Essentialism and the 90% Rule in the Christian Life

Posted on December 17, 2014 by Sarah Brown | 0 Comments

My husband commits to things with extreme fervor. These interests vary in topic: woodworking, the European skull mount for a deer head, leather working, bee survival…the list goes on an on. One unfortunate period of time he was consumed with researching black holes, which caused many nights of marital stress, for I threatened to move out of our house if I heard one more sentence that involved the words “cosmos” and “gravity collapse.” Another period of research into making ammunition has most definitely secured our names on some government watch-lists of renegade individuals.

But, I have much respect for my husband’s commitment to research something in such detail.

And, I think it is often what I am missing in my pursuit of the Lord.

Greg McKeown, in his excellent business book Essentialism, talks about the need for business-minded people to figure out what is essential to them, and eliminate the rest. He gives the example of the 90 percent rule. For every task you undertake, give it a rating of importance from 0 to 100. If the rating is lower than 90, "automatically change the rating to 0 and reject it.” 

McKeown propels you to think: What is essential? Eliminate everything else.

What if I posed this question to my personal life, to the way I pursued the Lord? How would the 90 percent rule affect my daily life?

I want my Essentialist question, my 90 percent rule to be that in everything I do, I will pursue God with my whole-heart, looking to nothing else for fulfillment.

Everything else? Eliminate it.

It gets me thinking of things that quickly find ways of mattering to me, of becoming so very essential:

• Mothering - how I am balancing; the ways others perceive it

• Social media - appearing a certain way

• Striving to be perfect, to look perfect in so many areas

• Meeting deadlines - placed on myself or from others

• Looking like I can handle everything, like I am the one who has it all together

These are a few of the many things that take such a firm hold of my time, my thought life, the way I decide things, and then react. 

But, none of them stand up to my full-on pursuit of the Lord. These different areas become so essential, but are based on myself or how others perceive me. All of these would rate below a 90 on my importance scale, and by McKeown’s standards, I must eliminate them.

But, how do you do this? How do I focus on my Essential thing, when the daily grind and continued expectations constantly pull me away?

McKeown encourages that instead of asking, "What do I have to give up?” to instead ask, “What do I want to go big on?

And, there are so many things I want to go big on:

• Coming to Jesus daily, spending intentional time with Him

• Praying through any business work; laying it at His feet

• Striving to be full of grace, by forgiving myself more often when I mess up

• Being thankful; magnifying God by speaking words of thankfulness to Him

And maybe that’s where it begins - taking the small steps today to decide what I want to go big on…eliminating the rest. Taking time today to ask myself, “is what I am thinking about pointing me towards the Lord, or do I need to eliminate it?” 

I want the Essentialist activity of my life to be a full-fledged, head-forward, un-wavering pursuit of Jesus. A daily life that questions all thoughts and decisions in relation to my Essential question. A life that researches, studies, obsesses, and talks about my greatest interest - bringing glory to God with my life.

Have you read Greg Mckeown’s Essentialism?  What would be your Essential question?


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