How to Be My True Self at Work
Not long ago, I found myself overwhelmed, confused and scattered when it came to working. There was always so much to do, at all times, for so many. This started a personal pursuit for understanding true work, finding MY work and making peace with both tedious jobs as well as tasks expected to do outside of my abilities.
And it worked :). My work is simple. I work to make money. And, my work is complicated, I work to take care of my family and household. And my work is deeply passionate, I work to contribute what is my heart to other’s who want to hear it.
Imagine a time when you got lost in your work—this is called flow. The concept of “flow” is how our brain engages when our resources and our challenges increasing at the same pace. The fascinating thing is that when we are in flow, we don’t even have to be doing something we like. Our brain likes being in the flow, it’s like lotion on dry skin. Work is intrinsically rewarding when you are fully present to it. A good example of this is math. Even if you are not a math person (like myself), you can probably remember a time you found math satisfying when they were given the resources you needed to solve the problem.
When we resist our work it is often because we don’t have the resources we need to accomplish what we are asking of ourselves. We stop enjoying work when we are scattered and distracted. We get anxious when we don’t have time or money or skills to do what we need to do. When our motivation is in the trenches, it is often because our resources are outpacing our challenges. We get depressed when do not feel like we are growing or contributing.
Often it is our insecurities, fears, ideas of what we are good or not good at that muddy the waters of true work. For example, we run an Airbnb out of our house, so I clean A LOT. My approach to work now is a belief that all work can be pleasurable if I let myself sink into it. (Continually, I must remind myself of this it is not a one time learned a lesson.) In the past, I would second guess if this is the work I really should be doing. I would question if there was something else more important that I could be doing. I would resent that I am doing so much dirty work. Now, after my daily pep talk, I truly dive in. I blast my music and tap into a well of gratitude—that I have a house, that we have this possibility for income, that I love my house and I love hearing the stories of how much other people enjoy our house.
My fears and perceptions get a bit more tangled into my work when I am doing taxes or filing paperwork that is written in a language I do not understand. For dreaded work, I have to put more focus on making sure I have the resources I need in order to do the work I need to do. Most of the time I “hate” doing something, it is because I am missing something essential required in order to accomplish the work at hand.
Work is one way we make our mark on the world. Marsha Sinetar says it beautifully in her book,
Do What You Love and the Money Will Follow, “When we give ourselves completely to our work, our work becomes our signature.”
You were made for work. Your work may be running a business, it may be running after a toddler, it could be the personal work of recovery from an addiction or the hands-on work of making pottery. Your work could be keeping your house clean and feeding your family or making sure you always have a dollar for the person selling the Contributor in your neighborhood.
Some work comes in layers. For example, I needed to do some work on resting and re-establishing reasonable expectation for my life before I was able to give my whole heart to my passion projects.
The important thing to know is that all work is good. Even when it feels like you are “just” painting the fence, waxing the car or sanding the floor (Remember Karate Kid?). All work is equipping us for something if we allow ourselves to be present for all the nutrients it has for us. And if we don’t have the resources we need to do our work, it might not be our work.
Give yourself permission to work more fully and with fewer demands on yourself. Sisters, most of us are trying to do too much all of the time and we need to encourage each other to find a kind rhythm that honors the precious treasures we have to share with this world.