What does it actually mean to “reach our destination?” We grow up being told that if we work hard, we’ll be showered in rewards! Reach your destination and you’ll be given everything you’ve ever wanted. Some magical force will label you special and grant you gifts for being diligent.
So you work hard. Whether you’re doing labor work, creative work, or any sort of work, you work hard. Breathe out a sigh of relief as you get that promotion or finish that project. But wait, you can’t stop there. You must top that. So you work harder. You’re bone tired, this next level is so challenging, and you feel like the next destination is miles away. Maybe you reach it. Maybe you don’t.
Regardless, we have been conditioned to never be satisfied. We feel more productivity from the exhaustion of a long day than a 15-minute-long task completed. Yet you may get just as much out of both. You’ll hear famously successful people say, “work smart not hard.” Okay...what does that mean to the working person? When I’m serving at a restaurant or selling clothes from the store, how can I work smarter rather than harder? There are bills to pay.
In my experience, the word “productivity” inspires crippling shame. This is an everyday wrestling match for me. But here’s a question. What have I considered “productive?” Recently, I started writing a bullet list of “small wins” (an idea I got from Emilie Wapnick’s awesome book, How to Be Everything). Write every little thing you accomplished. Don’t focus on what someone gave you or what opportunities you were offered, focus on the things you took action on today.
Then a realization occurred. Things that make you money aren’t the only productive things in life. If you want to be better at drawing and you doodled during your lunch break, that’s a small win! If you’ve wanted to spend more time with family and you gave Mom a phone call, that’s a small win! We’re doing way more than we give ourselves credit for.
This shuffled my entire perception. I’d go through the day with constant dread of never doing enough or working hard enough. Then after dinner, I would write my list. Wowza! Most days, I would have almost 10 things written down. While the only thing that made me money was the restaurant shift I did, there was action taken in my hobbies, and my spiritual, family, and creative goals. All these years I’ve believed that productivity is determined by dollar signs. But it isn’t. Pride replaced shame when I realized I’d done all that in a day.
Another valuable tidbit I got from Emilie’s book was balancing priority projects. Jot down all the projects, hobbies, and skills you want to work on. Now prioritize 1-5 of them. For those of us who like to do a bajillion different things, listen up. By selecting these, you are not giving up the others. They are simply waiting in the wings until you choose to bring them onto the stage. It’s not their scene yet. In the meantime, try to touch each of the priority projects every day. Not grapple, but touch. Any step counts like pulling out your planner to set aside a bigger chunk of time for that painting you want to make. Or doing that guided meditation or yoga class. Or writing 100 words for that blog post. Just because you didn’t climb a mountain with your one step doesn’t mean it wasn’t a step forward.
Let’s globally readjust this way of thinking. If we’re drilling ourselves just to say we did, what’s the point? That dreamy plateau of a job well done could quite possibly be a dream. Unless we reframe it.
Do we really have a destination? Is success as linear as we imagine it to be? Consider that your destination is a circle. You are constantly moving forward and rediscovering your purpose. Isn’t that what coming full circle is about? Maybe instead of a circle, it’s a squiggle! Maybe you pave all sorts of roads that gradually create a beautiful work of crop art that you couldn’t possibly see until it was done. Or maybe you already have it and it's hiding under your nose.
Let’s kick this whole “linear success” thing. What do you envision as your personal success? Marvel in the fact that it’s developing into something beyond your wildest dreams. And then share it in the comments below!
Until next time,
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