John Maxwell is one of my favorite writers; he is very wise in the ways of business and in the ways of living. He is the one whose quote, “Only do what only you can do,” has helped to form my work philosophy. What that quote means to me is that unless I have thought through what is important to me and have set my priorities, I will spend much of my time trying to do things that I don’t do very well or that are not important and leave little time for the important things in my life. No one else can set my values and priorities, but others can rob me of my best hours and my goals by crowding into my personal time. I used to let people do that to me when I was young, because I spent way too much time trying to please everyone. That is a fruitless and maddening way to live, because it is impossible to please everyone. Becoming everything to everybody means that you lose sight of those things which you were designed by God to experience.
Often the message to today’s young parents is “You can do it all.” Maybe you can, over a lifetime, but you cannot “do it all” all the time. There are seasons in your life where if you shun your responsibilities, you don’t get a chance for a “do-over;” this is especially true during education and parenting years. Seasons need to be recognized and time sensitivity appreciated. Wisdom comes by searching for truth, by coming to know yourself and your purpose for living. All activities are not equal; planning and setting goals for yourself are necessary if you are to achieve your life’s purpose.
Just dreaming of walking hand in hand with your husband on the beach when you are 80 or wanting to have your children WANT to be around your Thanksgiving table with their children doesn’t just happen. If you are not choosing to hold hands with your husband today or developing relationships with your children and sitting at the table with them today, what makes you think that that will just happen 20 or 30 years from now. You are making your tomorrow today.
By the time that we had children, we had been married seven years, and I had had two miscarriages, so naturally I was going to look at parenting a little differently from someone who had not had those experiences. For me, spiritual growth and development in my children’s lives were of utmost importance. Before long, I realized that not too many others shared this priority. I found out that I could not let my children do everything that others planned for them or take every lesson “out there” and “do everything” and still have time with us to learn and/or catch our values. I had to stand guard over their time and mine.
What does it mean to “only do what only you can do”? We can get a glimpse of this if a person who can split an atom spends all day washing windows at the atomic energy plant, or the man who knows how to fix the transmission in my car pumps gas all day. I also see this when the mother of a young child gives all of her best hours and energy to something else other than her child. This is a tricky subject and a tricky time. My only suggestion here is to take time to evaluate your hours and take charge of them.
You, today, are making your own tomorrow. I remember thinking in my young years that I should “get credit” for my good intentions; every sane person has good intentions. Intentions are worthless unless acted upon. You are in charge of whether you put those intentions to work. You are in charge of your own tomorrow.
John Maxwell also said, “We are the masters or the victims of our attitudes. It is a matter of personal choice. Who we are today is the result of choices we made yesterday. TOMORROW, WE WILL BECOME WHAT WE CHOOSE TODAY.”
(You can reach Pat Bryson at email@example.com)