‘The Way A Person Does One Thing Is The Way They Do Everything’

‘The Way A Person Does One Thing Is The Way They Do Everything’

There’s something that is far more important than reaching one of your goals: the process that leads you there. If you’re going to do something — no matter what it is — do it to the best of your ability.

Picture: Stephen Korecky/Flickr

Developing a good process and solid work ethic can come from everything you do, not just the one thing you’re trying to accomplish. Writer and former athlete Tobi Atkins rethought the way he lived his life when he heard an old zen saying from one of his mentors:

“The way a person does one thing is the way they do everything”

I used to be a someone who would cut corners on what I thought were small things. For example, I would make my bed but I wouldn’t tuck the sheets all the way in. I would clean the house but not pull the lounge out and vacuum under. I would complete a task to 80% of my ability and then stop when I thought it was good enough. What I couldn’t see at the time was; by cutting corners on the small things and not doing them to the best of my ability, I had developed a habit of laziness and mediocrity.

It may seem like you’re just skimping on the unimportant stuff, or saving energy for your big tasks, but repetition makes a habit. Eventually, you get yourself used to the idea that doing most of something is ok, and one day that mentality can cross over into the things you do care about. You’ll wonder why success eludes you, but the answer is in your process. If you do one thing lazily, you’ll do everything lazily.

Of course, there’s a difference between not cutting corners and perfectionism. Trying to make everything perfect will burn you out fast. Just give what you really know you can and avoid the easy way out, even for the little things. You’ll be much stronger for it.

This One Phrase Changed My Life [Pick the Brain]


  • ^^ The above is a slippery slope for perfectionists.

    I go by the same saying (if you’ve ever been to the Context seminars… kinda like a watered down EST… you’d have heard it there, too), but do not assign all tasks equal importance and equal effort. I see it as, when I’m deciding how to do a thing, I evaluate its importance to my life in a standardised way, and depending on that assign it a priority according to its importance (NOT its urgency), and then act on it accordingly. This enables me to keep from expending most of my effort on small unimportant things, neglecting the big things, and ensures that I do the high priority items with excellence.

    If you’ve got all the time in the world to do the mundane required chores with excellence *AND* your work and relationships with excellence, ROCK ON. Not all of us are in that situation. And not all of us who have to choose how to spend our limited time think doing 3 minor things with excellence is a better life strategy than getting 11 minor things to the 80% point. 80% may indeed be good enough (what a new customer will be satisfied with, what your family will be satisfied to eat for dinner, and so on), whereas omitting dinner prep because, “Sorry, I didn’t have time because I had to help Stephen finish his homework and I had to finish up my own report for work,” may not be received quite so well.

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