All of us are creatures of a day; the rememberer and the remembered alike. – Marcus Aurelius
Work long enough and the moment comes when you must reckon with the reality that all the time and energy you are investing or have invested is for something that will fade away.
Everything you’ve created will eventually be destroyed.
All the things you stress about will cease to matter.
Today’s successes and tomorrow’s failures.
The titles and achievements.
Will be long forgotten.
Every day you push the rock up the hill. Eventually, you get to the place you thought you wanted to be and the rock rolls back down the hill.
You start again.
You push the project up the hill. Then there is another project.
You solve the conflict. Then there is another conflict.
You get the job you desired. Then there is a layoff.
You get a new boss. Same as the old boss.
The hidden paradox is that this recognition isn’t the path to frustration, despair or discouragement, it’s the door to freedom.
You’re probably questioning my sanity but stay with me for a minute.
What is the real source of frustration, despair or discouragement?
Isn’t it in the expectation that all the problems will be solved?
That somehow tomorrow will be different?
That the next job will be the right job?
That this time will be the last time?
At some point, reality has to kick in if you are paying attention.
This is your moment of truth.
You can see things differently, if only for a moment.
Hold on to that moment.
Even though it feels uncomfortable.
Because the key to joyful work –
is found in letting go.
From this new point of view,
the problems feel less threatening.
Competing or comparing less useful.
Complaining less rewarding.
You begin to appreciate your work without being defined by the work.
No need for the work to meet all your needs, bend to your will or conform to your expectations.
You may choose to change your work to better fit your aspirations or personality but without the illusion that this will solve all your problems or make you happy.
Now there is room to experience your work without judgment, expectation, fear or control.
To be honest and vulnerable.
To laugh at the absurdity.
To appreciate others.
And dance with the events that make each day unique.
Enjoying work as simply another part of life’s brief journey.
Now a confession.
I know this will sound morbid.
Sometimes, when I’m in a meeting where people are pulling out their hair over some work-related topic or another,
I think –
“Do you guys realize you’re all going to die?”
It makes me smile.
(Is that weird?)
Sometimes I want to say it out loud.
But of course, I never do.
Not because I wish for anything bad to happen.
But because of how it puts things in a different perspective.
It’s the ultimate reality check.
And from that perspective.
Doesn’t all that thrashing about seem kind of silly?
It seems like maybe we should be able to work this situation out without quite as much hand-wringing and ego-bashing.
Be a little nicer to each other.
Listen a little more.
Reconciled to the reality that this problem,
like all the others,
will soon be lost to time.