Take What Works, Leave the Rest
Take what works and leave the rest. I have heard this expression a few times in various settings. At first, I thought, is this what you say when you don’t feel like completing something? When I was growing up in an immigrant family that came to the U.S. in the early 1970s, my dad would often hold us captive for his many lectures on life, hard work, and success. One of his frequent lines to us, especially if we complained about something school-related, was, “90% of life is doing what you don’t want to do.” So basically, get over it and just do it! Recently, my 24-year-old son was complaining about something at work and he said, “I know what you always say, 80 % of life is doing what you don’t want to do.” Hmmm. That did not sound like positive parenting when I heard it said back to me that way. Also, when did I turn into my father? Now, I give myself credit for taking the percentage down. Otherwise, the phrase does not hold much potential for hope or opportunity.
Taking what works for you requires reflection and leaving what does not work requires the setting of boundaries.
The more I thought about the expression “take what works and leave the rest” I realized that it was in fact NOT an easy way out of doing something you don’t want to. This phrase is about so much more. Taking what works for you requires reflection and leaving what does not work requires the setting of boundaries. These are valuable skills. This phrase allows you to enter into a situation and look at it as an opportunity rather than a burden that has to get done no matter what. When we see opportunity, we see possibility. We see the ‘must do’s” and the “may do’s” of a situation. We see options.
Consider this. Take what works for you and leave the rest could mean…
- Reflect on the situation and figure out what elements are functioning well for you.
- Decide which elements are getting in the way.
- Set priorities and timelines.
- Seek balance.
- Make choices that keep your goals and intentions in mind.
- Take the elements that are getting in the way and consider options for them: Can I accomplish this in a different way? Can I partner with someone on this? Can I delegate this part? Why do I see this as an obstacle or a frustration? Is there a pattern here in my approach/avoidance/resistance? Can I tell a different story about what’s happening here? Is this a non-negotiable for me and why?
I am not sure what my late father would think of this phrase. As much as he was dedicated to his diligent and relentless work ethic, which has truly helped me develop many beneficial habits and strong leadership skills, he was also a thoughtful intellectual, and creative person. I think this part of him would see the opportunity and harmony in taking what works and leaving the rest. After all, we can’t do it all, and at the very least not on our own.