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Adding Some Grace To My Workflow

As a photographer, I recognize and appreciate grace in nature, but I don’t always adopt a graceful way of living.

What Is Grace?

I recognize grace in nature as beauty, balance, and harmony. The grace of a flower lies in its seemingly effortless natural growth. All the parts are connected to one another and work well with one another. It is inspiring to witness.

Compare that to the way I sometimes work at my computer. I am pushing myself to hurry up. I am focused only on what I have not yet done. And I am not adjusting to the natural evolution of my day. I’m trying to superimpose order on my day instead of allowing a natural order to direct me.

This Came to my Attention Working with a Client

She noticed that around 2:30 PM in her work day, she felt kind of empty inside. It had overtones of sadness and anger but the predominant feeling was emptiness. I could relate immediately.

As we looked for the stressful thought to question, it became clear that she was viewing her work that day as not good enough. The thoughts were, “I have not completed what I needed to complete,” and “I haven’t moved fast enough,” and “I wasted time with someone on the phone,” and “I should have more done.”

We questioned, “I have not completed what I needed to complete.” And as she did her work, I found myself doing my work too.

It's Amazing What a Difference a Little Pushing Makes

When I’m believing that I haven’t completed what I needed to complete, no matter how hard I have been working, I feel empty and sad and frustrated inside. I want to give up. It’s as if I’m only okay if I get things done. I can only relax when my job is done.

Granted, this kind of work ethic has served me in many ways. But there’s a balance needed. When I believe that I must get a job done (or an endless string of jobs), then I push myself to go faster. I rush. I am tense. And I am way less graceful.

Grace Comes In When I Stop Pushing

I could see it clearly as I worked with my client. What drains me is not my work, which I love, but the way I push myself when working. And what causes the pushing? A thought like, “I need to complete this today.” And its cousin-brother “I need to do a really good job.” 

Without these thoughts, I am grace itself. I am at play with my work. I am excited to see how it unfolds. It’s full of surprises. And ironically, I am much more effective because I am being pulled into my work instead of pushing myself into it.

I've Been Experimenting with this Living Turnaround

How do I live the idea that “I am moving fast enough”? How do I live the idea that “I’m completing what I need to be completing”? 

For me, it has been a subtle shift of how I hold myself when I work. My reference is not with the end goal, but with the job itself.

Accomplishing Is More Rare

I noticed that the feeling of “accomplishing” only happens once in a while, when a project comes to a close. It’s a nice feeling, but I cannot expect that to be the norm of my work day. Maybe 5% of time I can experience that. I can’t base my living on that alone.

So instead of holding onto that feeling of accomplishment, or hurrying to get to the next one, my client and I both found the value of a more meditative approach to work. An approach where the hum-drum of work becomes as pleasant as the sense of accomplishment at the end. 

This is what I mean by adding a little grace to my workflow. If I’m doing a mundane task, how can I move with it like a dance? Can I feel the smoothness of flow as I work? 

This in itself is a beautiful experience. It is the way flowers grow. It leaves me connected with myself and connected to my work. I can think of no better word to describe this way of working than “grace.” With grace, even boring prose feels like poetry.

Can You Find Some Grace in Your Hum-Drum?

It’s all in how you hold the job. When I push, my grace evaporates. When I stop pushing, grace emerges and surrounds me while doing the most menial task. 

So what makes you push yourself? For me, it was a thought like, “I have not completed what I needed to complete.” When I question it, I see how well I’m doing, and how much I am accomplishing. There is no lack, no need to push.

It’s also a living turnaround for me to take time—maybe at 2:30 if I’m feeling empty, or maybe at each step of progress—to celebrate what I have done so far that day. It’s a turnaround from looking only at what I still need to do. 

“The wonderful thing about knowing who you are is that you’re always in a state of grace, a state of gratitude for the abundance of the apparent world. I overflow with the splendor, the generosity of it all. And I didn’t do anything for it but notice.”