The last few weeks have not been the easiest. I’ve got a condition in my inner ear, that when it flares up, I have an on again off again low-grade fever and get dizzy, where every day I’m on a boat that is rocking in the wind as I try to do my best to coach, facilitate, or do whatever it is I’m tasked with. Not fun. And then things pile up, I get stressed, I try to exercise self-care and ask for what I need, reschedule where I can, show myself some much-needed compassion and empathy. But as you know, these things aren’t easy, especially when you run a business.
All this to say that some things fell off in the shuffle last week, which included this blog. And at that time, I practiced compassion and told myself it was okay, that in every life a little rain must fall, and took the opportunity to congratulate myself on my fine efforts up to this point. Which is all well and good. Yay me.
And this week I’m still muddling through as the dizziness isn’t gone yet and heard a pesky little voice ringing in my ear, the voice of the workhorse, full of type A authority – “Pull your head out of your rear Shelley, and just get the blog done!”
And guess what happened? Absolutely nothing. I started looking for ways to procrastinate. My mind was filled with anything else I could do, and I really do mean anything else. Taking out the trash, scrubbing the toilets, making a grocery list. I was really scraping the bottom of the barrel to be sure. Why? Because it felt like a grind. A soul destroying, sucking daily grind. And who can easily muster energy for the daily grind?
We unknowingly create our own daily grind
And then I remembered the fundamental lesson on why it’s important to approach life more focused on the journey than it is the destination. Or in other words, the being is just as (or even more important) in life than the doing. So often in life and leadership we’re focused on the latter. I’ve just got to get this deliverable out the door. Make another phone call, send another email. Complete another performance review. Give another presentation. And then I can relax. I’ll have more time later to think about things and enjoy things.
But the problem is we never do. This is how we fool ourselves. And then we wonder why we feel so empty, and life just feels like an endless daily grind of one thing after another.
I’m not saying reframing this is easy by the way, we live in a world that rewards output and productivity. We set ambitious targets for revenue, we set stretch goals, we live in a VUCA – volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous world where everything needed to be done yesterday. And I’m also not saying that we shouldn’t get goals or visualize success. As a coach I help my clients with these things, and goals can give us a sense of direction. And a sense of direction is important in cultivating confidence and momentum.
But when we fixate solely on the outcome of what we are doing, it robs us of the joy of being in the moment. Life becomes one big daily grind.
Why? Because the outcome is in the future, but life is lived in the now. This is a tricky principle but an important one to think about. I have a client who is interested in growing her design business and is using social media as a mechanism for generating more leads and revenue. Great stuff. But it’s easy to get overwhelmed and demotivated if you’re constantly thinking about the outcome. Will this post generate enough likes? Will it generate enough traffic?
We freeze up, we overthink things, we get paralyzed by inaction as we then worry that whatever we produce won’t be good enough, because it’s the outcome that really matters after all, right?
Let go of the outcome
What’s fascinating is that writing this blog got a lot easier for me when I stopped worrying so much about whether anyone would ever read it. It also got a lot more popular too interestingly enough. And when my client stopped focusing on the number of likes and rather on the enjoyment of putting together the post, the joy of finding something she was interested in and sharing it with others, her social media content schedule got filled quite quickly and with very little stress and strain.
The trick of making work more meaningful is not necessarily to focus on different types of work (which is often a red herring), but to lean into each task as something to be experienced, something to be present to, and let go of the outcome. We live in the real world, so we will need to plan and set goals and there is an appropriate time and place for that. But it’s a specific time and place. Then we need to let go and be present to what is.
Coaching questions for thought:
- How might I be creating a daily grind for myself and turning myself into a human doing?
- For which of my tasks am I too focused on the outcome? What do I need to let go of in order to free myself up to really be present?
- How would focusing on the present moment and the enjoyment of a task increase my level of satisfaction?
Shelley Pernot is a career and leadership coach who is passionate about helping her clients discover their talents and step into their greatness. Reach out to me here for a free consultation to learn more about the coaching process and how it may benefit you!