Take What You Need and Leave the Rest

by David B. Bohl

You’ve probably heard the expression, “Take what you need and leave the rest.”

This sentiment is often heard in connection with meetings and with other people’s opinions, in terms of taking what you can use from what is said, and leave the rest.

Another take on this, from the Mind Petals blog by Gina Laverde, is the idea of taking care of yourself first – taking what you need – so that you can do the things in your life that need doing.

Both of these are very important ideas. But I have another suggestion as to how to look at “taking what you need and leaving the rest.”

What I’m about to say may sound exactly the opposite of taking care of yourself first, as Gina suggests, but I think it’s really another way of accomplishing the same mission.

My feeling is that we should approach any situation without any preconceived notions, expectations or stereotypes.

For instance, we should not walk into a staff meeting expecting that our boss is going to make suggestions or lay down rules that will hurt us as employees.

Rather, we should be very open and receptive. Rather than dreading the meeting, we can be interested in what is said and open to making the suggestions work for us.

Another example would be standing in line at the grocery store. None of us wants to stand in line, but if we approach it with an open mind, stay engaged and interested rather than reading one of the tattle papers, and really try to be where we are and find something we can use, we might be surprised.

We might, for instance, meet someone in the grocery store who can help us with a situation we’ve been thinking about.

We might at least have a pleasant and engaging conversation with someone else in line.

This sense of “taking what you need” might be more aptly described as “finding what you need,” in that if we’re open and inquisitive and engaged, we often find things we never knew we were looking for, but that make our lives much more interesting and enjoyable.

And while this idea of finding what you need seems to run counter to “taking what you need,” I don’t think it really does, because by this open-minded, inquisitive finding, we are in fact getting what we need to take care of ourselves, and we’re doing it without a great deal of searching or striving.

When we’re open, we find things we need in a way we hadn’t thought of before. And I think that helps us take what we need from any situation, even situations we don’t want to be in.

Try these little experiments in taking what you need:

  • Spend some time, while you’re standing in line or sitting in a meeting, just trying to open your mind and be receptive.
  • Try reaching out to someone you’re standing in line with and start a conversation.
  • Note, this week, all the ways that you find things you need without realizing you were looking.

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