Drudgery Transformed

How can you stay motivated when you are overwhelmed by a To Do list as long as your arm? Or when everything feels like drudgery and you just can’t make yourself get started? One way I help my clients get into action is to connect them to the purpose underlying what they are doing. Tying one’s activities to a greater mission can transform them from chores into meaningful work.

Think for a moment about an artist, a painter perhaps. From the most mundane point of view, her work could be described as menial labor: set up the easel, get out the paints, mix a color, dip the brush, make a line, clean the brush, dip again, make some more lines. Dip, paint. Mix another color. Make some more lines. Repeat until her fingers cramp and her back aches. Ugh.

Now re-imagine this activity in its most meaningful light. Each color, each stroke of the brush is part of rending a vision, a manifestation of passion and inspiration, a work of art!

Here are some everyday examples of how this works:

When my husband worked at the biotech company Genentech, he and all the other employees – from the research scientists to the IT staff to the people who fed the mice in the labs – were frequently reminded of the human beings whose lives had been saved by their drugs. They were all made to feel part of the fight to cure cancer, a truly inspiring mission.

A participant in the Craigslist Foundation Bootcamp last weekend sought coaching because she was procrastinating about writing a press release. I asked her to articulate her mission, and suddenly the press release was more than just a bunch of words she had to write but was a vital part of her mission to reach out to and serve her community. She wrote it the next day.

Some mothers in one of my workshops were complaining about laundry when one mom piped up that she felt enormous tenderness and connection to her daughter as she folded her tiny little clothes. Suddenly all of us were dewy-eyed. Drudgery transformed!

This is not to say that you will feel all verklempt as you wash the dishes or fill out your expense reports. But much of what we do can be tied to a higher purpose, and staying connected to that purpose can help lighten our sense of burden.