How you do ONE thing is how you do EVERYTHING.
This adage is frequently tossed around in personal growth circles. These days, I often hear it repeated in a coaching program I participate in. Still, I’d heard it before joining the program…many times…from different coaches and teachers.
No one seems to know the origin of this quote. However, Simon Sinek attributes it to Zen Buddhism in his book Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t. That kind of makes sense to me.
But what does the adage really mean, and how can you use it to your benefit?
Let me explain with a story…
How You Do One Thing
The first week of the coaching program I mentioned is loaded with homework–tons of videos to watch and assignments to do. I’d estimate that it takes a minimum of three to four hours to complete.
Some people handle this assignment well, and others…not so much. For instance, some throw up their hands and say, “There’s no freaking way that I could complete all that homework in a week, so I’m not even going to try.” Others rush through it haphazardly and with little thought or attention—just to say they got it done. And still others feel the pressure to be good students and do it perfectly. Finally, I guess some never even download or open the worksheets or watch the videos.
After that first week, members are asked how they approached the homework. Then, they are told, “How you do one thing is how you do everything.”
In other words, how they handled the homework demonstrates how they handle different situations, too.
How You Do Other Things
Let’s say I approached my homework by getting totally pissed off because there was so much of it and deciding the coach was a real jerk. Then, I just gave up without trying. The same behavior likely shows up in other situations in my life.
For instance, if I feel overwhelmed at work, I might get pissed off and judge my partner for not doing something I asked him to do. “What a jerk,” right?
I might even decide not to bother trying to find a solution to the problem with my partner. Instead, I might say, “I’m done,” and walk out.
Here are a few more examples:
- If you ignore your health, you might also ignore the need to take care of your car, friendships, or money.
- If you overspend, you also overeat or exercising to the point of injury.
- If you are a perfectionist at work, you demand that your appearance, house, and car always be impeccable.
Look for Similarities in Behavior
As you can see, this concept can be applied across the board in every life arena. How you do one thing shows up in how you do lots of other things in different situations.
Let’s deep dive into this concept.
Consider how your behavior shows up elsewhere in your life by exploring how you handle your health, finances, relationships, work, or any other area of life. Then, look for similarities in your behavior.
The easiest way to complete this exercise is to pick one thing you do. In the course I mentioned, the focus was on how participants handled week one’s homework. You could focus on how you “do” your health, finances, relationships, or work. You might even get more specific and explore how you work out or spend money, for example.
Then, expand your observations to other areas. For example, ask yourself, “If I handle this task, situation, job, or relationship in this specific way, how does that show up elsewhere in my life?”
Then be brutally honest with yourself. If you can’t, ask a good friend or coach to help you with this process.
This exercise will quickly show you the truth: How you do one thing really is how you do everything (or most things).
Choose to Do Things Differently
So what do you do once you have realized that, indeed, how you do one thing is how you do other things, too?
Notice, I didn’t say choose to do something different. The reason for that is simple: to do something different, you must first be someone different.
What type of person would do things differently? Who would you have to be to do things the way you would prefer to do them? For example, would you be committed, honest, responsible, hardworking, or acceptant of imperfection?
Choose an identity. Then align your actions—what you do—with that identity.
You will discover that how you do one thing then changes…and impacts how you do everything. Someone who is committed will follow through, for instance. Or someone who accepts imperfection releases their work to the world—even when it isn’t perfect.
How Do You Want to Do One Thing?
Try this exercise: Pick one life arena, like relationships. Then, decide who you want to be in your relationships. And consider how that person would behave. What behavior would you have to adopt?
So, if you want to be honest in relationships, what would an honest person do in their relationships? Possibly, they would share their feelings, admit when they were wrong, and tell their partner what they are feeling—even when it’s challenging to do so.
When you choose to be someone who does something specific in one life arena, you’ll find yourself doing the same thing elsewhere as well. So change how you do one thing, and watch how that changes how you do everything.
Can you see this principle operating in your life? Tell me in a comment below. And please share this post with someone who might benefit from it.
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