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The Daily Grind: Take Out The Stress, Discover The Joy

Submitted by Debbie Kenefick | RSS Feed | Add Comment | Bookmark Me!

If you suffer stress from the tedium of boring, repetitive, and meaningless work, then it’s time you changed your attitude. Simply by seeing work as adventure, service, ritual, self-expression, and meaningful, you can transform the very nature of the daily grind.

1. Work as Adventure. Many people might laugh at you if you suggested that a humdrum job could become an adventure. But here are three ways you can turn every day of working life into one of surprise and discovery. Make it…

• a challenge, in which you create our own targets. "I'm going to be the best cocktail-maker in town."; "I want to complete the dish-washing in the fastest time."

• learning, in which you develop your curiosity about the job, how things are made and work, as well as trying out new skills to see if the job can't be done in a better way.

• a game, in which you create interest and fun by injecting a new twist into the job, such as the bartender who took to compiling lists of barstool bores.

When work is seen as an adventure, with new things to explore and learn, you’ll look forward to Monday mornings with a new-found spirit of wonder.

2. Work as Service. Much of the stress we experience in the workplace originates from an excessive pre-occupation with ourselves and others with whom we work. Some of the particularly strained relationships we can experience arise out of...

• internal politicking

• departmental rivalries

• poor or mismanaged relationships

• game-playing

• bad supervision and management of people.

While these situations are not solved overnight, we can make major changes in how we see them and how we feel when we shift our perceptions from an internal to an external focus, from ourselves to others, from those we work with to those we work for. Then work ceases to be about us and our survival and becomes an act of service.

3. Work as Ritual. When we see work as ritual, no matter how mundane it may be, it is lifted into something more meaningful. We do it not for the rewards but for its own sake. It is like the Zen Buddhist monk who sweeps the snow from the monastery steps even while it is snowing - simply because it is snowing.

• when we see work as ritual, it becomes absorbing

• when we see work as ritual, the minutest details are as valuable as the grandest gestures

• when we see work as ritual, we connect with it, become part of it, are joined in the rhythm of it

• when we see work as ritual, we develop a natural pace and flow and go with it as in a dance.

“The best work is done without strain, as if we had no goal in mind.”

4. Work as Self-Expression. When we perform routine work, we have the choice whether to see it as a chore and a means to an end or to turn it into something special. When work is made special, it becomes an art form: a way of putting on theatre; a form of self-expression. This can apply to the way we make a slab of pizza dough, to the way we stack supermarket shelves, to the way we take care of the school hall. No matter how repetitive and routine, each act can have our own distinctive stamp on it.

"I don't like work - no man does - but I like what is in work: the chance to find yourself, your own reality - for yourself, not for others - what no other man can ever know." (Joseph Conrad)

5. Work as Meaningful. Much of the stress of routine work comes from not knowing -- or seeing -- the results of our efforts. Warren Bennis is professor of management at the University of Southern California in San Diego, a particularly parched part of the state. Every day when he goes in to work, he notices the beautifully-kept lawns and flower beds and wonders: “Does anyone ever thank the gardeners for lifting our spirits?” When we know what our work does for others, whether routine or creative, we get a glimpse of our significance in the bigger scheme of things.

Marilyn Ferguson says that we can transform the stress and boredom of our daily work by changing our attitude. "New attitudes change the very experience of daily work. Work becomes a ritual, a game, a discipline, an adventure, learning, even an art as our perceptions change. The stress of tedium and the stress of the unknown, the two causes of work-related suffering are transformed. A more fluent quality of attention allows us to move through tasks that once seemed repetitious or distasteful. We see that meaning can be discovered and expressed in any human service: cleaning, teaching, gardening, carpentry, selling, caring for children, driving a taxi."

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