When you hear the word work what comes to mind? Does it bring up positive or negative emotions? I know work is a good thing. It is how we impact the world and deploy our gifts both for our benefit and that of others. Yet my first response is negative. Work feels hard. And heavy. In an ideal world, maybe I’d rather have a life of leisure. But would I really?
Last year, we moved to Florida. I relish the warm winter and nearby beaches. And the dry season also means much less lawn work. Grass doesn’t grow fast without rain.
But this week, the yard needed attention. On Monday, I considered heading out to the garage, wheeling out the lawnmower, and taking the grass down a few inches. But that day and for the rest of the week, I found good reasons to avoid it. Yardwork didn’t sound fun. Laziness was the real cause of my hesitancy.
But other more subtle factors often keep us from taking up our life’s work with enthusiasm.
“The dictionary is the only place that success comes before work.” ― Vince Lombardi
Pushing Past Fear and Doubt
All work is speculative—even working the drive-through at a fast food restaurant. We put in our time first, and then we get paid. It’s a slight risk, but given recent bank failures, it is a real one.
We thrive on certainty, and doubt about outcomes opens room for worry, which saps our energy and creativity. If we aspire to have a positive impact on others, we assume more risk than average. We dig deep to uncover treasures we can share with others, and we hope others will receive our gifts with gratitude. Will they find value in our work?
Fear: It’s Not What You Think
We are clever. Too clever for our good. Our ingenious excuses keep us from facing our fear and doing the work.
What do I want to achieve with my project? I sometimes feel my intentions are clear when they are, in fact, confused. I discover this when I become weary from trying many different things but seeing no results. I chase one tactic after another. Maybe this one will give me a breakthrough. But the breakthrough doesn’t come because I’m chasing my tail rather than a clear goal.
Sharing our ideas can feel precarious. If we are not vigilant, fear will silence us. The impact we desire is on the other side of fear, so we must push past it in hope.
Managing anxiety is hard work. All the emotional labor we invest in our projects can cause us to overvalue them. We know we are off track if we feel resentment when our work goes unnoticed.
Our longing for recognition of our creative and emotional labor is why so many of us quit too soon to succeed in starting a business, building a platform, or launching a writing career. We give up because the payoff seems too small to justify our investment.
Faith: The Way Out
Hope is the idea that my work might have the result I envision. Faith goes beyond hope and says, “This will have impact, because God has called me to create it.” Perhaps the effect will not be what I intend, but with faith, we know everything has a purpose.
Faith looks past our daily challenges and tethers us to a level of stability found only in the spiritual realm.
Perhaps our most challenging work is to answer the question, “What do I really want?” It is even more difficult without confidence that we have a purpose and the gifts we need to live a life that fulfills it.
But seeing a bigger, more enduring purpose for our lives lets us ask big questions and trust that God will help us find answers. We can be at peace even when the clarity takes time to arrive.
Faith gives us the certainty that our work matters. There is no need to hurry. Rather than looking around for immediate validation from others for our half-baked ideas, we can develop them and share them when we are resilient enough to receive constructive feedback.
The brittle ego accompanying impatience gives way to a more peaceful, objective perspective when we allow faith to inform our inner world. With confidence, we have stability—a foundation for daily progress.
But even with clarity and patience, there will be times of doubt. Sometimes our work seems ineffective, and we labor in obscurity while we hold on to faith. When success does not appear, we tear our eyes off the success metrics we cherish and pay close attention to the work. We look for ways to improve our craft, connect more deeply with others, and develop self-discipline.
With persistence, it is impossible to fail unless we fail to learn. We must keep moving, receiving feedback from those we serve, and improving our work. A tipping point will come, or a new insight will provide a more effective method to make an impact.
Doing the Work
Maybe you need to push past the fear that holds you captive. The only way past fear is through faith. While fear is never absent in my work, I have become more trusting over the past few decades. I can see the hand of God at work in my life. Perhaps it is time to see beyond your circumstances.
Or it may be time to discover what you really want from life and use patience and persistence to see it through.
It didn’t take much faith to believe the yard would look better after I mowed the grass today. But persistence was necessary. Sweat ran into my eyes. Dust made me sneeze, but I kept going. It felt good to finish.
Face your fear and push forward. You will be glad you did.
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