Wash dishes. Sweep the floor. It is not fun, but the work teaches us. Doing the work with commitment transforms us. If we can just do the next right thing – the thing that needs to be done at work, at home, in life – we transform who we are on the inside through the work we do on the outside.
We may enjoy our colleagues. We may feel inspired by our calling. Perhaps we appreciate the opportunity to benefit society in some way. We are thankful for the means to provide for our family.
But nobody really likes work. Which is important to acknowledge because our society tells us if we aren’t enjoying something then something is wrong – either with ourselves or our situation. That isn’t true. Attempting to live your life like that – letting feelings drive the bus, chasing perpetual bliss – is a recipe for suffering.
The value of work – aside from the economic benefit to ourselves and society – is that it reveals something about us; and if we are open and aware, work can be the means by which we develop and hone ourselves.
“A man is worked upon by what he works on. He may carve out his circumstances, but his circumstances will carve him out as well.” – Frederick Douglas
Work provides us the opportunity to identify and strengthen virtues within us: patience, persistence, humility, courage, strength, diligence, poise, self-discipline.
Work is the means by which we are becoming.
You choose. You create what you are becoming by how you approach your work, what you bring to it.
In that sense, what you do for a living doesn’t really matter so much. The work that is there to do may differ but the deeper work is the same. How you do it, and how you let it mold and shape your character – that’s the true value of work.
Wash dishes. Sweep the floor.
Just Do the Next Right Thing
This work of becoming is a daily practice. There is no arriving. It’s in the nature of the doing that we uncover and create the most value. The finished product may be nice. It may be beneficial. But always the work remains.
And we should be happy that this is so. For as long as there is work to be done there is an opportunity for us to continue to learn, to grow, to become the better version of ourselves.
Wash dishes. Sweep the floor. Repeat again tomorrow. This becoming is a joyful practice.
Dr. Sean Smitham, Ph.D. a licensed Clinical Psychologist and family therapist who lives and practices in Spokane, Washington.