FOCUS: Making Do

Disciplines: Personal Mastery, Systems Thinking, Team Learning

We’ll just make do.
—My mother


At the birthday party of one of my younger siblings, my mother prepared to top the off cake with ice cream. The upright freezer, the family’s pride and joy, resided in the dining room. On this day it had somehow been left ajar. The ice cream was melted. I remember the alarm registered on my mother’s face. And yet in seconds, she turned and asked enthusiastically, “Have you ever had ice cream soup? It is very delicious.” She sent me to get little bowls and spoons and it was served up and eaten without fuss.

What is "Making Do"?

It seems to me making do is an art, part desperation, part acceptance and part creativity or reframing. It usually happens when there’s not enough of some resource such as money, skill, space or even hard ice cream. Making do can be a reluctant accommodation, but it can also be an adventure, and lead to surprising delights.


  • My mother taught me a lot about making do. We weren’t poor, but there were no frills. She didn’t drive, so we walked, sometimes a couple of miles, or took the bus everywhere we went. We talked and noticed things as we went, sometimes stopping for a maple nut ice cream cone. It always seemed fun.

  • When I was a young adult, my husband and I built a primitive cabin in the woods and lived there without electricity or running water for a year. During that time we even had a baby. Some things were hard, but we had a good time, and we made do.

  • Later, when I was a single mom, my kids and I built desks for them out of scrap lumber. Sometimes the missing resource is skill, though, and I marvel to think of them going through school all those years on desks that leaned to the right, and were a bit wobbly.

  • In high school, my daughter made her prom dresses from thrift shop linen tablecloths.

  • When Hal and I, our friend Astrid and her son Turan arrived in Israel a couple of years ago for a 10 day religious pilgrimage, we found that a reservation scramble resulted in only one large room for all four of us. Somewhat horrified, but with few obvious options, we agreed to try it, thinking it might be temporary. It turned out to be wonderful….not in terms of the accommodations, but in terms of our shared experience.

  • At 19, Turan is now in Vanuatu, an island in the South Pacific, doing a year of service. He sometimes sleeps on banana leaves and eats bats. Not his choicest…but the Vanuatu people are known for being some of the happiest in the world and Turan is having a life altering experience.

Making do often grows internal strength.

The Downside?

Then there is always the question of when we shouldn’t make do. For example, one of my kitchen cupboards only stays open with duct tape. I think I’ll find someone to put in a new hinge for me! The ability to make do can lead to putting up with stuff or people unnecessarily. When should we make do and when should we strive for better?

My mother embroidered a beautiful Serenity Prayer for me which hangs on my wall and provides good guidance:

God grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change
To change the things I can
And the wisdom to know the difference

Coaching Questions

  1. Can you make a delicious soup from what you have on hand?

  2. Where else in your life can you practice making do?

  3. Are there places in your life where you want to stop making do?


Please join me for a 45-minute telegathering to explore making do more deeply. Tuesday, March 8, at noon Eastern (11:00 a.m. Central, 10:00 a.m. MT, 9:00 a.m. Pacific)

1-218-862-1300 PIN 276583. No need to register….just call at that time!

Reach me: 1-888-907-HOPE (4673)or e-mail I am a personal and executive coach and would be happy to offer you a complimentary coaching session by phone.

Each month FRESH VIEWS focuses on a single topic, relates it to one of the five disciplines of a learning community, and offers a coaching tip and a follow-up telegathering. Please forward it to friends and colleagues. My purpose in writing FRESH VIEWS is to nurture, prod and encourage readers to think and talk about these topics with their families, friends and colleagues. Mine is only one view. Multiple conversations may deliver us to insights only hinted at here. Such a process sustains the vitality of learning relationships, learning families, learning organizations and learning communities.

Sharon Eakes | 720 Maple Lane | Sewickley, PA 15143

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720 Maple Lane, Sewickley, PA 15143
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