By Leo Babauta
The two biggest obstacles to doing meaningful work are familiar to many of us:
- Burden & complaint : The work feels like a burden (difficult, overwhelming, annoying) … you might do the task but you rush through it or mentally complain about it, not wanting to do it.
- Unimportant & putting it off: It doesn’t feel important to do this difficult task right now … so you feel like putting it off. You rationalize why it’s OK to put it off.
Either of these sound like you? You probably recognize yourself in at least one of these (if not both), as they’re incredible common.
The first pattern makes our work (and things we have to do in our relationships and personal lives) feel like a huge burden, which makes us have a negative attitude towards the work. If you do this with your partner, they’ll feel it. If you do this with your kids or other family members, they’ll feel it. If you do this at work, your work will suck more.
The second pattern makes us rationalize not doing something we committed to doing, which makes people trust us less and makes us trust ourselves less. We don’t really feel 100% committed to anything, and are avoiding the tough commitments because they seem uncomfortable.
What would happen if you could transform those patterns and everything you have to do? What would happen if you felt 100% committed to the things that are truly important to you? What would happen if you felt joy in being able to do your tasks? It’s possible.
If these are patterns for you, I have a few simple mindset shifts to try out, that I think will transform everything:
- See it as a “two-way gift”. When you have a task to do, it can feel like a burden … but you could also see it as a gift. For yourself, and for others. For example: if I have to write an article, I could feel the burden of writing it … or see this opportunity to write and help others as a gift I’ve been given. And my writing as a gift to others, that might help them when they’re struggling. What a beautiful thing, to be able to receive this gift! And to give a gift to others is an incredible privilege.
- Remind yourself of it’s importance. Does it feel like the tasks you have in front of you aren’t that important, so that you can rationalize putting them off? Then either you’re picking the wrong tasks (pick ones that feel connected to something you care about), or you’ve forgotten the importance of that task. Making lunch for your kids? Serving your loved ones and putting food in their bellies is one of the most important things many of us do. Need to make some phone calls? Serving the relationships that those calls represent is an act of devotion to the people you care about. Same with emails and other messages. For me, writing or recording a video for Zen Habits or my Fearless Training Program is important because it connects me with others who are struggling, who are practicing, who are on this beautiful journey with me. All of your hearts are incredibly important to me, and every act I do for you guys is of utmost importance. I just need to remind myself of that now and then (more often than I would often admit), and connect my heart to that meaningful mission.
- Meditate (briefly) on the shortness of your life. Finally, you might try reminding yourself that death is coming. That might sound morbid and unnecessarily dark, but it’s a certain fact. We only have a limited amount of time left, and we don’t know how much that is. We like to pretend that it’s forever, but it’s certainly not. If you only have a year left, how do you want to spend it? If you have limited time left, how do you want to spend today? Forgetting about what’s important and being distracted? Or pouring yourself into meaningful work and connecting your heart to what you truly care about?
With this precious day that you’ve been given as a gift … show up fully committed. Show up fully devoted to the people you care about. Show up with fierce love that is a gift to all those around you. Show up with full loving appreciation for those you’re connected to, and for the gift of this moment.