Everyone has tasks they simply hate to do, whether it’s visiting a difficult relative or sorting out the accounts at the end of each month. These necessary but not particularly pleasant chores can eat away at our well being and spiritual calm, sitting in the back of your mind, flashing a giant “all is not well until you’ve….” sign. Fortunately, there are some simple, spiritual ways to learn to love the tasks you love to hate.
“It’s not fair!” “Why do I always have to do it?” “How come it’s my job?” “I’ve got better things to be doing.” If you’re feeling put upon or resentful about having to do something, you’re giving that task far more power over you than it would ordinarily have. Look at how it’s impacting upon your thought patterns. Ask yourself honestly how much time you spend actively trying to avoid what you must do, or getting angry about it, or trying to put it off. The fact is that some choice or choices you made previously in your life have put you in a position where you now must do this dreaded thing. If it’s difficult family members – well, you chose your partner. If it’s the ever increasing pile of laundry – well, you chose to let it pile up to this point. Getting rid of the “it’s not fair” mentality and simply accepting that you got yourself here is a hugely powerful key to releasing resentment. You’ve made your present. Accept it with good grace and the tasks you hate will have far less power over you.
Contradictory though it may sound, try to really focus on doing your hated task to the absolute best of your ability. If you have to spend time with someone you’d rather not see, go out of your way to be helpful, charming, upbeat and positive. If you have to do a difficult piece of work, be thorough with it and set yourself a target of completing it better than you ever have before. Even something as simple as sorting out household chores can be done with mindfulness and attention to detail. Routine tasks can also be an opportunity for meditation and reflection while you work. Don’t do a slapdash job and get it over with quickly. Turn your task into something that you can proud of when you’ve finished.
There must be a reason why you’re completing this task in the first place – otherwise, since you loathe it so much, you’d just choose to not do it. There is some pay off in there somewhere, even if it’s well hidden. So why are you writing that report, doing the housework, filing the tax return, making that call or spending time with that person? It’s a step towards a larger goal, that’s why. For the above examples, the long term, unspoken goal might be seeking career advancement, keeping your family healthy, staying on the right side of the law, resolving a niggling problem or promoting family harmony. All of these things are important and if you can remember the important, long term goal onto whose timeline the nightmare task fits, then you’ll be much better placed to approach the job with a positive attitude – and positivity breeds serenity.
Similarly, most tasks offer benefits to people other than ourselves when they’re completed – or at least, they can be made to. A clean house benefits your family; a great job at work reflects well on your team or your boss as well as yourself; a visit with a cranky relative benefits the whole family. If accepting, focusing and remembering why are still not helping you face the job at hand with a smile, try stepping outside yourself for a moment. Think carefully about who will be blessed by your completion of this irritating job. Send out love and good wishes to this person even (especially) if you’re not particularly fond of them. Then begin your task with a new mindset; you’re not doing it for yourself now, it’s become a service to others and to the cosmos.
Gratitude is a very, very powerful emotion. Next time you feel angry or irritated at having to do something, remind yourself how fortunate you are to have to do it. Really. If your father in law is a pain, remind yourself of how blessed you and your partner are that he is still with you. If you have to file a tax return, remind yourself how fortunate you are to be making money. Dishes to wash? You’re fortunate to have plenty of food and a comfortable home to eat it in. You’ve got to go to the dentist? How lucky you are that you’re able to provide good health care for yourself. You get the idea. There is almost nothing in life that doesn’t remind us, in one way or another, how blessed we are, no matter what our own personal circumstances. If you can turn that hated task on its head and use it as a reminder of the good things in your life, you’ll find yourself approaching it with a much more spiritual frame of mind – and you might even start to enjoy it!