Oftentimes we talk about our careers as destinations - places we're trying to get to. We assume that when we get that job, that promotion, or make that much money, that then our lives will start. Then we'll finally be able to be the people we're truly meant to be.
As seductive as this outlook is, it's one that will only keep you trapped and unhappy, even if you're in a job you thought you always wanted. If you're in this mindset, then what you're doing today will never be good enough, because it's not where you think you're supposed to be by now. You'll live your life in the future, constantly seeking what's "out there" for you while you miss every present moment - moments that used to be in the future.
We all know that tomorrow isn't guaranteed. Your life, my life, all of our lives could end before you even finish reading this sentence. I don't say that to scare anyone or to make you feel depressed, I say it only to highlight the need for living your best life right now, not half-assing today because you think it's just a means of getting to tomorrow.
Now, living like the world is ending isn't sustainable, either. A healthy balance requires savoring each present moment like it could be your last but also trusting that you have to continue walking your path, which requires some planning and won't always be glamorous.
If I knew that my life was ending soon (which, when you think about it, it is) and I had one more workday left, that day would include the five key elements below:
Making the day sacred. I open my workdays with a meditation and grounding exercise, which sets the kind of sacred tone that I want to infuse my life with. I light a candle before I write these posts and ask that these words bless the lives of those reading them in some small way. We miss out on so many opportunities for growth and peace when we show up to our desks frazzled from our morning commute or totally depleted from a lack of sleep the night before. We go through the grind, watch the clock, and leave the office without any reflection on what happened that day. Instead of going through each day as though it's just this thing that you have to get through, try to make it sacred somehow. You could make it sacred by expressing gratitude on your morning commute, breathing deeply before you start working on a project, or holding quick opening and closing ceremonies to start and end your days. Your work - no matter what it is - can simply be sacred because a) you say it is, and b) because you treat it as such.
Slowing down. There is so much urgency in our worklives. We think we need information, products, or services immediately, when really, there aren't many things in life that are actually urgent. On my last workday ever, I want to slow down. I want to stop feeling rushed by demands that can wait. I want to slow down so that I can have more of element #3...
Staying present. If today was my last workday, I would be more present. I would savor each moment, each email, each call or meeting. I would really look at everything instead of just trying to get through things as quickly as possible. I would be absolutely present with each of my clients and give them the loving, total attention that they deserve. If you've ever been truly present in your work, then you know how amazing it feels - it's like time stops, and you can see things as they actually are.
Creating beauty. Surrounding myself with beauty during my workday is really important to me and is something I've mentioned in other posts before. If today was all I had left, I would add some extra color to that Excel spreadsheet, or use my pink gel pen instead of that tired old black one. I'd try to bring a little more vibrance and beauty to my day, just because I love to be around it.
I would protect the work that's most important to me. There are constantly opportunities to set aside the work that really matters to us. Just the other day, I had blocked out some quiet time to prepare for a training I was giving and received an urgent request from a client right before I was about to start. Old me probably would have sacrificed my quiet prep time to attend to this issue, even though it wasn't actually urgent, but present-day me has been through this before. I decided that I wasn't willing to compromise the quiet time I needed to prepare for a training that was really important to me. I let the client know that our call would have to wait, and it turned out to be totally fine - I was well-prepared for my training, and my client got my full, undivided attention a day later. We have to learn to protect the work that matters to us, because no one else will do it for us.
How does it make you feel to consider the fact that this could be your last workday ever? How would your work change if today is all you have? Your answers to these questions depend largely on whether or not your work feels aligned with who you are or like a misuse of your gifts.
Even if you love your work, how would it change if you were present moment by moment instead of just "going through the motions"?
My guess is that it would become work that is sacred. It would be sacred simply because you were really and truly present while doing it.
Know someone who's just "mailing it in"? Consider sending this to them!
P.s.: I have a little surprise coming to readers on January 19th...stay tuned!