A friend recently posted a quote on Facebook from Albert Einstein that said "try not to be a person of success, try rather be a person value."
This really resonated with me because for the past few years I have focused on how I can be successful, and that has worked well for me. Where it has stopped to work well is when I start to focus on small little tasks that I can consider successes. I've noticed that there are lots of ways that I can keep myself busy and avoiding my big work. Things like updating Facebook, clearing email, responding to texts. These can all seem productive and important in the moment, and they are great ways to distract myself from doing bigger creative work.
The author Stephen Pressfield in his book The War of Art talks about "Resistance" that we have to creative work. He says the more new and challenging a project is the greater our Resistance will be to it. In Buddhism they say aversion is equal to desire. The more that we tend to avoid something the greater our desire is to go towards it.
I notice this in myself right now because I am beginning my most in-depth teaching project yet. Each time I begin to lean towards creating content for that program I find myself more interested in doing small menial tasks to keep myself busy and avoiding the uncomfortable new work. Basically, I am choosing the familiar small discomfort over the bigger unknown discomfort.
The catch is: avoiding the task I really want to do, over time, creates way more discomfort and pain then just doing the work when it naturally arose the first time.
So I filled up my journal with small successes like clearing my inbox or responding to all of my texts yet the greater, deeper, more meaningful work that I believe I am here to do has been left undone.
I am just beginning to come out of this spot of being stuck and realizing that the missing piece was focusing on value rather then success.
When I focus on value I am immediately thinking about how my actions now impact myself and others. Now and in the future.
The more I have thought about it I have realize there are at least three ways that I can focus on creating value for others.
1. Ask someone how I can help them.
It seems almost too simple, or obvious, and it really is. The quickest and most direct way to create value for others to ask someone how I can help them. In the case of my example it would be asking a student who is interested in the program why they are interested in the program and how it can be of service to them. Another example is I could ask them what's happening for them in their practice in their life right now that they could use support with and focus on being of value in the moment. For you, it might be as simple as asking a friend how they're doing and what they're working on and if they could use some support with it. A little bit goes a long way, and when you reflect on your day, that moment of being of service will likely stand out as something to be grateful for and something memorable rather then just spending that time checking email or Facebook.
2. Make something I wish existed
Steve Jobs said that Apple only creates things that they wish existed. When we create from that place we are automatically serving a need and very likely serving a need that others have as well. Again, to use my example I have been a part of many great mentoring programs and noticed that there were some things that I would like to see included and improved upon based on bringing together different practices that I've studied, so I created that. Often creating something new is just a permutation of something that worked well before and could be improved upon, it doesn't have to be grandiose, it can be simple.
3. Make a list
When in doubt, make a list. Lists are more than just ways to organize a list of tasks, I find them to be very therapeutic and cleansing for when my mind is over active and overwhelmed. Any kind of list can be helpful, and in this context I am referring to a list of ways to create value. This is something that I have gotten into the habit of since reading this quote. Simply write "Value" at the top of the blank sheet of paper and begin to write out all the ways that you can create value today. Put a star next to the ones that have the most sensation behind them, or that you feel most inspired to focus on today. It could be just one or several. I suggest focusing on doing one at a time rather than trying to do them all. If you complete one, come back to the list and do another.