Intentional Living

Turning Mundane Tasks Into Acts of Compassion

March 11, 2021

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Whether you are naturally curious or easily distracted, you’ll probably agree that it can be challenging at times to focus on the normal, everyday tasks that make up life.

Every time we start one task, we feel the pull of a dozen other tasks waiting on our to-do list. Or we don’t feel quite in the mood, so we reach for an easy distraction and rationalize that we have plenty of time.

I’d like to stop and challenge some conventional thinking on this topic. And since I’m the one writing, I think I’ll do just that.

I believe the conventional thinking goes something like this: Not being able to focus is mainly a productivity or procrastination problem. In the absence of a strong enough reward or severe enough punishment, some of us will be inclined to choose what is easy and enjoyable over what is hard and meaningful.

There is certainly truth to that explanation. But in my experience, that thinking doesn’t provide much help when you’re staring at your to-do list wondering how to get started.

You see, when distraction is presented as a productivity problem, it causes many of us to look inward. Either we beat ourselves up for a lack of discipline or we pump ourselves up with a promise that next time will be different. But negative emotions just lead to more distraction as we try to escape them, and if we’re honest, what’s actually going to make next time different from the last?

Turn every task into an act of compassion

The surprising solution to our impulse towards distraction is to look outside yourself, not inward. When you really stop to think about the world outside your own head you’ll notice something that is both beautiful and frightening:

There are dozens of people in your relational world whose lives are quietly touched by how you choose to live today.

Through our simple, everyday choices we have the power to make someone’s day easier, bring a smile to their face, make them feel heard, or give encouragement. When you realize the power you possess, you realize that your distraction is no longer just about you and how much you did or didn’t accomplish today. It’s about real people and the opportunities you’re letting slip by to be compassionate and kind to those around you.

Even the simplest of actions like making a bed, putting away a dish, or paying a bill can be an act of love.

To anyone who sees it, a well-made bed evokes feelings of comfort and tranquility compared to a tangled pile of sheets, blankets, and pillows.

A clean sink and counter is a delight for anyone who enters the kitchen. They feel welcomed and calmed by a sense of order.

A bill paid on time is a sign of respect and gratitude to the provider of the service. And it is an act of love to your family to take care of a chore that keeps your house running smoothly.

Shift your focus with a new attitude

The magic of this method is that nearly any task can be reframed as an act of compassion or love towards another person. I’d encourage you to go through your day and think of the jobs that most tempt you towards distraction. Write them down and then beside that task, right down a person that benefits from you doing that task well and in a timely manner.

It really doesn’t matter how small the benefit, or whether the recipient even realizes your involvement, the most important thing is your attitude. When you shift the focus off of yourself (your failures or achievements), you will find a new found ability to focus and a motivation to turn today’s mundane tasks into tiny acts of compassion.

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