I've developed a simple rule over the past couple of years which initially seemed somewhat self indulgent - and I was sure would need to be knocked on the head after a short time. It was after all, a temporary self-imposed 'rule to live by' while recovering from burn out. But two years on, it still seems to work incredibly well. So much so that I almost think that it is not possible for things to be this simple or this easy.
The rule to live by was quite simply to: "Stop doing things I don't love".
My plan for recovery was: If I don't enjoy what I am doing or believe I will appreciate the end result of it - don't do it.
So it started as a gentle exploration - asking myself 'am I enjoying what I am doing' - and seeing my my answer was. I was sure that this little rule would just be a short lived fling and certainly not be able to be applied to all areas of my life (work? housework? exercise?) But as time went on, I discovered something. It seems that it actually (so far) my rule covers many many bases. My life has slowly become one thing after an other of doing what I love. And doing it when I feel like it. And in the words of Dr Phil; "How's that working out for you?" - the answer is "pretty damn good".
It turns out that there aren't too many things in my life I don't enjoy - which itself is a revelation. And if I am not particularly enjoying a certain task, chances are I am going to really enjoy the outcome - which in itself gives me some sort of pleasure.
It's not about avoiding doing things, it's about changing the mindset. It's about understanding that you always have a choice in the matter. You can choose to do what you are doing - or you can choose not to.
And if I really am not enjoying something - I have to ask 'why am I doing this?' Will it give me pleasure at the end? Will it give someone else pleasure - which will make me happy as well? If it is just a means to an end (eg driving) - how can I make it the most pleasurable enjoyable experience along the way?
How many things in life you do out of habit? Or do them because you think you should? There is some sort of madness in this. Go to the gym but hate it? Go to work and hate it? Do house work but hate it? Either change your attitude about it - learn to love it, make it so it is something you enjoy - or stop doing it. Stop wasting your precious time.
Paying attention to what you are doing, becoming totally mindful can completely change an experience. Preparing a meal, slicing up fresh garlic, chopping up fresh basil, boiling pasta. It can be a pleasure, a joy. It's an experience. Washing dishes can be an experience. Weeding the garden is an experience. Brushing your teeth can be an experience.
Often we think that ordinary everyday chores are really chores - we label them as such and associate them as being un-enjoyable. But taking a moment to connect with what you are doing, to feel the sensations, to imagine the outcome, to realise it is a privilege to even be able to do what you are doing - you can clean your toilet with vim and vigor and with a hearty smile on your face. Hanging out washing can expose you to the pleasure of being outside, experiencing the sun, listening to the birds, being grateful you have a washing machine and clothes to wash. Even the most dull task can be made enjoyable by finding the appreciation of the moment, being grateful for what you have and / or putting on your favourite music, listening to an audio-book or simply just staying in the moment.
Next time you find yourself doing a chore and feeling resentful about it - stop - for just a moment and see if you can make this a joyful experience. Stop making tasks feel like unavoidable necessary chores. Bring them into the light. Bring them into the space of appreciation.
It might sound like madness - but madness is continuing to do things you don't love.
Love what you do.