Start With the Essentials

Photo by Pablo Fierro on Unsplash

From Greg McKeown’s Essentialism:[1]

A woman named Cynthia once told me a story…

Twelve-year-old Cynthia and her father had been planning the “date” for months. They had a whole itinerary planned down to the minute: she would attend the last hour of his presentation, and then meet him at the back of the room at about four-thirty and leave quickly before everyone tried to talk to him.

[An old friend and business associate invited Cynthia and her father to dinner. Her father politely turned the invitation down.]

“Cynthia and I have a special date planned, don’t we?” He winked at Cynthia and grabbed her hand and they ran out of the door and continued with what was an unforgettable night in San Francisco.

Cynthia’s father…was Stephen R. Covey (author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People) who had passed away only weeks before Cynthia told me this story.

His simple decision “Bonded him to me forever because I knew what mattered most to him was me!” she said.

Stephen R. Covey…was an Essentialist.

Thank you, Greg, for both the quote and the great book.

Putting It All Together

Knowing which goals, decisions, and actions are essential for a fulfilled life and which are nonessential is important. Further, knowing which of these things is closest to your heart is helpful. That is the very essence of your core values. It helps you find what is essential in your life. Yoking self-knowledge and essentialism to your core values is a winner!

How do you choose your goals based upon your values? Blog 8 (Two Unethical Employers Helped Me Discover Core Values) shows you how I did it after I retired in 2004. I started with a blank slate.

It’s different if you’re working. You already have plenty of responsibilities, many of which are somewhat mandatory. You don’t have much unassigned time every day. You can’t do everything that appeals to you. But you can change some of the things that you do if they are not consistent with your core values. You can say “no” to new activities that are inconsistent with your core values and start choosing the activities that are consistent with your core values.

Reread the section of blog 10 (How I Honor My Core Values) that deals with my eleven core values. You will notice that my description of each core value identifies or suggests many activities that I could undertake to honor my values while still in a career. For example, I chose aerobics, walking, and yoga as activities I could perform while still in my career to align with my core value of health.

The rest of the activities I chose and the goals I set that align with my core values are as follows: philanthropy (community and spiritual core values); aerobics, walking, and yoga (health); investment program (freedom); setting lifetime goals (accomplishment); taking and teaching classes, listening to books and classes on my iPhone while walking (learning and teaching); and nature, music, and the arts (renewal). Most of these I could accomplish while still working.

So for you, do the same. Use your creativity to come up with activities and goals that align with your core values. Further, ensure these goals and activities are realistic based on your current life, family obligations, and career.

In Summary

So there you have it: a blueprint for selecting qualified activities that are consistent with your core values. For me, it was trial and error. Over time, however, it worked wonderfully. Don’t become someone who accomplishes goals that are not congruent with your core values. How can that be fulfilling? Accomplishing goals that do not stem from your core values will leave you frustrated and without the promise of peace.

In my next blog, I discuss the question “was Aristotle right about happiness?”

This is the twentieth blog on this subject. Each blog can stand alone or can be viewed as a comprehensive look on the why and how finding and living by your core values can change your life. Dramatically!

If you want to read my other core values blogs:

As a reminder, the actual step-by-step process of how you can discover your core values will only be covered in chapter 2 of my book, published January 12, 2021 — A Fool’s Errand: Why Your Goals are Falling Short and What You Can Do About It.

If you’d like me to email you the first chapter, please add your email here: (Until then, I promise to share with you the power of core values via blogs taken from my book 2–3 times per week.)

[1] McKeown, Greg. Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less. New York: Crown Business, 2014.




Entrepreneur, Mentor, Philanthropist, Author — published new book on core values: A FOOL’S ERRAND - Why Your Goals Are Falling Short and What You Can About It

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Roy Cook

Roy Cook

Entrepreneur, Mentor, Philanthropist, Author — published new book on core values: A FOOL’S ERRAND - Why Your Goals Are Falling Short and What You Can About It

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