There’s an expression I’ve been hearing more and more of lately…
The way you do one thing is the way you do everything.
Goodness gracious…I hope that’s not true.
And fortunately, I know it isn’t.
Because if it were, we’d all be in a really bad place.
I have a colleague who is fond of saying that. And while I admire and respect her, I also think accepting that expression without scrutiny sets us up for a whole lot of misery.
Let’s start with the obvious. Each of us have been gifted with a certain set of strengths, or if you want to look at it the other way, have been cursed with a different set of weaknesses.
So there are certain things we are more inclined to put our time, energy and focus into than others.
I’ll use myself as the example. From the time I was little, communicating came relatively easy to me. I was always a good writer for my age, and I developed it to a pretty high level of skill.
And I remember one night as a teenager when a few friends and I were stranded in a broken down car. We were near a house and all of them were afraid to knock on the door and ask to use the phone. I had no problem with this, even offering to use my driver’s license as collateral so the home owner didn’t think they were about to be robbed by a pack of wild teenage boys. My pals were blown away at the ease with which I navigated the situation.
Contrast that to the fact that I immediately break out in anxiety when it comes to mechanical tasks. I will think of anything I can to delay or get out of doing them. It’s created some bad situations in my life, especially when we didn’t have the money to get someone else in to take care of them.
(Thank you, Tony The Handyman. You’re the greatest!)
Looking at those two aspects of my life, it becomes hard to believe that the way we do one thing is the way we do everything. I wasn’t brave and competent one minute, then timid and incompetent the next.
Each of us has a past that influences who we are, what we do, how we operate. And that past can be very specific. We gravitate towards what feels comfortable and avoid what makes us feel bad.
And when the desire for something new and better pulls us forward out of that comfort zone, we grow.
But to say the way we do one thing is the way we do everything dangerously oversimplifies our lives.
What about the person who has achieved great career success, but struggles with an addiction? Are we going to let that behavior define them?
What about the person who lives in love, has magnificent relationships, but hasn’t cracked the code of allowing wealth into his or her life? Do we ignore the great energy they spread around and let their financial limits imprison them?
Yes, there absolutely can be a crossover between how you do one thing and how you do others. Greed, lack of courage, laziness…these are characteristics that can infect a person’s entire life.
But more often than not they’re limited to the areas where someone has learned to be afraid and incompetent.
And they’re much more likely to spread when someone else notices them and points them out. If you have that person in your life, take a moment to notice. Ask yourself what think might be motivating their diminishing behavior of you. Do it quickly, then move on.
More often than not, the opposite is true. When we practice courage, competence and grace, and find success, we are much more likely to spread those traits to our dark places.
And again, if we have someone who encourages us, who see us stronger than we see ourselves, it makes the journey that much easier.
Look, this whole journey is full of twists and turns. It was supposed to be hard, and we’re not getting out of it in one piece.
So do yourself a favor. Stop putting the extra pressure of thinking you’re doomed because the way you do one thing is the way you do everything.
You have choices. And a sense of humor. And a perpetual invitation to try again.
What one thing you do is different from the way you do most other things? Good or bad, doesn’t matter?
Have you trapped by thinking that was who you really were?
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