Get rid of the clutter

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The Chinese version ofEssentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less. [Photo provided to China Daily] 

However, simply being at the meeting in an anxious mood didn't help, and although his colleague said that the clients would respect him for being there, McKeown said the looks on the clients' faces didn't portray respect.

"I had said 'yes', simply to please them, and in doing so I had hurt my family, my integrity and even the client relationship," and that's how McKeown learned his lesson: If one doesn't prioritize his life, someone else will.

McKeown uses a metaphor of a closet to describe similar situations in life.

He says: "In the same way that our closets get cluttered with clothes we never wear, but accumulate, so do our lives get cluttered as well-intentioned commitments and activities we've said yes to pile up. Unless we have a system for purging them, once adopted, they live on in perpetuity."

So, how do we discern whether to take the opportunities or not?

McKeown suggests that one should ask oneself the question and, "If the answer isn't a clear yes, then it's a clear no".

McKeown, who has visited China twice before, says that the country, on the development fast-track for the past two decades, is seeing a lot of opportunities but also a lot of restlessness in society.

Recalling his experience in Tianjin two years ago at the Summer Davos when he was taking a ride from the hotel to the airport and his driver got into a fight with a truck driver, he says: "They were yelling and screaming at each other."

And although he didn't understand what they were saying, there was something in that moment that he recognized that comes out of non-essentialists.

"When people move fast, they get frantic and frayed at the edges.

"But I think there is something amazing in the Chinese-despite all the revolutions and changes-that has stayed unchanged, something from Confucianism, in respect of the family and older generations ... that's something in Chinese culture that we've got to be careful we do not lose."

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