That’s the BIG question Gary Keller poses in his New York Times bestseller The ONE Thing.
Pat Flynn suggested I read the book. I did. Honestly, I’m still struggling to make this work as an organizing principle for my work.
Why is that?
Well, there are so many things vying for my time and attention. It’s easy to flit from one thing to another and I was taught to create to-do lists, LONG lists.
Heck, there were many days when I started making my list, that I would put 2 or 3 things on it that I had already done just so I could experience the joy of checking them off. Some of you know what I mean. I’ve seen you do it too.
Come what may, at the end of the day I can look back at all of the check marks on my list and get some sense of satisfaction of having accomplished something. After all, look at all of those checkmarks!
Can you relate?
You Were Made For More Than Checking Things Off!
That’s how many people approach life. We fill our days, nights, and weekends with lots of activities. We may not be making real progress towards any worthwhile goal, but gosh darn it, look at all of the things we did!
So we flit from one thing to the next.
- Make sure you get the kids to the practice on time!
- Don’t miss this week’s game!
- Oh, did you pick up refreshments for the meeting?
- Did we get that dinner with the Jones’ scheduled?
- Remember, we’ve got that birthday party for Susan on Sunday afternoon.
- You did call your Mom this week, didn’t you?
- What time is the PTA meeting this week? This week? I thought it was next week!
Oh, and then there’s that deadline on the BIG project at work. And the potluck at church. And I promised to take the kids skating this week. I don’t know about you, but I’m ready for a nap. Don’t have time for a nap? Just hit me up with a triple shot espresso.
Most of us are so busy doing so many things, who could possibly squeeze one more thing into your schedule? Into your life?
A common response — What do you mean ONE thing? I’ve got a million things! STOP! This is insane! And I’m not just talking about this post. I’m talking about this lifestyle.
We’ve gone from “s/he who dies with the most toys wins” to “s/he with the busiest schedule is the most fulfilled.”
REALLY? Recall these words I love from Gandhi, “Speed is irrelevant if you’re going in the wrong direction.”
Sprinkle this in from Socrates, “The unexamined life is not worth living.”
WOW! Who cares how many things you get done, if the things you’re doing are trivial and meaningless? Why bother cramming one more thing to an overfull life that is void of fulfillment?
Instead, simplify. Rather than trying to do it all, focus on doing what matters most.
And when do you suggest I have time to do that, Kevin?
Well, this is important enough that I suggest you begin carving out time. Even 5 minutes — 5 undistracted minutes will help. Begin by discovering the unifying theme of your higher purpose in life. Yes, you have a higher purpose in life. I believe you have ONE thing that matters more to you than all of the other little things in life.
Don’t misinterpret me here. I’m not saying you have ONE, and only ONE thing in ALL of your life and that it never changes. I am suggesting there is ONE things that matters more than much of the clutter you’ve collected. Dialing in on that ONE things brings clarity and focus to the other things.
Here are 5 questions to help you dial in on the ONE thing that matters most in this season of your life.
The ONE thing that at the end of your a week, a month, a year, even a lifetime, you can look back on and find great fulfillment in having done.
- What’s ONE thing you never grow weary of doing? Actually, instead of getting tired, you are energized by doing it?
- What’s ONE thing that riles you up faster than anything else? Is it a social justice issue? An issue of equality or inequality?
- Is there ONE group of people (or place) for whom you are most concerned for or committed to serving?
- If you interviewed 5 people who know you well and asked them, “What’s ONE thing I do best or better than most?” Would you find a common theme in their answers?
- What’s the ONE dent in the universe you want to make?
As you reflect on your answers to these questions, is there ONE thing that stands out to you?
Perhaps that’s the ONE thing you want to accomplish in life so that having accomplished it, or at least invested your best energies and efforts in it, you’re living a life worth living. A life pursuing your higher purpose.