Doing what you love and loving what you do opens the door to more creativity, insight, and fun.
But what happens when we need to do a task that we’re not in love with…like taxes.
I’ve been having a ball recently with my creative work. Writing a lot. Dabbling in art. Singing as I go out to feed the horses. I feel like I’m in a loving, devoted relationship to my creative work.
Out of that relationship comes a sense of partnership. My creations seem to want to talk to me, guide me, and occasionally boss me around.
Consider my book. It’s been rather pushy, albeit in a helpful way. Early on in the book writing process, it declared, “I’m not interested in being a self-help how-to book. If you want to go that direction I’ll either go to sleep or make your life miserable.”
Wow. I felt like I was being held hostage by my book, but I knew it was right. To write effectively I had to become more vulnerable, and make my writing more personal.
That’s the value of a partnership. (I really love the book.)
An oft-cited verse in 1st Corinthians tells us:
“Let everything you do be done in love.”
Which is great, until you have to tackle something you don’t want to do.
Can we bring love to a project we don’t want to do?
I have an opportunity to experiment this week as I face a task I’d rather not be doing: finishing our taxes. My husband and I have such good intentions at the beginning of each year when we declare we will submit taxes by the April 15 deadline. We start work on them. But then, something always happens.
We find stuff we love, stuff we’d really rather be doing, other priorities.
So as the very last date for tax submissions looms, the task shows up in my drudgery-filled to-do pile.
I notice I have a bad attitude. What if I made a shift and sprinkle in some 1st Corinthians charm to take the dread out of the duty?
I’m trying out my new four-step process: Attitude awareness, perspective-taking, story shifting, and presence.
Step one: Awareness of my current attitude.
I carry some attitudinal baggage about preparing taxes. When I think of doing them, I dread the moments of:
- Worrying about how little income writing produces.
- Discovering that a key document has gone rogue, which means I’ll spend two hours of fruitless searching before confirming that I am a disorganized person.
- Feeling my forearm and wrist go into spasm from too much data entry and declare themselves on strike.
- Acknowledging how much money I’ve spent on books and writing-related expenses. (I can justify almost anything!)
- Lamenting the cost of health insurance and dental care.
The first step in change is awareness. My attitude about taxes is a set-up for gloom.
Step two: Perspective taking.
It’s helpful to see the context for my laments.
1), Whining about doing taxes is a problem of privilege. And not acknowledging privilege can lead to entitlement, warped perspective, and prejudice. What if I said, “Isn’t it great that I get to pay taxes?
2) Trying to rush (my default) is a formula for stress. The task is likely to take more time than I want to give it. Why not add some spaciousness, planning on plenty of time, rather than feeling the press of “Get me out of here fast.”
Step three: Story-shifting (Looking for the challenging and the good.)
I make up many of the stories I live within, and this year I could try out a new script about taxes.
- Enjoying the life review. My income and expenses are concrete indicators of what I’ve done over the year. An opportunity to reflect. And an equally concrete opportunity to give thanks.
- Acknowledging the hopes, dreams, needs, and excesses embedded within my income and expenses. What practices do I want to continue and where do I want to make different choices going forward?
- Valuing connectedness. Every purchase is part of a web of relationships and connections. For example, I buy a book. That book was written by someone, edited by several someones, designed, published, and distributed by many someones. The simple stuff I buy takes place within a larger system of people working together. How cool is that?
- Appreciating flow. I can take a moment to see money as flow, both energy and currency. It’s meant to go in and out, part of the rhythm of life.
Step four: Sprinkle in some love and gratitude and start the Presence mantra:
This is what I am doing. Right Here. Right now.
I can love what I’m doing, even if I didn’t start out wanting to do it.
Who knows? Maybe tax prep will teach me about life!
I’ll still need to take breaks, good care of myself, and sweeten my space with some flowers, scents, or any goodies that remind me of ease and beauty.
I don’t expect my taxes will ever talk to me in the same way as my creative projects. Or be my BFF. Tax prep has rules, and it isn’t the best place to exercise my imagination.
But by becoming more aware, taking perspective, and shifting my attitude, then adding a touch of presence and love, I trust that I can take the dread out of the process.
And then, when I’m done (yippee) I can go back to talking with my book.