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What you do matters

"I cannot do everything, but I can do something." ~ Edward Everett Hale

There’s so much going on in the world right now. Watching five minutes of the news is enough to make you feel uncertain and discouraged.

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The issues are huge. Bigger than huge. In fact, world-famous theoretical physicist, Stephen Hawking, recently predicted the human race is doomed to become extinct if we don’t colonize other planets within the next 100 years. (Read Newsweek’s article here.) 

So, extinction of the human race. It doesn’t get any bigger than that, I suppose. But don’t forget about global political conflicts, war, poverty, food insecurity, etc.

Huge Global Issues

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How can you and I influence these huge issues? It’s easy to get complacent and say, “I’m just one person. What I do doesn’t matter.”

Edward Everett Hale’s entire quote is: “I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.”

Yes. There’s a lot of crazy stuff going on in the world.Photo courtesy of pixabay commons published on strong-woman.com

It’s tempting to think, “How can my small actions make a difference? Where would I start?” 

The quote is a reminder for each of us to resist complacency, for each of us to do what we can do, even when our actions seem small and insignificant and cause us to want to say, “Why bother? I’m just one person. What difference will it make?”

What you do matters to some one, and maybe to a lot of  people.

The parable about the boy on the beach doing his best to save beached starfish, The Starfish Story, illustrates this point well. I know it’s fiction and too sentimental for some, but the moral of the story is valid.

Remember the quote:

I cannot do everything, but I can do something. 

What you do matters, even if you do a little at a time.

What if each of us did our “something”? Helped in the one way we could?

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You have to start somewhere

When you start something new, your first attempt might be rough and awkward. It may not look like much. Don’t give up. Nothing’s perfect the first time around. You have to start somewhere.

Think of it as a first draft.

Ernest Hemingway once said:

The first draft of anything is sh**.
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An Early Draft of Declaration of Independence

Think of a song, a book, a design, or any other work you admire. The end result looks nothing like the first draft.

Some examples:

Stephen King’s 1st draft of Carrie went in the trash because he thought it was terrible. It turned out to be his breakthrough work.

Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars nearly abandoned the production of “Uptown Funk”. It took months to finish and took on many different versions until they were finally happy with the finished product. (Read the story at NPR.org)

Try, try again

While we may know in our heads that it takes working and re-working at something to get better at it, knowing it and embracing the idea in our hearts is so much harder to do.

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It takes courage to be a beginner. It takes persistence to want to get better, to keep learning and practicing.

Keep working at it.

Have a beginner’s mindset.

Learn all you can.

Practice.

It’s a process.photo courtesy of Pixabay commons published on strong-woman.com

Progress takes time and effort. Don’t give up.

No matter what you’re goals are, remember the first draft of anything is sh**.  Do it anyway. Keep at it. That’s the only way you can make it better.

Let negativity roll off your back

Let negativity roll off your back

Negative and insensitive comments that can be hurtful and leave you doubting yourself and feeling stupid.

Little jabs like:

“Are you wearing that?”Photo courtesy of pixabay.com published on strong-woman.com

“You don’t know what you’re talking about!”

“You can’t/won’t be able to do ________ .”

“Can you try to pay attention, for once?”

Off-handed remarks can float around in our heads for a long time. We analyze them to death and think, “What’s that supposed to mean?” If you’re already self-conscious or lacking confidence, negative comments can have an even bigger impact. 

Positive vs. Negative

Negativity stings. Psychologists say it takes at least 10 positive comments to cancel out 1 negative comment.

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How can we get past it and not let it shake our self-confidence?

Is the negative comment worth my time and consideration?

If not, consider the matter closed. Visualize yourself walking away from it. Don’t let it get to you. If it starts to re-surface, remind yourself that you’ve put it behind you.

Understand that often people are negative because it’s easier to knock things down than build them up.

Don’t worry about it. Let negativity roll off your back like water off a duck.

Blow it off like bubbles in the wind.

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Words have power.

Do you trust the person who said it?

People speak without thinking. Feelings get hurt.

Consider giving people the benefit of the doubt instead of thinking they intend to shake your confidence.

I’d want that consideration. As much as I try to be encouraging, sometimes I speak before I think and wind up sounding negative or insensitive.

Words have power. We must choose wisely. And this applies to how we speak to ourselves too. Encourage yourself with positivity instead of speaking negativity towards yourself.

Stay focused on your goals. Be patient. Ignore negative comments. Don’t let them shake your confidence. Let them roll off your back like so you can’t remember them even if you tried.

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Choose the Opportunity of Now

My husband introduced me to a website wolframalpha.com “an engine for computing answers and providing knowledge”. The website provides facts – quantifiable facts. It doesn’t provide opinions or recommendations.

Interesting information

Type in Chicago, Illinois and you’ll get Chicago’s population statistics, current weather and time, income statistics, demographics, and more.Photo courtesy of pixabay.com published on strong-woman.com

Put in today’s date and you’ll get information about observances and holidays, moon phase, sunrise and sunset times, and more.

Type in a specific date and year, like your birthday, and you’ll get the day of the week it was and how many days have passed since that date.

It provides facts. Facts alone aren’t disputable. It’s what you do with the information that can make a difference. For me, the information it provided spurred more questions and judgement.

Facts made personal

For example, I put in my birthday. I was born more than 20 thousands days ago. That’s more than 2800 weeks. That’s really a long time. I had to ask: Have I done enough? It makes me wonder about how many more days will I have and how will I do everything I want to do?Photo courtesy of pixabay.com published on strong-woman.com

It’s easy to get discouraged about the time that’s passed, to feel sad about getting older.

Most of us struggle with that at one point or another.

But I realize it’s better to get excited about right now and living each day being as happy and productive as I can. Not so much to live each day as if it were my last, but to not waste it regretting the past. It’s much better to be motivated about the opportunity of now.

Almost exactly a year ago, that’s 365 days, I quit my job as a school librarian and decided I wanted to do something different, that what I really want to do is write. I finished my 1st draft of my 1st novel on March 15 of this year. As of this blogpost, that’s just over 80 days ago.

I’m on the 3rd draft of revisions.

Here are some of the questions I ask myself:

Isn’t it a little late to start a new career? Maybe.

What could I have done if I’d started when I was in my 20’s. A lot more than starting in my 50’s.

Would I be a better writer now? Almost certainly.photo courtesy of pixabay.com published on strong-woman.com

And yet, I know it’s pointless to re-visit past career choices and wonder if I’ve made good use of my 20 thousand days.

The more important question is “What now?” Better to move forward grateful for every day and the opportunity to do something I’ve always wanted to do.

It’s not just about living in the present. It’s also about looking forward to the future.

We all know our time is limited. That reality can be either depressing or motivating. Each of us has to decide for ourselves which it will be.

Choose to be motivated by the opportunity of now.