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I Have to Accomplish Something Useful, Is it True?

Last updated on June 11, 2021

City buildings
What would the world be like without the thought, “I need to accomplish something useful?”

It’s Easy to Take this Thought Too Far

The idea of accomplishing is not a bad thing in and of itself. It’s what puts food on the table and a roof over our heads. It’s what motivates creative expression of all kinds. and there’s no doubt about it, accomplishment brings joy in life.

But the mind thinks, “If a little accomplishment is good, then a lot is better.” Typical addictive thinking. It’s never enough.

Attachment to accomplishing makes a roller coaster out of life. When I’m accomplishing, then life is good. When I’m not, life is depressing. There’s no peace in it.

What if Not Accomplishing Was as Important as Accomplishing?

A client recently questioned the thought, “I have to accomplish something useful.” The turnaround, “I have to not accomplish something useful,” was quite helpful in finding the balance point again.

For her, it pointed to making genuine down time as important as productive time. Otherwise, the mind is so focused on accomplishing, that it cannot stop and relax until everything is accomplished! Which of course never happens.

This results in pushing and “powering through” things. And, of course, the mind resists being pushed and drags its feet instead of doing things. But even when the mind gets exhausted from so much pushing, no break time is allowed because the thought, “I have to accomplish something useful” is still active. So the mind races internally, and feels guilty when it takes a break, yet it drags its feet and is not productive when it’s active.

The Key For my Client Was the On/Off Button

What she found was that she was neither fully resting, nor fully engaging in activity. And was stressed all the time. She noticed that machines, like the VCR in front of her, don’t do this. There’s an on/off button. And the machine is either on or off. Not both.

Her take away from The Work session was to fully allow herself to rest when she is not working. To do fun things, easy things, grounding things, entertaining things.

I call it non-productive time for myself. And it is essential that I make room for non-productive time in order to show up fully, without resistance, during work time. In fact, it’s so important that I’m willing to cut back on some of my precious desires of what I want to accomplish in order to keep this balance.

Have a great weekend,

“The belief ‘I have to work’ has never been true; it’s the lie you hold on to so that you can keep yourself from the joy of the gift that you give. No one has to work. No one has ever had to.” Byron Katie, Question Your Thinking, Change The World

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About the author

Todd Smith has been doing The Work of Byron Katie on an almost daily basis since 2007. He is just as excited about this simple process of self-inquiry today as he was when he first came across it. He also enjoys writing about The Work, and training others in the subtleties of this meditative process. Join Todd for The Work 101 online course, private sessions, virtual retreats, and his ongoing Inquiry Circle group.

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