Holy moly, have we been getting in our own way this entire time?!
I recently sat down with a friend to have a heart-to-heart. The conversation quickly turned to what most of my friendships focus on lately: commiserating about work. He shared how much stress he felt about work, even though "on paper" things were going really well. So, I said:
"That stress is avoidable. Why not walk out of the office at 6pm and leave the drama there? Stop bringing your stress home with you!"
The words weren't even out of my mouth when I started thinking:
"What a hypocrite. I used to stress during my 'free' time, too. It's not easy to avoid."
We all do it, don't we? We get so "worked up" about our work, and it bleeds into our free time. Can it be stopped for good, or is that just the law of the land?
I really want to find out. (For you and for me!)
Last week, I wrote about managing our lives through mindfulness. Here's a quick summary to jog your memory:
- Don't identify with your possessions or what happens to you.
- Accept life as it happens.
- You're enough just as you are in this moment.
Following these lessons has helped me feel so much peace of mind in general, but could these lessons apply to our work?
After some reading and reflection, here's the conclusion I came to:
Mindfulness guides us toward what and (most importantly) how we're meant to create.
And this applies to everyone, no matter what you do. You may be thinking, "Create? But I'm not creative at all." Actually, you are.
All of us spend our days creating different kinds of stuff. Most of the time, we call it "working"—whether its for money or not. For example, you may create documents and presentations and connections at your 9-5 job and then come home to figure out what to make for dinner, exercise, support your friends through hard times, do some arts and crafts, and try to redecorate on a budget. All of that is creative.
But it seems like no matter what we create, we're still thirsty for a different way.
For five years now, I've been exploring the notion of "following my passion." Back in 2010, I began this journey: I started writing, quit my job, founded a company, ran the company, closed the company, and am now exploring what's next. Throughout that entire trajectory, mindfulness is the one thing that's helped.
If you're stuck on the path from Current Life to Dream Life, let's explore if mindfulness can help.
Like I mentioned before, mindfulness can help you find what you're meant to create and how you're meant to create. Because it's a lot of information to mull over, today I'm going to go over the what. We'll get to the how next week. :-)
What you are meant to create
You know, I went on a first date with mindfulness because it promised peace of mind, but I decided to go all in and wear its letter jacket because of its focus on enjoyment.
For some people, mindfulness and meditation automatically conjure up images of monks or Buddhism or sacrifice of some kind (especially after all that talk about acceptance and not resisting what happens), but that isn't the full story. Mindfulness isn't about trudging through dirt and putting up with stuff we hate—it's about guiding you toward activities you deeply enjoy.
But you may not enjoy an activity for the reasons you think you do.
What I've learned is that joy comes from deep within you, not from the outside world. Think of it this way: any experience can be judged as good or bad depending on your mood. Sometimes, all I want is to take off to a local café and write for a few hours, but other times writing feels like pulling teeth. The joy (or lack thereof) isn't the writing itself—it's my level of mindfulness.
In his book A New Earth, Eckhart Tolle explains:
"You will enjoy any activity in which you are fully present ... It isn't the action you perform that you really enjoy, but the deep sense of aliveness that flows into it."
Another way to think of this is creative flow. It's happened to me a few times that I'm writing or drawing or editing a photo and all time seems to stand still—I'm not aware of time at all really, and my body seems to create almost on auto-pilot. Runners call this runner's high. :-)
After you've identified what you enjoy, the next step is to add a goal. This turns your enjoyment into "work", because you're working toward something concrete.
For example, I know I experience creative flow when I apply all my attention to writing. If I add a goal to it—like a book or a blog series—then I'm doing "work" I feel incredibly enthusiastic about. All of that is already inside me, but the "work" is getting it out into the world, into the "physical dimension", so to speak.
Want to find what you're meant to create? Do what you enjoy + add a goal to it.
Not every moment leading up to that goal will feel wonderful, though. There will be roadblocks, difficulties, setbacks, and more. When that happens, how do we stay the course?
Now, that's what really made a difference in my work—and I'll dive into it next week! (Stay tuned, it's a life-changer.)
Putting it into Practice
To help you put this first half into practice, try considering these two questions:
- What do you enjoy? Look back and think about when you've experienced that auto-pilot kind of creative flow.
- What goals do you feel strongly about? Another way of stating this would be, within the activity you determined in the first question, what do you feel needs to be created?
I hope all of this helps or at least gives you something to think about. Until next week!
PS. For more on all of this "mindfulness at work" stuff, I highly recommend reading the last few chapters of A New Earth—so good!