The mainstream perspective about being consistent and disciplined can be summarized as “hustle and grind”… a state of busy activity that suggests an underlying layer of struggle and suffering.
Many of us have grown up with such teachings:
- Be “hard” working — to work with diligence, hardship and strife
- Delayed gratification — to reward yourself *later* after you struggle with the “important” stuff
- “Eat the frog” — get the hard thing out of the way by swallowing (doing) the highly unpleasant thing first (basically, delayed gratification)
There is always an alternative…
We can bring joy and meaning into any work that we do.
And then, to rest and renew deeply.
Practicing this rhythm — joyful work, then deep renewal — gives us deep fulfillment everyday. Our life becomes like heaven.
Yes, we should do what is important, high leverage, and what is challenging and growing.
But if we fixate our energies on specific outcomes (that were probably created by our ego or someone else’s), that is when we turn our process into struggle. We might miss the mark. We might fail.
By contrast, when we let go of requiring ourselves to have a perfect end result (or even a “good” one!), and instead we simply show up, and continually practice infusing our actions with joy, then we might actually bring our best selves (our playful genius!) into the work itself.
Ironically, we might even produce the best results when we forget to hold ourselves to a “high” standard.
It is a shift of focus.
For example, as I write this piece, there are 2 different energetic focuses throughout the hour…
- To write a great blog post. (To strain myself to a high standard.)
- Or to write a blog post with as much joy as I can in the process.
The difference is the focus on quality of results vs. quality of process.
Quality in business, I’ve learned, is something that I really cannot judge because it’s about what is most interesting and helpful to the end user: the reader, the student, the client.
Instead, I’ve found it more productive to “judge” or focus continually on the quality of my own process. This, of course, takes practice… more accurately, a practicing mindset. (I was deeply influenced by the book The Practicing Mind by Thomas Sterner.)
It’s about practicing a continual awareness of how I am working in the moment. Am I again tied up in the perfection of the end result? When I catch myself doing that, I return to the practice of infusing heart and joy into the process itself.
It’s about Trust.
How can we let go of worrying about the quality of the end result?
(I welcome you to comment with what works for you.)
What helps me is to remind myself of these deep truths:
- I believe that we are each deeply taken care of. Lifted and guided in every moment of every day. Everything will turn out beautifully for us.
- I believe that I am called to work daily with the remembrance that Love guides me through the many ups and downs of life. I will be OK throughout all of it, and in fact, it is possible to find joy in it all.
- I believe that my growth in skills and character is a long-term journey, and it’s really what I’m here for.
I’m not here to write great blog posts, nor to run a great business, nor to help people.
The activities I do may sometimes result in such blessed outcomes… but no matter what, every activity can be an experience of growing my skills and my character.
To grow daily into practicing joy in anything and everything that I do.
I trust that by focusing on joyful action and the long-term journey of inevitable growth, I will find my way into my life’s greatest work.
So there’s never a need for hustle, grind, nor even grit. There’s no need for hard work, nor delayed gratification, nor “eating the frog”.
There’s only a practice of reminding myself again and again (and again) of the Bigger Truth, all throughout the day… when I’m writing, speaking, doing admin, chores, whatever I may be doing… that every moment is an opportunity to practice joy in the activity, and to appreciate the long-term journey of skill-development.
This is the essence of joyful productivity.
This post was previously published on George Kao and is republished here with permission from the author.
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Photo credit: George Kao