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The Difference Between “I Love The Work” and “I Need The Work”

Last updated on March 28, 2022

A stressful thought for a bee might be, “I have to get the whole orchard done.”

How to Make Anything Stressful

When I first read Byron Katie’s book, Loving What Is, I found The Work to be fascinating. I could hardly put the book down. I wanted to do it. And after many years of doing The Work consistently, I still find it fascinating. I’m still not bored of it. I really love it.

But here’s how to make it suck.

Tell yourself that you need to get rid of all your stressful thoughts. That you need to keep doing The Work until your mind is completely peaceful, and stays that way permanently. Tell yourself that you need to work through ALL of your issues. And that The Work is the only way to be happy.

Suddenly The Work Becomes Bondage

Under the influence of these binding ideas, you toil like a slave doing your work. You whip yourself and push yourself to get your work done. The Work itself becomes an added stress in your life. And you resent it. You resent that you are still so far from peace.

It’s so ironic.

Doing The Work in this way gives the exact opposite experience. Instead of peace, you get more misery. And soon you may be tempted to give up. But if you’re die-hard you don’t, you slave on in service to your hope.

Who Would You Be Without These Long-Term Hopes?

Who would you be doing The Work without the story of some final redemption? Who would you be doing The Work without the idea of permanent peace? Without the “I have to”? Without the “I need to”?

For me, it becomes pure exploration. Fun. I love catching myself. Busting my own myths. Looking at things from new angles. Who cares if I see every angle, or not! The ones I do see are enough.

It’s enough that my life is more peaceful than it was. It’s enough that little bits of peace keep coming as I continue to do my work.

Without a Goal, I am Free

I don’t have to do The Work. There is no time pressure to get it all done before I die. There is no slavery. No desperation.

Suddenly, the sun comes out again. The birds start singing. And I’m just buzzing along happily from flower to flower enjoying every bit of nectar that I find.

This leaves me grateful, even with all my imperfection. For me, this is more peaceful than yearning for the impossible.

Have a great week,

“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

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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