When your work is done

My work is done.jpg

Today’s message is inspired by a photo.

Look at the photo in this message before you read what I write. I want you to come up with your own interpretation, reaction and experience first.  So pause and look at the photo.

What do you notice?
What do you identify with or not?
What story does this image tell you?

Whatever comes up for you is exactly right for you. This is your own inner knowing, not mine. I want you to take note of this and hold onto your experience.

Now let’s add some other food for thought. Of course I am now throwing in my bias. I do this not to persuade nor convince you to think in any way. I simply wish to open your experience to another level.

Just the facts first
I see a bee.  I see a bee and his shadow on a flower bare of pollen. I see another flower bright in the sun, some pollen left.  The sun shines. The bee’s legs are quite swollen with the pollen. His work seems to be done.

Add in some wonder
For a moment I wonder. What is life as a bee like? A bee does the same job every day for his entire life. He never thinks. He never considers whether he is doing a good or bad job. He has no concern about career progression. There is perhaps a bit of competition for the pollen and he has to fight his way in to get his turn when there are other bees around. Again all part of the job done without any awareness whatsoever. So at a certain level we could say the bee is innately programmed to do his job. Not quite a robot but definitely in service as part of the cycle of nature.

More wonder
Hmm…how then are we like and not like bees?  (Yes all this goes through my busy mind looking at this photo. Perhaps you had a similar reaction.)  On one level when we go to work without thinking about what we do we are just like the bee. We do our job, get the tasks done that either someone gives us or our job description requires of us. This can be in paid or unpaid work.

No matter what, we can go about our day’s tasks without a thought about them. I call this ‘worker bee syndrome’.  If I asked you about your day you could tell me what you did. You could tick the boxes. You could demonstrate that you achieved results.

There is more
Yet we as human beings have so much more potential. We have the opportunity to experience our work in other ways. Unlike the bee we can be conscious about our work. We can choose how we go about our work. 

Sometimes choice works to our advantage and sometimes not.  So we might say that our higher level of evolution gives us a challenge. Because we can think about our actions we add another dimension to our work, that the bee probably does not have.

Knowing emotions
We also have the unpredictable element - emotions. We attribute emotions to the bee - e.g. when they buzz loudly at us when interrupted in their work. Yet we are more likely seeing an instinctive reaction than an angry bee who needs some therapy later on down the track. We can attribute things to others without basis.

Our emotions are a factor that affect how we work. Emotional reactions are also a signal. When they are working for us we are motivated, inspired, productive, collaborative etc. When they are working against us we can be defensive, blaming, attacking.  Both are real. Both are experiences in all of us because we are human. The degree however varies.

Knowing self
What is the varying factor? Self awareness. Knowing when you are affected by your emotions gives you an extra level of opportunity for self management, self control (e.g. emotional intelligence). So unlike the bee we can get angry, look at why we are angry and then work with the anger to change our response or do something about what makes us angry.  Anger at work is not a pretty experience, right?  In the bee world it wouldn’t be either.

But what about some positive emotions?  Bees do not really get any of that but we sure do. They do look like they are having a good time. We can have fun, enjoy what we do, feel satisfaction and pleasure out of achievement and contribution.  For us there is the extra layer.

Rising above
Yet even more divergent is our ability to rise above the macro task level analysis of our work to the macro. Bees literally can fly up and see the lay of the land.  We can too in a way. Yet I imagine they are simply looking for the next flower, not planning a strategy for developing a field of daisies.

We however can contemplate the context within which we work. We can consider the bigger perspective, the interrelationships, the long and short term aspects. So much is possible simply in our ability to be consciously aware.

Yet it is about balance
As I look at this photo I think about the impact we each have in our work. We each are contributing in our own way. We each have a role to play. If we don  do not do our work, someone else has to pick up the slack. If we do too much, we wear ourselves out and again someone else has to take over.  Getting the balance is right. We have choices and we can think about our actions.

So I look at the bee.  He knows innately when his work is done. He knows when he has enough pollen on his legs and it’s time to move on.  What he does not know is the impact and contribution he made in the work he did do.  We however know this. We can finish our work, stop for a moment and contemplate our contribution. We can look at the difference we make through our presence in the jobs we do.  

When we are in balance we do enough, not too little and not too much.  We make an impression that counts and then we get on with the next lot of work.

If a bee had a navel maybe he would gaze
We could get up and go to work and think I just have this one task to do today.  Or we could get up and go to work and reflect. Wow look at what I have done already, look at the amazing experiences I have had, the contribution I have made.  I have learned a lot and I have also done a lot.  My journey is one that made a difference.

The bee could do this too. Let’s imagine for a moment the bee could do this. What would he notice?  He might realise that if it were not for his work the garden he is flying around in would not be flowering. He might realise that the crops in the field would not be bearing produce. He might actually be inspired to keep going knowing that his role is in fact an important one. And perhaps our little bee might look around. He might notice that he is not alone in his work. For he is a member of a group. He could not do it all by himself. He works with others to build and create.

Your work
Is it possible then that you are doing work in this world that if not done would leave a gap, an empty space? Perhaps your contribution is at some level making the difference down the track to a company, a family, a project, or even your own self.  You don’t know when you are flying around focused just on the task at hand. It takes reflection, contemplation and a moment of consciousness to see that you are more than what you do.

I wonder then how I am consciously going about in my life making a difference. I wonder as well how you are doing the same. Where are you leaving an impression where you once were? Where are you creating impact, responding to change, dealing with uncertainty?  Where are you making positive choices and channeling your emotional energy into creative and constructive ways?

An invitation to the next level
All this message is here for is to invite you to reflect. Now go back to your experience from above. Instead of looking at the photo visualise yourself doing the work you do and ask yourself:

What do you notice?
What do you identify with or not?
What story does this image tell you?

Then let me know what you get if you feel inspired to do so.

Feedback welcome!
Over to you. I would love to hear from you on how you got on with the above. Please feel free to send me a note or connect with me further.


Jenn Shallvey