When Work and Life Unite

A lot of people I meet have "jobs".

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They hate Mondays. They get up somewhere between 5:30 and 7:30 AM. They have coffee tumblers. They wear khakis. They take the train during rush hour. They work in offices, and some of those offices, if they are lucky, have windows. They work till 5 or 6 PM (or way later), then go home, make dinner, eat said dinner, and watch TV. Then it's suddenly time to go to bed and start all over again. When Friday arrives, they are over-joyed, ready to live their lives on the weekend.

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Sound like you?

In his book The 4-Hour Work Week, Tim Ferriss dubs this lifestyle as "deferred living," putting off the life we really want until retirement, or in the more immediate sense, the weekend. Sometimes, I feel stuck in this socially acceptable cycle of working to live. It's a cycle that perpetuates the idea that our work must be separate from our real lives: "It's not my life, it's my work life." And at times, it can feel like I'm two totally different people: the one that goes to work and does what's asked of her, and the one that is truly herself.

I've been watching a lot of Michael Bernard Beckwith's videos lately. He's a meditation teacher and motivational speaker who teaches the "Life Visioning Process", a method for "putting a stop to being a passive tourist in one's life". Something he said that struck me is that: all we need is already within us, and that we push our gifts down with judgments, opinions, fear, and an idea of who we should be.

How many of you feel this way-- that you are a "passive tourist" in your own life? I used to feel this way a lot, and sometimes still do. It's uncomfortable and yet comfortable at the same time.

My therapist once mentioned the term "secondary gratification" to me when discussing this burning need to explore my potential, but also this desire to stay in the same place. He said it's because the latter is known to me, and that there is a comfort in the knowing because when you know, you believe you have some sense of control.

Having a sense of control equaled my secondary gratification. I was getting something out of staying the same, of staying in my cycle of deferred living. No matter how uncomfortable it could get (did get), it was still more comfortable (at the time) for me to maintain this illusion that I could somehow control my life. And if I could do that, then my understanding of my life and the world, would come more easily. I could place a judgment on it, know my limitations, and abide by them. I could stay small and safe and invisible.

And what of being visible? Well, it can be fucking scary. If I'm visible, then I open myself up to judgment and failure, and to my own (human) imperfections. What if I'm just not good enough? 

Easier to be a passive tourist, right?

Well yes, easier. But fulfilling? Not at all.  I believe that, as humans, we are meant to find our purpose for being. In finding that purpose, we find our usefulness. And then, when we find our usefulness, we are meant to put it into action. 

This is where we get stuck, in the inaction. So often, we get caught up in the doing or the have to do (or have to be) that we forget our purpose in life, and life can get kinda humdrum, dissatisfying.

Think about it: what is something you do really well? Can you paint? Or maybe you are a whiz at Excel sheets? Are you the friend that other friends go to for advice?

Think about the times you are doing that thing you do so well. How does it feel? For me, I feel most aligned with what I'm meant to do when I'm listening and providing feedback to someone who wants/needs it, when I'm performing, and when I am writing. It feels like I'm doing that which I was put here on this earth to do, and... 

I'm being useful.

Another way to say this is: I'm being of service. When I'm being of service, I feel like things have meaning. I feel engaged. I feel that sense of purpose. Also, if I can think of practicing my gifts as a service, then I can get my head out of my ass and realize it's not all about me. Let's all say that together:

It's not all about me.

It's about what I can offer others, what I contribute to the world.

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So, how can we take that feeling of usefulness into the every day humdrum cycle of work? How can we unite work and life so that it all has meaning, so that it's all just life? The simplest (but not necessarily easiest way) is to say, "How can I be of service at my job?" or even "How am I already of service at my job?" What does that killer spreadsheet contribute to your boss, and therefore to the organization, and its place in the world?

Sound ridiculous/boring/not enough? That's okay. We start small, and dream big.  In this small practice, you may start to see how you are already making a contribution, and then realize you want to do more but don't see the way to go about it. You've begun to see your assets, and see what it feels like when they are being used and when they are not. Maybe then you can begin to envision the ways in which you can use those assets even more, whether it's at this job or at another. And maybe this is the time to take the next step in offering what it is that only you have to offer. And guess what?

It is already within you.

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A well-intentioned friend once said to me, "It is a true luxury to make money doing what you want to do." Yet, there are plenty of people that do this and to me, they seem pretty content. They are making a contribution and their needs of financial security and wholeness are being met. So, does making money doing what you are meant to do, being who you were put on this earth to be, have to be a "luxury"? What if it's not a luxury?

What if, instead, it's a possibility?

What gifts do you bring to the world? What would your life look like if you were fulfilling your purpose? What can you envision for yourself that breaks the divide between work and life, and brings the living into the now and always?

Tell me. I'd love to be inspired by it.

 

Rebecca is an artist and coach in New York City, dedicated to helping people realize their creative potential in work and life, through collaboration and guidance.