You can do anything. Not everything.

Five years ago, I graduated from high school.

Just for giggles, here’s my 2006 graduation photo, back when I loved hair dye and my straightener.

Growing up in a small town, I did it all.

I competed in the science fair.

I led the cheerleading squad.

I sang alto and played trumpet solos.

I (temporarily) played softball, basketball and volleyball.

I edited the yearbook.

I competed in “math track meets.” Really.

Starting at age 13, I held a total of four different jobs (only one at a time), two of which were during the school year.

I spoke Spanish and traveled to Spain.

I took guitar lessons.

I presented a plan to the school board and co-formed the first dance team.

I cried if I got a B.

As class president, I helped plan the prom.

I led my church youth group.

And, to cap it off, I gave a co-valedictorian speech on graduation day. Five years ago.

In the moments leading up to my walk across the stage, I was encouraged by family, teachers and friends who told me:

You can do anything.

But what they didn’t teach me, or I didn’t teach myself, was this:

You can’t do everything.

College was next, where I would study to be an architect. We all know that didn’t happen, and I even managed to change my major not once but twice.

Oh, and how could I forget? I flirted with a different school and an entrepreneurship route before choosing my actual path.

Even though the “You can do anything” message started seriously spinning around my brain near the completion of high school, I think it was floating around in there sometime around this age:

No kidding.

Even that nine-month-old looks like she’s ready to take on the world.

It was a message I, and many others in my generation, had been taught since birth.

So it’s only natural that today I still struggle with the whole anything vs. everything definition. Swapping the words, by the way, creates two drastically different meanings.

If we can do anything, we have freedom.

We have the freedom to pick and choose what best fits our talents, desires and needs. We pick what to do, and we ignore the rest. We have priorities, and whatever’s not high on the list – well, it slides.

If we do everything, we have no freedom.

Kind of like my life in high school. I loved it, but I was on a strict schedule. I did what I had to do, when I had to do it (even if that meant late into the night), to get it all done. I did everything. I had fun and certainly don’t regret it, but I didn’t just pick and choose the things I loved and stick to them. I. did. it. all.

Now as I’m growing older (and oh-so-much wiser, ha!), I’m slowly coming to the realization that it’s impossible to do it all.

Instead, here’s what we can do:

  • Figure out where He needs us.
  • Understand our own unique talents.
  • More importantly: know what we love to do.
  • Do what we truly love, where He needs us.
  • And everything else? Let it be.

Sounds simple, but it’s really not. Doing anything, not everything, requires a constant decluttering process, a serious grasp of personal priorities and a strong ability to say no.

Have you been told you can do anything? Ever confused the definition of doing anything with doing everything? Even today, do you sometimes forget that it’s impossible to do everything?

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