Anything vs Everything

I just left a planning meeting for an event to raise donations for a local not-for-profit group.  As I’m sure you know, these events require lots of help to accomplish the many tasks needed to make the event successful.  At this particular meeting, one attendee, for some unknown reason, was so excited about the event she volunteered to take on nearly every task.

Now, while it is nice not to have to volunteer for too many activities outside of work, it was obvious to the rest of the planning group that this person had taken on too many responsibilities and it is likely some will not get done.

This meeting is a good example of anything vs. everything.  Everyone in the planning group was willing to do anything.  One person was willing to do everything.

Doing Everything

There are lots of things I wish I could do.  But I’m prevented by my lack of available time, the high cost, or my geographical location.  For example, becoming an accomplished guitar player requires an amount of time I do not have.  Racing sailboats on the ocean cost more money that I am willing to spend.  And, scuba diving is a great sport, but living in the Midwest does not offer a lot of opportunities.

All of these things can be done, but given where they fall in my priority hierarchy, they will likely never be accomplished.

This same dilemma exists at work.  I have learned over the years that when my plate is full, I need to become very selective about the new projects I take on and what activities outside of work I will accept.

I want to do everything, but I know I only can do anything.

Distinction

The “every” in everything means all possible things. To do everything means you try to do all things, not just the things you want or like to do but you take on all things.  The person on the volunteer committee tried to do everything.

In anything, the “any” means one, some or a few.  It does not mean all.  It’s a select group that is limited by choice, and the choice is governed by some rationale established by the person making a choice.

So, when you say you can do anything, that doesn’t mean you can or will do all things that are before you, but you will do all the things that you have the desire to do.

Application

The distinction is important in the business world.  Early in your career, you may try to do everything.  You need experience, exposure, and you need to immerse yourself in your career.  You are not critical to your project because so much of what you do is reviewed and corrected by your teammates and supervisor.

As your career progresses, so does your reputation and reliance.  You take on certain tasks because you are good at them, others rely on you to complete them, and they are things you enjoy.  You no longer do everything, you do anything. The number of projects you do is less, but are done at a higher quality, and others place a higher reliance on your competency. You do not have time to do everything so you must stick to doing anything.

The Bible

Philippians 4:13 says.

I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.

Taken in context, the “all things” referenced in this verse is the same as “anything.”  God is not telling us we can do everything through Him, but we can do anything we desire, and we are to desire to do what God has asked us to do.

Focusing on doing anything honors God. Remember, do anything and not everything.