After struggling through Step 10 and facing that I have had a major difficulty in learning how to receive with grace, it makes perfect sense that the next step is:
Step 11: Learn to do things differently so you only do what you love
Learning to be open and receptive is first on my list! So, today I have already put a call in to my friend Judy to ask her for help on a QuickBooks problem….
However, this subject actually goes deeper than asking for help. It requires a re-examination of our mindsets, habits and “go-to” methods in all aspects of our lives.
But wait, you say! There are so many things I have to do, how can I only do what I love?
The secret is to change your perspective. Let’s start with something seemingly minor that has actually been a source of conflict in many households: taking out the trash. It becomes a major issue! So how can you love to take out the trash?
Do you care about having a clean house? Are you irritated because you think someone else should do it? Do you feel it is beneath you? The way I learned to love doing it is by asking myself those questions and more, to the point that I realized my values were actually being met when I participated in the things that keep my home the happy, healthy place I want to live. Once I got there, taking out the trash became a pleasant task. In fact, because my alley is really far from the back of my house, I created a sort of Zen practice of loading the two bags (recycle and regular trash) into the back of my car and driving it around. Each time I do it, I feel accomplished.
It can’t all be that simple! What about really difficult things I have to do?
Once again, it requires a change in perspective. One of my teachers taught me a process years ago that I find myriad applications for: linking what needs to be done with your higher purpose.
Say you want to be a lawyer, and to work your way through school you have a part time job in a warehouse stacking boxes. How can you learn to love doing it?
Ask yourself, what skills are needed to get an education to become a lawyer, and what skills are needed once you’ve graduated? Discipline, an ability to assess situations and create order out of them, the ability to cooperate, willingness to follow a schedule, the ability to complete tasks in a timely manner, healthy respect for authority, an understanding of the whys and hows of getting things done…all can be learned by being great at stacking boxes! And if you are focused on what you are learning and how it is helping you get where you want to go, to fulfill your higher purpose, it is easy to love doing it.
It does require an attitude adjustment. Many times people approach work as a form of drudgery. An odious task that you have to do. But if you see it as a stepping stone to the next phase, find how it can lead you to greater achievements, and link that to what is really important to you — it can actually be fun!
So maybe that can work with physical labor, what about more challenging things, like organizing records and paying taxes? Talk about an odious task!
When I was 17 and my sister was 19 our parents sent us to Europe. We picked up a little Volkswagen Bug in Munich and drove through Austria, Italy, Southern France on our way to a school in northern Spain where we would spend 5 weeks to learn Spanish. This was 1965 and the world was very different…however, Europe was and still is a place to see what effect various governments have on roads, businesses, and the lifestyles of the people who live there. I saw how the roads and countryside were neat and tidy in Austria, then immediately over the border into Italy everything changed into haphazard, disorganized chaos! I was amazed! Two-lane roads became danger zones, as cars and trucks would drive sometimes four-abreast with no regard to safety or order. For a teenager, it was an adventure. My sister didn’t know how to drive a stick shift in the beginning, so I started out the trip doing most of the driving. It was fun! But looking back, I understand how easily we could have been in danger.
We stopped at pensions along the way, very inexpensive alternatives to hotels, usually run by families. Through Italy and southern France, we were able to learn a little bit about the local cultures and see how limited most of the people’s lives were. They lived and worked in the same way their families had for generations, very few even considering venturing away from their home bases. We were an oddity to them, two young sisters, traveling alone. We had no idea how strange it actually was!
We were so naive that we parked our car on a public street in Barcelona, once we finally crossed into Spain, and while we were in a restaurant, it was broken into and half of our luggage was stolen. We reported it to the police, but they told us we were foolish to leave things in our car, and did nothing to help us recover it. Spain was run by a dictator then, Francisco Franco, and there was little accountability to be found.
I’m telling you this long drawn-out story to show you where I learned to appreciate living in the good old USA. When we returned to the States in late August that summer, I wanted to kiss the soil. And every time I travel out of the US, no matter where I’ve been, I feel like kissing the soil when I get back. The services we take for granted (postal, police, good roads, well-run cities) even with all the challenges we face, we are still better off here than any place I have visited.
So when it comes time to pay taxes, I do it with joy. I am so grateful to live here — even though I’m not happy about the policies of our current government leaders, I’m not so unhappy that I don’t feel there is hope of change. The people I met in Spain way back then had no hope of change. It took Franco dying to end the Nationalist dictatorship in 1975 and even more time for Spain to become a different kind of country. There is still turmoil there!
So what I’m saying here is that learning to do things differently requires understanding things differently. Looking at the big picture and being proactive in how you approach things. Which is vastly different from being reactive and carrying a chip on the shoulder attitude about how difficult you have it.
It requires a change in perception, a change in perspective….
To love paying taxes means you see things differently. It doesn’t mean you don’t try to get great deductions and lower your tax bill. It means that in the grand scheme of things, you understand that in order to live in a society that actually serves its people, there needs to be some form of government and the people need to pay for it.
So we keep paying for it even when we aren’t in favor of some of the policies and laws, and because we are participants, we have the right to work toward changing it.
This big picture thinking applies not just to how we see our country, it also makes sense in dealing with personal relationships, work situations, any involvement with other people. I’ve learned to look for the other side to the story. I’ve learned that no matter how much I want people to do things my way, they have their own ways and are entitled to make their own choices. So when I spend time with people, I make sure that I’m taking care of myself and if it is no longer compelling to be in certain conversations, I exit. If I don’t feel comfortable in a situation, I remove myself as quickly as possible. I pay attention to how I feel, and act accordingly. Do I do it to hurt others? No. I do it in as pleasant or unobtrusive way as possible in order to make sure I get to do what I want.
But I try to see things from their point of view at the same time. I’ve learned that it is okay not to enjoy situations just because someone else does. I’ve learned to be honest along with being nice, which takes me out of having to make “nice-nice” into being authentic. I’ve learned to say no as pleasantly as I can say yes.
And because it all starts with a higher purpose, I can much more easily discern what works for me and what doesn’t. My higher purpose is, I believe we are here to love ourselves, each other and our lives, master the business of life and turn our lead into gold. I can measure tasks, opportunities and all other forms of activities against the standards in my life that come from that higher purpose. If those things aren’t part of staying on my self-directed, purposeful path I can easily decline and feel great about it.
So learning to do things differently really means seeing things differently and acting accordingly?
Yes. That’s why I only do what I love to do.