“I first ran for Congress in 1999, and I got beat. I just got whooped. I had been in the state legislature for a long time, I was in the minority party, I wasn’t getting a lot done, and I was away from my family and putting a lot of strain on Michelle. Then for me to run and lose that bad, I was thinking maybe this isn’t what I was cut out to do. I was forty years old, and I’d invested a lot of time and effort into something that didn’t seem to be working. But the thing that got me through that moment, and any other time that I’ve felt stuck, is to remind myself that it’s about the work. Because if you’re worrying about yourself – if you’re thinking: “Am I succeeding? Am I in the right position? Am I being appreciated?” – then you’re going to end up feeling frustrated and stuck. But if you can keep it about the work, you’ll always have a path. There’s always something to be done.”– President Obama
In my last post, I talked about the importance of cultivating “present moment awareness” and I think that’s what President Obama was getting at here. We spend too much time thinking about our goals, our strategies to achieve them. We dwell on past failures and set backs. We worry about what others think of us and how that affects our chances of success.
We often forget that the very thing that will allow us to achieve those goals is focusing on the work. But giving the task at hand your full attention is not only a means to an end. It is a better way to work and live. In my own experience, when I’ve exercised a better sense of presence in my life I’ve noticed a much greater level of calm and focus. If we’re going to engage in something – whether a relationship, a job, or a habit – we ought to give that thing our full attention.
Also published on Medium.