Work For or Against Yourself

“You have a choice in every decision whether you work for or against yourself”

-Mitchell Mathews, LCSW

Your life is made-up of work. It took me a long time to get to a point in my life where I accepted this fact. The word work has a negative connotation because many of us show up day in and day out to a job that does not help us grow into who we want to be. People associate work with more effort, less time and bad management. I have a different definition. The purpose of this article is to support those who feel stagnant and help them reach their goals.  

As soon as you wake up in the morning you have a choice, get out of bed or hit the snooze button. Drink a cup of water or drink a cup of soda. Talk to your colleague on the bus or look mindlessly into your phone. Make a true effort to connect with your kids after school or glaze past them.  I can go on forever with the amount of choices each of us makes in just one day. Our life is filled with choices. Choices that will move you a small step forward or make you take a small step back. I had to change my mindset. I can no longer think of every decision I make as a choice. I now think of my daily routine and interactions as work. Work that either supports my growth as a person, or work that leaves me motionless in the void.   

You may be starting to get overwhelmed simply by thinking of all the work you do on a daily basis. I don’t want you to think about all of your work. I only want you to think about what you are doing right now. Narrow your focus, stay within the moment, and concentrate on what you can control. For example right now I am writing this article. It is clearly an example of working for myself. I am not concerned about what I will do after the article or hung up on what happened before I started writing the article. I am only focused on the present. This seems like a simple task, however most of us live with our minds processing power operating at full capacity. We try to control our futures before they happen and rewrite what we’ve experienced in the past. With so much bandwidth of our minds devoted to the past and future we forget to attend to the moment. 

Mindfulness is an evidence-based intervention used to assist people with being more present. Mindfulness is about engaging your senses. By concentrating on more than just the task and stimulating site, hearing, touch, taste and smell, you begin to develop intention in your actions. When I first began practicing mindfulness, it was helpful to start with tasks that are tactile. An example that worked for me was washing the dishes. Before practicing mindfulness, I would be more occupied with avoiding the task completely or worrying about what needed to be done later. Now I focus on being mindful when I do the dishes. I pay attention to the temperature of the water running over my hands, the color of the dishes that I’m holding, the smell of the dish soap filling the kitchen air, and the sound that the water makes splashing into the sink. I left out the sense of taste because I’ve had my mouth washed out with soap in the past, and remember this exercise is about being present in the moment. I have found in my own experience they’re focusing on all the aspects of what I’m doing rather than anything else, gives me a sense of comfort and control. After getting good at using this strategy while washing dishes, I then began applying it to all sorts of activities. Conversations with peers, driving, mowing the lawn, talking to family, and so much more now have purpose. I choose to work for myself not against.  

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