“When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left but could say, ‘I used everything you gave me.’” Erma Bombeck
Spending ourselves in service of something we truly care about and find soul-satisfying – what greater feeling of fulfillment can there be? What better way to work? And yet, so often we forget that it’s the act of doing this, of working hard, the act of achieving that is the real reward – the real joy. It’s the journey not the destination – how true this is!
Consider these words of wisdom from a powerful action guide I’m reading: The Practicing Mind: Developing Focus and Discipline in Your Life by Thomas M. Sterner:
“The real joy lies in creating and sustaining the stamina and patience needed to work for something over a period of time. Like swimming across the lake toward the large tree, we focus on each moment of our effort toward the object, acknowledging the object to ourselves only occasionally to maintain our energy and direction. When the time to actually acquire it comes, we have generated a tremendous amount of energy. We have earned the privilege to acquire the object, and that acquisition is the culmination of our entire process: the discipline, the work, the restraint, the patience. Finally we hold it in our hands….
“So many people miss this point. They look at the process of working for something as an annoying effort they have to go through to get what they want. They make the thing the goal instead of the process of getting the thing. Just getting the thing produces a very small return of inner joy compared to the dividends gleaned form the process of getting there and achieving the goal. The key word here is achieving. Getting the goal and achieving it are worlds apart….
“When you make a decision to acquire something whose acquisition will require a long-term commitment, pick the goal and then be aware that you are entering the process of achieving the goal. You cannot do this if you constantly make the end result your point of focus. You have acknowledged the goal; now let go of it and put your energy into the practice and process that will move your toward that goal.”
What a great message for us all to take to heart in our work and our lives: Real joy and true satisfaction come from achieving, not acquiring. Write on!