"Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished."
~ Lao Tzu
The One Idea Away platform has been discontinued. Published article is now hosted here. Enjoy!
Originally published December 2017
The Myth of "Doing It All"
Raise your hand if you’ve ever wanted to or thought you could or should “do it all,” and right now. (Yes, my hand is raised!)
No surprise there; it’s a pretty common outlook, especially in the ever-increasing pace of our technological world. It also seems to be creating a frenzied, stressed, distracted, and overwhelmed culture that feels alarmingly “normal.” But the truth is, doing it all, all the time, isn’t an achievable or healthy goal.
We could learn a lesson from the movie we watched as kids (or with our kids or grandkids): The Lion King. The movie starts by celebrating dawn, birth, new beginnings and the “circle of life.” We hear right from the beginning, “From the day we arrive on the planet and, blinking, step into the sun, there’s more to see than can ever be seen, more to do than can ever be done.”
Whoa. More to do than can ever be done.
What if we internalized that idea from the day we were born? Would it make us lazy? Decide not to strive for any goals at all since there will always be more to do?
I think not. I think it would inspire us to be kinder to ourselves. I think it would unleash unprecedented creative talent in the world because we would focus more clearly on those things most important to us. In a state of inspiration, we would bring higher energy and passion to the world as a whole.
Imagine if everyone on the planet focused their time and energy on endeavors that light them up. What would that world look like? Amazing!
And how do we create that world in our own spheres of influence? We can start by being our true selves and by connecting our actions and priorities to our deepest values.
Just recently I had a powerful experience in prioritization. After a morning meditation I sat down with my to-do list and my values in front of me, and I literally wrote my priorities for the day next to the value they supported. I was more focused that day than I’d been in a while; I accomplished my highest priorities and I took an action step I’d been thinking about for over eight months.
Realizing we can’t do it all actually frees us to do what’s most important. I want to write a book. I want to design workshops and online courses. I want to take courses. I want to read and reflect on all the books stacked on my shelves. I sometimes still face the challenge of wanting to do all that yesterday. Yet to enjoy the process, it’s important to savor each aspiration and take the time it takes to fully experience it.
I can do these things. And, I realize I don’t have to do them all right now, or this year, or even next year. There’s more to do than can ever be done.
We have the power to choose how we devote our energy. “It’s the circle of life, and it moves us all through despair and hope, through faith and love, till we find our place on the path unwinding in the circle — the circle of life.” To me this is a call to choose — out of the infinite options available — what we will do, see, find, and be.
We all have a unique place in this life, and we all have different gifts and strengths. As humanity, all facets of personality, talent, skill, passion, and heart are represented. As humanity, we can achieve and be exponentially more than any single individual. No human individual can achieve everything that humanity can do.
Yet we sometimes take on the weight of the world and assume that we can and should be able to do the work of many. That pressure is unsustainable and actually distracts us from the monumental impact that we can make as individuals exercising our best gifts. To maximize your impact on the world, it’s critical to take time to nurture yourself and take care of yourself, so that you have the strength and energy to share your light with the world.
Next time you feel the pressure to do it all, ask yourself: what do I want to do with my unique self? Don’t ask what you should do — there are enough people out there to cover the "should"s with their own desires.
There’s someone out there who wants to do your "should," and therefore might be happier doing it naturally than you would be by doing it out of a sense of obligation. And likewise, there are people out there who dread doing what you want to do. Your doing it creates space for them to follow their own paths.
Now before you put on your backpack and head out the door to start your search, know that “finding” your place doesn’t mean you look under the next rock or behind the next tree. It’s not sitting out there waiting for you, wrapped in a bow with a big sign that says, “I’m your place!”
But if you regularly pause, breathe and connect with your values and priorities, your being will help illuminate what that place looks like for you. You create it from all your past experiences, who you are and where you want to go from here. If you’re feeling unfulfilled, examine your current place and see how you might take a few baby steps, make a few small changes, to bring you closer to a place where you feel vibrant and alive.
Author and philosopher Howard Thurman said, “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”
Your place on the “path unwinding” is where you come alive. Find your place – we need you!