Here it is near the end of May and still rainy and cool here in Seattle. This dampens my mood, but it also reminds me how important it is to find a way to appreciate the rain rather than simply wish for sun.
The same could be said with regard to what we do for a living. How many of us claim we have the absolute perfect job? How many wake up each morning and commute to our workplace because there is no place we’d rather go?
I suspect few of us, but that doesn’t mean we hate what we do for a living. We may even enjoy it most of the time. I know I do.
My point is that we alone have the power to draw our attention to whatever it is we want. We can see our proverbial glass as half empty or half full. This is entirely within our power.
Given the state of our current economy, many people feel unappreciated in the workforce. They are working harder than ever, working two jobs, are underemployed, or unemployed altogether. This is a time when seeking to make lemonade seems impossible with these lemons.
Nevertheless, life is far too short to spend time lamenting what we don’t have when there is so much abundance to our lives. If only we could pause and take inventory with an appreciative eye for what we do have.
Consider this time of challenge as a wake-up call to determine what it is you really want out of your life. Is it money or the things and experiences money can buy? Look at all that you’ve acquired during the past year and assess whether they are worth the struggle you face in making your credit card payment each month.
Is the only solution a higher paying job? This is for each of us to answer on our own, of course, but I suspect it is not the case for all.
There are many examples of great companies that are launched during recessions. Perhaps this is a time when each of us should consider launching a new venture as well.
This doesn’t have to mean starting a new business, but it could. It might be learning a new skill, going back to school, pursuing a new hobby, or nurturing a neglected relationship. This could be a time for self-renewal: a time for reinventing yourself so that a recession doesn’t affect your resilience.
When I was in my early forties and out of work, I took time to rediscover who I was and what I really wanted out of my life. I took up the piano and creative writing. I went back to school and earned a master’s degree. I nurtured my relationships. And I changed my career to something that truly resonated with who I am.
This took a great deal of self-discipline and courage, but the pursuit of learning and focusing on what is important to me stays with me to this day.
In her book “Rapt: Attention and the Focused Life,” Winifred Gallagher explains that we should continually engage in activities that arrest our attention and satisfy our soul.
“We’re accustomed to thinking of productivity in terms of career, but if you’re living the focused life, your free time should be just as generative or even more so—particularly if you don’t especially enjoy your work,” says Gallagher. “By actively choosing endeavors that demand your total focus and skillfully using attention to make even inevitable rote chores more engaging, you can blur the distinction between work and play—a hallmark of a focused life.”
The focused life cannot be attained by engaging in passive experiences such as watching television, playing videogames or surfing the internet. It takes self-discipline and it takes mindfulness in everyday life.
Complaining about the clouds that get in the way of our growth is not a solution. In the same way plants and flowers can’t grow with only sun, we must appreciate the abundance in our lives and focus our attention on getting more of what we want.
And as much as we may struggle on these dark, dreary late spring days, we should be mindful of what is really important and make the most of our lives.
Mark Craemer www.craemerconsulting.com