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The Secret To Getting Things Done

September 3, 2014

Being 30 is weird.  The world expects you to have everything figured out.  You carry yourself through the world like you have everything figured out.  But in all actuality, you don’t.    

I spend probably far too much time questioning whether I’m doing the right thing with my life.  Recently, the questions have been spurred by my declaration that I am going to purchase my first home within the next year.  I’m the last of my friends from Colorado to buy a home.  Yes, this is a bit of a hit to my ego, until I remember that my path was delayed by law school and living in really expensive cities.  So, it was with much excitement that I announced, “I’m buying a house within the next year!” to all of my friends.

As the words flew out of my mouth, my anxiety went up.  A house is a serious commitment, quite possibly only second to locking it down in marriage with someone.  For someone like me who has trouble making choices, the thought of settling on one place to live and staying in that home for a considerable amount of time is frightening.  The battle inside of my head goes like this:  “I really like living by the water, so I should probably buy on the beach or the key.  But, I also like living in the suburbs where things are more quiet. The suburbs aren’t by the water.  Fort Lauderdale is nice, too, because it’s more kitschy, which is more me.  That drive to work would be a nightmare, though.”

They say when you know, you know.  So, for my sake, I’m hoping within the next twelve months some neighborhood rocks my heart as being “the one.”  Or, that I find a realtor who all but makes the decision for me as to where my future house exists.

I share the story above, because it’s so indicative of me.  For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to do everything.  I wanted to be good at everything.  I wanted to be friends with everyone.  I wanted everyone to like me.

For a long time, I was able to dabble in everything.  I was the president of this club and a member of that club.  I studied this and that.  I had a social circle that was ridiculously large and included all different types of people with all different kinds of interests.

One thing they don’t really tell you about growing up is that when you do, your time becomes more limited.  I’m still trying to figure out why.  30-year-old Alicia has 24-hours in her day, just like 21-year-old Alicia did.  However, 30-year-old Alicia’s time is more limited than 21-year-old Alicia’s.  I definitely don’t do more than I did then, so the only logical reason I can find for why this is, is traffic.  Yes, traffic.  When you’re 21, you’re probably living on a college campus or close to one.  Your life is centered in an area that at most, is several square miles wide.  You have more time, because it’s all spent in one place.  When you’re an adult, your life is spread all over the place.  Literally.  Your commute to and from work can take hours.  Your friends don’t live down the block.  Heck, I get on airplanes on a pretty frequent basis to see my friends!  Traffic, people.  It’s a time killer that is wasting our productivity as adults.  It’s preventing us from doing everything we want to do.

I’m not doing everything I want to do.  I’m obsessed with my job and my career is progressing better than I ever could have planned.  That’s not everything to me, though.  

Yesterday, I got to thinking about what 16-year-old Alicia wanted to do with her life.  She wanted to save the world.  And she was naive and bold enough to believe that she could.  She didn’t care about money or clothes or where her house would be. She just cared about helping others and finding ways to make life easier for them.  That’s why 22-year-old Alicia went to law school, if I am to be truly honest with myself.

I think sometimes in the traffic and searches for the perfect home and while climbing the career ladder, we lose ourselves.  We let go of our original, organic intentions for our life.  We get caught up in keeping up with the elusive Jones’ and building a life that looks good on the outside.  We do all of this while letting our hearts go.  The truly successful people, though, find a way to wrangle their hearts back and to get back to what really matters to them.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about all of the things in my life that I take for granted.  There are so, so many things.  Yesterday, as I walked to the restroom I thought about how blessed I am to work at a place where there is running, clean water.  I thought about how when I buy my house–wherever it may be–there will be running, clean water that pour out of faucets inside of it.  I thought about how when I have my babies, they will run through sprinklers and never have to search too far for a glass of water.  I then thought about the little girls, career-driven women and mamas elsewhere, to whom finding clean water is the biggest obstacle they face in a given day.  Clean water is their life’s battle.  They need it to survive, yet they have to search for it.

Suddenly, the fact that purchasing a home was causing me anything resembling anxiety seemed horribly embarrassing.  What was more embarrassing, though, was my realization that I’m not doing everything I want to be doing with my life.  We, as Americans, are basically given cleared paths to pursue our dreams.  More importantly, though, because of the comforts we live in, we are given a clear path to serve and help others.  

I’m not doing enough of the helping others thing.  And it’s eating at me.  It’s eating at me, because I know I’m in a position to and that I have opportunities to.  For me, I use time as an excuse.  “I don’t have time right now.”  If I don’t have time now, when will I?  When I have a husband and kids?  When I’m old and not in as good of health as I am now?  The time is now, and I know that.

Mothers have a weird way of sensing things.  I talk to my parents on the phone at least once a day.  My conversations with my dad are generally much more serious than my conversations with my mom.  My mom and I talk about TV shows and the weather and my friends.  Our conversations usually leave me rolling on the floor in laughter.  Yesterday, though, out of nowhere she said, “It’s ok to be average, Alicia.  You don’t have to do everything.”

For those who know my mother and how much she dotes on me and everything I do, the fact that she said this was surprising to me.  I almost wanted to stop her as she moved on to her next random topic of discussion and say, “Wait, did you really say that it’s ok for me to be average?  I don’t have to do everything, either?!  SWEET.”

My mom’s comments shouldn’t have been surprising to me, though.  That’s because throughout my entire life, my mom has consistently given me one piece of advice.  Until yesterday, it was a one-liner that I hated.  I hated it, because I thought the point was so obvious and more importantly, that it didn’t apply to me.  “Just do one thing at a time,” my mom always tells me. “Well, obviously, Christine,” rolls through my head every time she says it.  Followed by, “I don’t have time to just do one thing.  I have too much to do.”

Yesterday, after she told me it’s ok to be average, my mom said, “Just do one thing at a time” in her typically cheery voice.  This time, though, I didn’t roll my eyes on the other side of the phone.  It finally made sense.  Like I said above, being 30 is weird.  You may finally come to understand what your mother has been trying to tell you your entire life.

I didn’t tell my mom how when I walked to the restroom earlier in the day I made a mental note that I wanted to join the clean water movement.  I didn’t tell her that I was thinking about picking up my life and going to Africa to help women locate clean water for their babies.  Truth be told, telling her these things wouldn’t have been the weirdest things to have ever come out of my mouth to her.  However, I’m glad I didn’t tell her these things.

There are people who can be radical in the way that they give to others.  There are people who can literally lay down their lives to serve others. They pick up, they move and they go to where the problem is to solve it.  These people are my heroes.  I am not those people.  Yet, that doesn’t mean that I can’t help.  That doesn’t mean that I can’t do more with my life than what I am currently.  And I think that’s what my mom was saying to me.  

I don’t have to be the best giver to give.  I don’t have to be at every event my friends around the world host to be a friend.  I don’t have to be published the most to be a writer.  I don’t have to own the biggest home to be a homeowner.

The secret to getting things done is twofold:  First, do one thing at a time.  Whether that one thing is working a job that provides an income for your family or moving to a third-world country to serve others, pick one thing and do it until it’s finished.  The second is, it’s ok to be average.  It’s better to give at least a little bit of yourself than none of yourself.  It’s better to dabble in hobbies than to have none at all.  

Things only get done when people do them and no one said you have to be the best to get something done.

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