Menial or Meaningful?
We have 25 large plants in our tiny condo. They bring a lot of life into the house.
Unfortunately, we’ve welcomed in another, not so welcomed, life form. Ants. Millions of them, laying white cotton-like nests all over the leaves and slowly killing our plants. The plants were in need of some de-anting, pruning and fertilizing.
On Saturday, we took time to tend to each plant, limb by limb, leaf by leaf. It was certainly tedious, but it needed to be done. They are, after all, living things.
Naturally, I could view this task as menial; a waste of my rather limited and valuable time. I could easily justify having someone else do this for me. I’ve certainly got more important things to do than tend to the plants.
However, I choose to view this as a time to practice patience, learn more about plants (lots of Googling) and take time to breathe in their life and remember that they are living things. It’s a practice in Zen. This time I learned how to make a natural ant deterrent spray that I sprayed all the leaves with.
It was quite therapeutic, and well worth my time. And now our plants are glowing and beautiful. They have more life, and fewer ants.
I meet a lot of people that are just doing a job or completing a task just because they were told to do it. Their ultimate goal is to be finished. But when your only goal is merely to be finished, it’s easy to see every setback or delay as a nuisance or failure.
If you are doing the work with purpose, because you care and believe the task is important, potential failures can easily be viewed as just being part of the process of achieving a greater goal. Every task or job presents an opportunity to learn and grow wiser.
My whole life is a workout. I take the stairs, carry the heavier bags, lug things across the property and so on. To me, it’s not meaningless grunt work. I get a constant workout. I find value in it, beyond just finishing the job. It’s a matter of perspective.
When I hire someone to do a job, I notice when they are performing just to finish and get paid vs. doing the job because they believe the outcome is important. They treat is as if it’s just another necessary task in order to survive.
If you choose to view the work as meaningless and inconsequential, it’s difficult to justify your time doing it, or to enjoy it or grow from the process. But if you view the work as part of a process, no matter how menial, it can be meaningful and even therapeutic.
The only difference is your perception.
This has been my new outlook on “keeping” my house. I stay at home to take care of my house, while G goes to work. While I do not get paid to do this, it slowly was destroying my self worth. I would cry every time I knew I had to clean this house from top to bottom for a showing, get together, party, company, etc… I couldn’t believe that my life had come to this. I had so many talents, so many dreams, so many other “better” things I could be doing than cleaning my house. While most people would think that is a blessing, to be able to stay home, it was a curse for me.
One day, while I was sad and depressed over what my life had become…I decided it was time to look at the situation differently. It’s now a work out for me. I burn a TON of calories and I am proud of my work when I’m done. It is my home. It is where I want people to come and enjoy their time. I don’t see it as a prison (as much) anymore.
You are exactly right about choosing to use the “tedious” time as a learning experience, rather than a daunting task. Thanks for this post! Give your beautiful bride and sweet Saoirse a hug for me.
Great counsel Brother. Far too many times when I look at a task as just that…a task. And don’t look at the bigger opportunity. Thanks.
Great insight Jared, I definitely needed to hear this! You are such a blessing and so very much appreciated!
God created us to tend the garden 6 days a week. Work is both physcial and creative. Our view on work is a reflection of ourselves and not the work itself. Thanks again. Appreciate your viewpoint.
I like the concept. It totally sounds like a similar idea to being in the moment or making it about the journey instead of the destination. That’s something I struggle with, especially if I’m not enjoying what I’m doing; I look forward to the end and just want to get it over with, instead of realizing there might be some meaningful purpose, and the opportunity to learn.
Great illustration of how our perspective frames our behaviors and attitudes. I love this reminder of taking another look at some of the little things in life and determining if there is a new and fresh way to value the activity or situation instead of dread or loathe it.
Thanks for this fresh perspective it has challenged me to do some different thinking!
Mark J. Cundiff
Thanks Mark! It’s definitely a day to day discipline, but it always pays off when I’m deliberate about this perspective.