Ease (noun): The absence of difficulty or effort; simplicity.
One day, in later life, I found myself on the acupuncture table exhausted from a thrown out back. As I lay there, I worried about all of the productive work time I was losing. Imetai, my acupuncturist must have sensed my escalating heart rate. He knew how much I love my work and had observed my constant cycle of exhaustion and recovery.
By this stage in life, I had adopted an approach as a business owner I call “doing whatever it takes to do the job well.” My father ran a one-person legal practice in the town where I grew up. He loved his work and he loved us. It was not uncommon for him to come home from work, have dinner, spend some quality time with us, and then go back to work until late at night.
Imetai helped me to unpack this inter-generational work approach when he asked: What if you chose ease over difficulty in order to do good work in the world? What would ease look like for you? His question lodged itself in my mind like a seed in fertile soil. And it grew. Eventually the answers came, slowly and clearly:
I would no longer take on demanding projects just to prove to myself and others that I’m great at this work.
I would only take on projects that draw on my “superpower” talents and interests, avoiding less enjoyable territory.
I would choose clients I believe share my values, see me as a true partner, and are committed to doing the work.
I would work closer to home — plane travel would become the exception, rather than the rule.
The question Imetai asked me three years ago disrupted the deeply embedded script within me about what it takes to do good work. Today, I work with greater ease. But I still battle with the impulse to bear down, work harder, and get things perfect. It’s hard to undo old habits.
Still, on my best days I am intentional about seeking what I’ve come to call my “sweet spot” – spending my time in ways that maximize contribution and ease. I do this by applying two “tests” before I make commitments:
Test 1: Contribution
Is my desire to say “yes”– to make an affirmative commitment driven by…
… the possibility of making a meaningful impact / contribution?
… not scarcity and fear?
… not ego and self-ambition?
Test 2: Ease
Does this allow me to use my current strengths and physical resources in ways that I will find ease and joy in the work?
Sometimes we must do what is difficult because it is required of us. It’s part of being an adult and a true leader. However, I recognize that much of what has driven me in the direction of “difficult” has been limiting beliefs about what it takes to “succeed” colliding with fear and ego. This is something I’m working to change.
How do you connect with this idea of choosing a path of greater ease and contribution over the default beliefs of “easy, relaxing, spacious must mean I’m not working hard enough?”
Image credit: Artak Petrosyan on Unsplash