What is the basis for human striving? Security? Happiness? Contentment?
These terms all mean something different to everyone. They’ve become so watered down, so overused, that you might as well just scrap them and use something else.
Might I propose “Work”?
And, not just any definition of Work. David Allen’s Getting Things Done definition of Work.
The definition goes: Work is anything in your world that you want or need to be different than it is.
This gets around the expectation that happiness will fall into your lap at a chosen waypoint. It undermines the expectation that the universe owes you anything. It keeps you from fruitlessly seeking through field and byre for contentment. It puts the ways and the means of fulfillment entirely in your hands.
Thinking about Work
Right off the top of my head I can think of some little things I want to change, (I want to do more yoga) and some big things (I want to feel more accomplishment and control in my work). One is just as much my Work as the other.
Now the thing about Work is that work is there to be done. If it weren’t, we’d call it a goal, or an aspiration. The very fact that you can define it as Work and put it under your control makes it attainable.
Let’s say that I want to make my footprint on the planet smaller. Maybe I’ll downgrade my house. Maybe I’ll carpool exclusively. Maybe I’ll reduce our trips to town to once a month. Maybe I’ll do none of those things, and instead focus on making locally-grown, fresh food and staples available to all my neighbors. You do the Work that’s yours to do. And you don’t worry about Work that isn’t yours.
Don’t Think Big
Ever worked on a “big” project? That’s a lot of pressure, isn’t it? Suddenly the most mundane decisions took on enormous import. Why? Was it factors of scale? Prestige? Was it really a stretch project, or did focussing on how ‘big’ it was simply blow it out of proportion?
There are not very many “big” jobs. Your perspective is just too far out. As you get closer, you’ll see the distinct pieces. I have a ‘big’ construction project to do this year. It’s the first masonry project I’ve ever done. It needs a big crew. It needs heavy equipment, and good weather. That’s a lot of moving parts. But each of those moving parts is Work in and of itself. It’s not too unwieldy when you get closer. It breaks up into distinct stages, each with it’s own challenges and procedures, but none of them are undoable.
We’re Raised to Work
I don’t know about you, but I can work like a motherfucker, if I know exactly what I’m doing and why. I bet you can too. To have Work to do is almost a relief. It’s tangible, and more importantly, it’s doable. It might be hard to figure out what the most important Work is, but we can all figure out some kind of Work to do to make our lives a little bit better.
Let’s get to Work.