October 8th, 2013
Reflecting on some recent interactions got me to thinking—We have become a nation of laborers.
We love to labor. We are busy, busy, busy, doing, doing, doing.
When we face a big challenge or a difficult situation, we labor. We cancel vacation, skip lunch, work through the weekend, and stay late to solve the problem, put out the fire, accomplish the result, fix it.
To succeed, we labor. We strive, do whatever it takes, put in the hours, persevere, expend blood, sweat, and tears—no pain no gain!
And our heads are filled with all the things we need to, have to, should, and must do. We even do things to force ourselves to get motivated!
We believe that doing, forcing – laboring – brings results. I wondered – what if we approached our work and life as a labor of love? Here are stories of those who took the labor of love challenge.
- A stay-at-home mom dreaded bathing her two year old. Forcing her child to take the bath, scolding her child for making a mess, and mopping up afterward made bath time a labor. When she made the bath a labor of love, she took the opportunity to enjoy being with her toddler. They splashed, giggled, and squealed with delight. Bath time became an anticipated event and cleanup became a joyful reminder of quality time with her daughter.
- A runner realized she’d lost the enjoyment of running. She had to motivate herself to run and force herself to run great distances. She criticized her performance, continually pushing herself to do better. When she chose to run as a labor of love, she went back to her original routine—enjoying the sights and smells of nature as she ran through parks, enjoying the landscaping, and seeing kids play and adults chat as she ran through neighborhoods. Running became fun again, effortless. She looked forward to it and started running marathons.
- The sales and production team at a firm that publishes several monthly magazines found it hard to meet their sales targets and production deadlines and they struggled financially. Their mantra: You get burned out in this business. You finish a magazine and move on to the next. Your work is never done. They celebrated hard work and tried to motivate themselves to work harder. When they changed their approach to a labor of live, instead of producing thousands of magazines, they made a difference in the lives of those who read the articles, attended the events listed in the calendar, and utilized the products and services that were advertised. Instead of selling ads, they helped their advertisers grow their businesses and fulfill their dreams. Instead of increasing sales by a certain percent, they were of highest service and in return received dollars, which they used to pay the team for their talents and contributions, who in turn spent their earnings on who and what they loved. They no longer NEEDED to make a sale or a deadline. They were inspired to make a difference and contribute the livelihood, education, well-being, and joy of others. Exhaustion turned into energy and creativity. Struggle turned into flow and survival turned into thriving.
Deadlines, needing to or having to do something, and making a particular number are, in and of themselves, not inspiring. They are about doing. Not about being.
We get inspired by helping others so I could get inspired by working together to meet a deadline or to achieve a number – maybe once, twice, or three times. Meeting deadlines month after month and year after year becomes a burden and uninspiring if the objective is just to meet a deadline or make a number.
I become inspired and achieve significant results when my goals are meaningful, when I truly know that I am being of service, contributing, making a difference, helping – when I do what I love and love what I do.
What’s your M.O.? Love of labor or labor of love?
I invite you to take the Labor of Love Challenge:
- Notice when you are operating from a love of labor—when you are in a state of force, trying to motivate yourself or others, in the need to/have to/must mode.
- Change it to a labor of love – Wonder what difference you are making, how you could help, how you could make it fun.
See what happens.