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I was the kind of person who tried to do everything.
I wanted to be that person.
I needed to be that person in others' eyes.
Until, one day, I realized I was killing myself in the process.
It's tempting to try to do it all.
But there are serious consequences for your mental and physical health when you do this.
And, instead of trying to do it all, there's another way to be, as you will soon find out.
Let's Talk About Old Me "Doing It All"
When I was younger, in college and through much of my twenties, I thought I needed to do it all.
Before we really dig into my shortcomings, let's define what that means first.
For my foolish, younger self, it meant that I needed to say yes to everything that people asked me to do.
It meant that, to say no, was to let other people down.
Surely, if someone felt I was responsible enough to handle a task, I should say yes and complete the task without complaining, right?
There's an interesting phenomenon that occurs when you step forward as the always-capable one:
People shove more stuff your way.
You see, it's easy to follow the path of least resistance, and most people want to do that. In a perfect world, we'd all balance our tasks and no one would have too much work. But this is not a perfect world, and the reality of responsibility-sharing is a bit more grim.
The one who tries to do it all will not earn respect and happiness. The person who tries to do it all will earn the opportunity to do even more.
This can go on for a time, but after a while, well...something has got to give.
And that was what happened in my case.
I tried to balance thirty spinning plates on wobbly sticks.
One day, I was a person with thirty sticks and most of my plates resting, broken and bruised, on the ground.
What Happens When You Try To Do It All
At one point in my life in my early and mid-twenties I was:
- Managing my job tasks and taking on more responsibility
- Volunteering 12 weeks in a row teaching a 3-hour mental health class
- Volunteering for nonprofits
- Trying to have a social life
- Trying to be a good boyfriend
- Trying to be a good son / brother
- Trying to be everything at work and life
Sounds heroic? When I think about it these days, it sounds stupid.
On paper it looks great. But in reality? It was way too much.
And it led to sleepless nights and nervous breakdowns.
There's a Better Way Than Trying to "Do It All"
But I think I had to go through that to realize I wasn't earning anyone's respect by trying to balance the world on my shoulders.
I had to walk through the fire to know that I was literally on fire with responsibilities.
And now I know that what earns respect from others is this:
- Having a life that is in control
- Not spreading yourself too thin
- Doing one or two things extremely well (Obsessing is not necessarily bad, you just can't obsess over everything)
To Be More, Do Less (Two Guidelines)
If you want to earn respect from others and sleep better in the process, follow these general guidelines.
1 - Pick one or two things to do really well:
You can't do it all, but you can choose what you want to get really good at.
Do you want to be a writer? Do you want to become a master of public speaking? Or maybe you want to be the best caregiver you can possibly be?
It's much easier to study a topic at length (and then put it into practice) when you only have one or two topics to worry about.
2 - Arrange your life around the things that matter most:
Once you have intentionally chosen what you want to focus on, the next step is to structure your life around what matters most.
This isn't always so obvious right from the start. It takes time to learn which activities and relationships give you energy and nurture you in your downtime.
But it's worth learning--because you're only as strong as the foundation you rest on.
Follow these guidelines, and you'll develop a one-two punch of newfound effectiveness.
Follow these guidelines, and then create your own next steps.
I can't tell you exactly what to do because I'm not living your life.
But I can tell you to do less.
Because no one person can do it all.
And as soon as you realize that, that's where your story truly begins.