My friend and I have been engaging in dialogue about redefining work and creating a meaningful life in today’s world. We are both independent consultants with very different lives from our peers who work a 9-5 in corporations. More so, we are quite selective about the kind of projects that we choose to get involved in because we think differently about our quality of life. Work is not just about paying bills, but about choosing projects that we believe in and being in spaces where we feel we are able to make meaningful contributions. But even more importantly, it’s about getting projects that create room for flexibility so that we manage our time in a way that allows us to pursue our God given dreams and enjoy a fuller life.
As we explore projects that will fit well with our lives, most of our days look like this: We choose what time we wake up and go to bed; we choose where we have breakfast and where to work from. We plan our week according to our hearts desires and always slot in things we enjoy doing, such as going to book launches, doing research, reading and getting our nails done – This is the life right! 🙂
It is definitely going against the grain and as a result our way of life comes with scrutiny and confusion from people in our lives. When people know you don’t have a project, work a 9 to 5, or run a business, they struggle to understand what you do with your life. When I tell people I am working, I always get the confused response of ‘doing what?’, since I don’t fall in the normal parameters of what is considered ‘working’ or ‘having a job’. People would say to me “You must have a lot of time in your hands, right?” insinuating that I am less productive and don’t know what to do with my time. Sometimes they would even say, “wow, you probably have lots of money then.” Both of these assumptions are not a true reflection of my life. I can understand why people think this way because when I was in corporate I also thought in that same way. Our socialisation has taught us that ‘valid’ work is having a long-term job in a particular institution. Part of the reason I am writing this article is to challenge narrow perceptions of what productivity is and should look like. Often the assumption is that, you have a ‘proper’ job or are more productive if you wake up early, go to an institution and receive income end of the month. Whilst this is great, I challenge that it cannot be the only true voice in a society that is comprised with different kinds of people with various lifestyles.
I believe that we are moving into an era where more and more people are wanting to really do work that fulfills their divine purpose. My friend and I are not trying to go against the norm just because we can, no. Actually, this is a very divine journey for us because despite the opposition we face daily, we remain peaceful knowing that we are grounded spiritually. This journey has made us think differently about work, productivity and money. I say this because the things we do, don’t have immediate tangible pay off benefits. But we have a peace about that because we recognise that what we invest in today will pay out gigantically in future 🙂
I want to end with this note- friends, it’s okay for our lives to look different. We need to be more understanding of other valid forms of working and just appreciate that there are multiple views of what productivity is and should look like and guess what, they all have a right to co-exist!
We are living in very interesting times with so much access to information and amazing progress by mankind. We witness this progress through technological advancements, human rights movements, business expansion, and so much more. Though these are awesome components of our society, one must admit that they also come with a hefty price tag on the soul. What do I mean by this? Well, in my conversations and observations I have noticed that the pursuit for bigger and better things may cause us to undermine the entire human experience.
In a recent conversation I was having with a dear friend of mine we laughed about this; “over romanticising” of a “spectacular end goal”. Our conversation centred around the idea that so often in our generation everyone is overly ambitious and that’s a beautiful thing, but you find that people don’t live in the NOW, they live fixated on their end goal.
It seems like people are saying to themselves “I will only fully start experiencing the whole human journey when I reach this particular milestone in my life” and I think that can be a ‘dangerous’ way to view the world.
It’s dangerous in a sense that, firstly tomorrow is not promised to anyone, we truly don’t know if we will be alive tomorrow. Secondly, we can undermine other very important aspects of our human development like; spiritual growth, social and romantic relationships, health matters, intellectual expansion etc.
Even in the business world we become so focused on waiting for financial year end to celebrate the previous year’s achievements and we often overlook progress in the quick daily wins. Yes, making profit is a spectacular end and the desired outcome of any business, but in pursuit of that, how about taking a pause and applauding things like fostering a great business culture, implementing all the great ideas and projects well, empowering leaders to do their jobs successfully and that the company values are not just words on a wall but that they lived daily by people in the organisation.
In the words of India Arie,
Life is a journey,
Not a destination,
There are no mistakes,
Just chances we’ve taken
Lay down your regrets cause all we have is now
I am by no means discounting long term goal achievement, but I am just advocating that there is a lot of progress that happens daily that we should celebrate.
I am on a journey of realizing that a “de-clustered” life can have tremendous benefits for one’s well-being. This journey was further entrenched by one of the project’s I was working on at work. Now the nature of this project was a bit peculiar; in that usually when corporate’s initiate projects they focus on introducing new systems, new behaviors, new processes and the aim is a complete transformation from the way things are currently done. This project had a simple mandate; and that mandate was let’s do the “right” things we did when starting this business unit.
When our business unit started, the chief architects had an amazing and unique model that worked and turned the organisation into a great success. But somehow, over the years as the business grew with rapid change demands from the business world and in trying to balance making profit and remaining relevant a lot of “undesirable” practices sneaked in.
We found ourselves in a space where people rattled with the “very thing” that was core to us. We acknowledge that we live in a world of fast pace change; but we also recognize that one cannot embrace new changes if we have not clarified the very core of who we are. The project’s objective was a plight of going back to basics and reinforcing processes and behaviors aligned to our core.
This work really touched my life in that I realized that in my own personal journey, I had rattled with my core. I abandoned a lot of basics that had initially made me successful and adopted “foreign” techniques which looked way better equipped to deal with an “ideal modern” woman. But actually, these may have worked for others, but, if I had to truly be honest with myself, they were not working for me. They were not yielding the results I desired. You may ask “what are these basics?” Well allow me to share, they are very simple and to others they may even seem too cliche.
I recall that I would always talk to God about literally everything and I lived my life simply believing that all things will work out for my good. Whether I was addressing a crowd or one person I always spoke from my heart as opposed to speaking from my head. When you speak from your head you often speak intellect and what you think people around you want to hear and sometimes you are not always authentic. I didn’t censor myself too much by making sure that I use bombastic words, I was simple and genuine.
When I did something I was numb to the applause of those around me. My joy & motive was simply passion and love. I really enjoyed every moment with every person in my life. I’m in a space where I am reinforcing most of these basics again in my life.
What are your basics? We all have simple habits that we adopted that made us successful at the things we love doing. I think as we begin 2017 we need to rethink certain basics in our lives. To me, the concept of back to basics is going back to a place of sharpening the saw, a place of refueling when life gets too hectic and a place of reaffirmation about our purposes.