actually wanted as opposed to the required readings for my doctorate work. Below are short recaps of the books that I read, and I’m linking up with Modern Mrs. Darcy’s Quick Lit.
Outlander: A Novel (Outlander, Book 1) by Diana Gabaldon
I’d been hearing a lot about this series (both the book and TV series) and now I see why. I haven’t seen the TV series yet, but I know I will continue to read the books. Even at 850 pages, it’s a quick read because of the plot twists and turns, as well as the character development. I can’t reveal much of the plot without ruining anything, but it takes place in Scotland in 1945… until suddenly the main character, Claire, finds herself in the mid-1700’s Scottish Highlands. With drama, romance, and suspense, it’s definitely a great read for the dreary winter weather. (Fair warning: the book would be rated R so I can see why some would find it too much to read.)
And guess what? As of the writing of this post, you can get it here for only $1.99 on Kindle!
Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers by Anne Lamott
I read this book over a long weekend mainly because Anne Lamott’s writing is beautiful, engaging, and real. Though it’s about prayer, Lamott takes the approach of praying to whatever you view as God. Though this might appeal to some and turn others off, her musings about the three essential prayers of help, thanks, and wow are truly insightful. Since finishing the book, I’ve found myself using her language to utter my own prayers.
The Circle by Dave Eggers
I read this book because it’s our next book club pick, and I went in not knowing much about it. In short, it’s about Mae Holland who goes to work at The Circle, a prestigious technology company on a beautiful Californian campus, offering all of the amenities you could want — aka a Google-like company. However, it’s really more about the themes of privacy, technology, and control. It ended up being so suspenseful that I blew through it, but I was left wanting a bit more, particularly in terms of character development. We haven’t had our book club meeting yet, but I think it will lend itself to great conversation based on technology and where our world is headed, or where we want it to head.
The Weed That Strings the Hangman’s Bag: A Flavia de Luce Novel by Alan Bradley
I loved the first mystery in the Flavia de Luce series so much that I picked up this second one at the library. Though not as good as the first one (see my review here), it was still witty and entertaining. Flavia is an 11-year-old girl who solves murders in the English countryside surrounding her family’s manor. Throughout her adventures, you get to know the quirky townspeople and their mysteries, all through Flavia’s slightly dark, but always humorous perspective.