A few months ago, I was working with a business coach who helped reveal how my personal habits translated on a professional level.
One piece of advice he came back to again and again was, "You have to be okay with the mundane."
"We like to create drama," he explained. "That's what our brains and our egos like to do. But you have to train yourself not to do that, because if you're not okay with the mundane, then you're going to hurt your business."
As an entrepreneur, he encouraged me to resist the urge to add more before I was ready. My brain likes to think so much that I have ideas popping in numerous directions, alluring me to pursue other things before I'm done with what's at hand.
"The more you can't focus, the less productive you'll be," he warned.
We think that mundane means boring, and that boring means unhappy, but he was trying to show me that when things are smooth sailing in business and in life, that's a very good thing. How many times have things started going easily in your life and then you started to wonder what's wrong? We get uneasy with the calm, thinking it's a precursor to a storm, so we start to look for the things that rock the boat.
Have we become addicted to the struggle? After all, going to the grocery store, doing our laundry, getting an oil change — this is not the stuff of epic dramas.
Or, are they?
Here's where life and business blend. In Captain Corelli's Mandolin, Louis de Bernieres writes, "love is not breathlessness, it is not excitement, it is not the promulgation of promises of eternal passion, it is not the desire to mate every second minute of the day, it is not lying awake at night imagining that he is kissing every cranny of your body... that is just being 'in love,' which any fool can do. Love itself is what is left over when being in love has burned away, and this is both an art and a fortunate accident."
Anyone can become enamored, lusting, crushing on another person. What's real is what happens after the fairy dust settles. Our daily lives are not made up of the thrilling, big and bursting memories of reality TV, but the small interactions we often don't think of as being anything special.
We need excitement to prove we are alive, so we begin to make something out of nothing. Busy-ness makes us feel productive and worthy, as though we're accomplishing something.
Yet, when the booms do happen as lightning and thunder strikes, how often do we find ourselves yearning for the days before the explosions of weather occurred? Suddenly, mundane is absolutely appealing.
In our increasingly connected society with very little downtime, many of us no longer know how to be okay with not doing and just being. It's not enough to stand there, idle. We don't know how to waste time. We've learned that being busy means you're more important, so we check in on our smart phones, take a photo on Instagram, and do anything we can to avoid where we are right now. (I'm guilty of this, too.)
But, our brains need time to relax. It's vital for our well-being to learn how to chill out and likely one of the reasons why yoga has become so increasingly popular in the modern world. For an allotted number of minutes, we get an opportunity to breathe and let the rest of the world melt away from the perimeter of our mats.
What's more, worry can become a comfort. It used to be that being anxious helped me feel like I was "doing" something, which ultimately created a false sense of control. It was too uncomfortable to have nothing that I needed to fix. I fled from the mundane like it was a disease.
But now, things are different. I actively turn my phone off every night, throw it in my bag in the trunk when I'm driving, or remember to put it away in my bag when I'm around friends. One of the greatest gifts you can give anyone — including yourself — is full attention. Eyes, ears, heart all present and listening. Engaging. Sharing.
And, what I've been teaching lately in yoga class is that when you slow everything down, when you start to focus on the minute movements with total mindfulness, miracles begin to reveal themselves.
Sometimes, I'll sit on a grassy lawn and press pause on my life. I'll look down and really study one blade of grass, because over the next few moments, the miracle of Mother Nature will begin to reveal herself. This piece of grass is alive. It is vibrant. It may be dotted with dew. It's beautiful. And, it's simple.
In the past few years, plenty of studies have been done about the inefficiencies of multi-taking, proving that our brains actually can't do it. But we do this. We do this in every day life. Before we've gotten one area of our life smooth sailing, we want to throw something else into on board, something that could likely complicate our navigation system.
Can we feel okay with just doing one thing? And, doing that one thing well until we're ready to add something else? Can we be okay without the drama or do we need to infuse every moment with a bit of trouble and chaos to make our lives seemingly more consequential? Can we redefine mundane to be synonymous with meaningful rather than meh?
To start, I'm going to practice wasting time. Maybe in those small idle moments, I'll realize how precious everything truly is.