Wisdom From a Vibrant 92 Year Old: One Thing at a Time

Sunday was my grandmother’s funeral. 

During the funeral, many thoughts vied for my attention.  Some thoughts included:

“That casket looks like a shiny mahogany piano!”
“I wonder how much all this costs.”
“That lady has a really nice French Braid; I wonder if she braided it herself.”
“My family members all look so worn.  I must look older too.”
Then I remembered something really wise that a 92 year old lady shared with me the night before.  

On Saturday evening, I was very privileged to be able to serve a party of 17 people.  The person they were celebrating was the beautiful and vibrant lady called Marion who had turned 92 the previous day.  She was so bubbling, animated and full of life that I would not have guessed she was 92 had it not been for a grandchild who blurted it out!  

I was so amazed and inspired by her curiosity, vibrancy, mental clarity and willingness to try something new.  She tried using chopsticks and drinking miso soup, she cracked jokes and was present. She and her husband even used the debit machine to pay for the bill! Her son beside her was also very bubbly and happy.  I love happy crowds!
It was amazing to be in the presence of someone so young at the age of 92.  I just had to ask her, “Marion, what piece of wisdom can you share with me? What is your secret to being so well at 92?”  

Calmly, she replied, “One thing at a time.”  

That was it.


It was not the first time I had been told this.  In fact, I even read a book about doing one thing at a time:  The One Thing by Gary W. Keller and Jay Papasan.  However, I think it was a great reminder of this piece of advice.  In our age and craze over multitasking, this reminder of doing one thing at a time is invaluable.  But you really need to that the time to let that soak in. Do you multitask? What do you think multitasking is?  Over the years, employers keep demanding staff who are good multi-taskers. It seems that all professions need this highly valued skill.

Well, if you don’t about this truth, here it is:  Multitasking is a myth! If you define multitasking as doing multiples things simultaneously, then there are no multitaskers.  What actually happens is we play a game of red light green light really really quickly. Have you tried answering emails while having a conversation on the telephone?  Some places where I previously worked actually expected that.

One example of multitasking could be taking a walk and listening to an audiobook.  I do this frequently; however walking is something I have mastered. But, if I were crossing a busy intersection, my attention would shift from the content of the audiobook to the danger in front of me.  This is necessary in order to me to keep safe. Or, if someone stopped to talk to me, then I would either ignore them or shift my attention from the audio to the person.  I simply cannot fully pay attention to two people talking to me at the same time.

There you have it: multitasking is a myth.  It’s literally to be more productive “multitasking” than single tasking.  When you single-task (focus on one thing at a time) your brain does less switching therefore can focus better on the task at hand, one after the next.  There is a term in psychology called “serial tasking” which is basically doing one thing after another so quickly it seems that it is all done at the same time.  If you need further evidence that multitasking is a myth, simply search it up yourself. I always encourage you to do your own research.

When Marion told me “one thing at a time,” I also understood that it is about being fully present with the one thing one place, one person, one situation, etc. 

So, I really wanted to share this reminder with you to be present with what is in front of you. Think one thought at a time.  Be fully present with one person at a time. Eat and savour one bite at a time. Take one step at a time, one day at a time. One thing after another, in one lifetime, you will have accomplished many things.  

At the funeral, I turned my attention back to “one thing at time”.  I refocused my attention with the aid of this question: what can I learn today to share as inspiration to live an awesome life?

Now is the time to ask yourself if you are fully present.  Are you closing off distractions to speak with someone? Are you “taking work home” with you and thus not being fully present with your loved ones at home?  Are you overwhelming yourself with “to do”s?

What are you choosing to focus on today?  

Enjoy this blessed journey of life. 

Until next time, be awesome!

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