Getting Back on Track: Essentialism and Rehabilitation

Contribution in a tweet

In this blog post, I explore how the philosophy of Essentialism can help me prioritize my health and focus on small wins during my recovery from a broken knee. #essentialism #health #recovery

At the moment, I find myself stifled. Immobile. Bored, and unsatisfied.

I’ve been taken out of my passion and primary social outlet of Ultimate Frisbee with a broken knee. I struggle to stay focused on my job due to the loneliness of remote work. I feel insecure in living at home, while I sort out these aspects of career. And I simply feel like I am not doing enough.

I’ve rushed it, these last few days. After feeling marginally better physically, I’ve pushed myself too hard and have had the pleasure of a (hopefully) visiting numbness across my kneecap. Back to the bunker.

During this time of being forced to do less, how can I make it my own?

Essentialism offers not a solution, but a philosophy for these questions. In short, it goes as follows:

  1. Priority — What matters most?

  2. Identify obstacles — Which obstacle, if removed, would make the most obstacles disappear along with it?

  3. Small wins — create signs of visible progress, and use that progress to build momentum.

  4. Stay present — let go of worry by focusing on the task at hand

  5. Optimize your routine — free up your mental energy for what really matters

  6. Say no — value your time by its effect on your purpose

  7. Stay mindful — relate it all back to why you’re doing it in the first place.

My Application

What single thing matters most?

It is incredibly difficult to give a single answer to this question. In short: it is my health. My brain is gnawing at me for not choosing career, not choosing independence. In reality, my health is the biggest obstacle in the way of achieving those things, and so it is also my biggest priority.

What obstacles are standing in the way of my health?

To name a few: my need to socialize, my craving to exercise, my inconsistency in icing, elevating, and my hesitance to medicate, my personal space being perhaps ill-suited for work.
Conveniently, I believe my priority obstacle is also first on this list. I find myself craving small talk, talking to people on the bus, or asking the receptionist how their day is going. Call me crazy, but I love it. Perhaps I'm an extrovert, though I am still in denial about it.

How can I make the small wins obvious?

I'm recovering from a broken knee, which means my shit is kinda fucked up. I'm at roughly a 90 degree comfortable bend at the moment (a little less), but all my strength still feels there. What I am most keen on is flexibility, so am I to take a protractor and measure where I am at throughout the day? One way to make that regular is by lifting my knee until gravity and my inflexibility match, preventing any further movement. I could tape a piece of paper to my wall, recording the height of my knee at the edge of discomfort.

How can I focus on the present?

I recently got let onto the idea of lovingkindness meditation, and so I could be incorporating that into my routine. Mantras such as “Can I be the best to my knee as possible?” and “Can I take the time to properly heal?” feel like good guiding questions to prioritize my rehabilitation.

How do I optimize my routines?

A good change in routine is a small one. One thing I can certainly do is be sure my favorite ice pack (what a concept) is in the freezer as I go to bed.

What do I say no to?

While it hurts, I must say no to playing frisbee. A single point is too much. I can toss, but I will not run. I'm also not dancing. That would suck.

How can I be mindful?

I like to journal. A reflective question at night and some affirmations in writing in the morning would do well to keep my mind on my recovery.

A Recipe

If you're feeling inspired, do as I did. Here are the questions you may ask yourself.

Essentialism: the worksheet

  1. What single thing matters most?
  2. What obstacles are standing in the way of my pursuit, and which obstacle is the most impactful?
  3. How can I make the small wins obvious?
  4. How can I stay present, letting go of worry?
  5. How can I optimize my routines to make my pursuit more effortless?
  6. What will I say 'no' to?
  7. How can I stay mindful of the choices I am making?