by Niall Doherty

A nonessentialist approaches every trade-off by asking, “How can I do both?” An essentialist asks the tougher but ultimately more liberating question, “Which problem do I want?”

The above passage from Greg McKeown’s book Essentialism struck me as profound. I tend to take on too many projects and spread myself too thin. In fact, that’s probably the primary reason I haven’t had the business success I was hoping for the past few years.

I believe the tendency to take on too much and become too scattered can be attributed to the desire to avoid problems. But as McKeown notes, problems can’t be avoided. Not all of them. Because there are always more problems out there in the world (or even just in our individual lives) than we can possibly solve. We like to think we can do it all, but we can’t. Trade-offs must be made.

So the question we should ask ourselves when we’re feeling overwhelmed isn’t, “How can I get everything done?” It’s, “Which problems can I live with?”

Tackle the problems you find unbearable. Forget the rest.