Burning Brightly; How to Stop Mechanical Work and Stay Connected to Your Ultimate Why

Burning Brightly; How to Stop Mechanical Work and Stay Connected to Your Ultimate Why

No matter how much we attempt to stay rooted in our vision, it seems that every so often our work devolves into becoming mechanical.

We start making lists of things to do that seem like good ideas. Optional tasks become things we must do. And we forget about why we set out on our path in the first place.

Whenever you notice a sense of disconnect between your work and the meaning behind it, there’s a good chance it’s time to look up and adjust course.

I notice this happens most often when I venture too far outside the realm of my core genius.

Setting up autoresponder systems, event planning and updating spreadsheets… not what I was put on this earth to do. But they’re all a part of business, so at some point or another I’m likely going to get pulled into their gravitational fields. Even if I’ve hired someone else to take care of it, I’ll inevitably need to oversee something or make a decision at some point.

I realize and accept that getting pulled out of my arena of true potential is just a part of the ebb and flow. Without the juxtaposition I’d have no sense of what I’m really meant to do.

That’s the dance of great work. The stuff that sucks reminds us to get back to our legacy work.

The trick, then, is to need less and less of those revisits to mechanical work land, and remain in the reality of our own expression of awesomeness.

I don’t know about you, but I’m the kind of person that needs constant reminders to stay in that reality. Remove the training wheels even for a day and I’m on a road to nowhere fast. I’ve come to accept that it’s absolutely okay that I need that kind of acute great work scaffolding.

What can I say… I get distracted easily.

Want to ride bikes?

I mean, yeah… about those training wheels. Let’s stay focused.

Legacy work connection rituals

In order for me to stay as connected as possible to my ultimate why, I need daily rituals that reinforce what I want to create.

One of the most important things for me is to remind myself of why I do what I do and the impact it has on others in the real world. This can sometimes be a challenge when I connect with most of my audience online. So it’s important for me to take the time to acknowledge the work that I’m doing and the impact it has on people.

That might mean spending a few minutes reading thank-you emails from readers or thinking about the transformation my work supports. This isn’t to inflate my ego, it’s to remember the real potential my creation and service can bring to others, in tangible ways. When I lose sight of that, I forget why I’m doing this in the first place.

Another thing I’ve been doing lately is having daily intention meetings with my wife mid-day. They help us to refocus and think about what kind of feelings and attitudes we want to experience during the day. This helps acknowledge that every day is different and while you may feel ungovernable excitement one day, you might feel like your focus should be penetrating clarity on another.

And I think it’s important to keep that in perspective. Your great work and ultimate why will look different each day. It’s a living, breathing force. It should never become a rigid mission statement that you cling to. That’s the death and dishonor of the aliveness of your work.

If you’re feeling a lack of connection or meaning in what you’re doing, it might be a good time to reconnect to what really matters to you and realize that your inspiration may have shifted.

My question for you is this: Have you ever struggled with not letting your work become mechanical? What do you do about it?

photo courtesy of amagill

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Comment & Add Your Voice

ericwat November 16, 2011 at 6:08 am

I like the idea of having a daily intention meeting with your wife. That sounds like a great way to keep the whole family moving in the right direction.


John Falchetto November 16, 2011 at 11:40 am

This is a great question Jonathan. I have recently started a serious exercise to redefine my efforts, aligning them more with who I am. It started with a weekend in the hills and now I am looking to keep this clarity at home.

I love how meet daily with your wife. I do the same thing, usually in the evening when the little one has gone to sleep and things are quieter.

It’s too easy for work, and life, to become mechanical. We need to stop and re-assess often.

Thanks for the prompt.


SheThinksFunny November 16, 2011 at 11:50 am

I was stressing myself out getting caught up in “have to”s and DIYing every little thing in my business. It often feels I’ve lost my Why, don’t have one, or never had one to begin with.

A while back an adviser told me to do something radically uncomfortable to me:

He told me to trash my to-do list! (gasp!!)

At first I had absolutely no intention of doing so – what if I forgot a tedious chore?? Horror of horrors!!! But after more stressing out and realizing what he said was true – that at this stage in the game I didn’t need to do the majority of the stuff on my 5 pages of to-do list – I balled it all up, tossed it in the trash, and immediately breathed a great big sigh of relief.

I generally don’t keep to-do lists now. I just do what I want to get done. My desk stays a lot less cluttered and I don’t get ridiculously overwhelmed by 5 pages of drudgery.

As for intentions, I was asking myself every morning before leaving bed, “What is your intention for the day?” It was good motivation and good for directing me to the most important tasks I wanted to accomplish before the end of the day so I would feel fulfilled and accomplished.

My big Why? Need to work on how to stay in touch with that – after I discover what it is! :-P It’s painful to be disconnected from it and counterproductive to the mission of my life and of helping others.


spiritsentient November 18, 2011 at 7:33 am

@SheThinksFunny _ I also have a similar take on To-Do Lists! Also, if you were interesting in finding your why Jon’s product Reclaim Your Dreams handles this extremely well, I feel. I also offer a free series of exercises called Embracing Your Unique Success Blend on my resources page to help find your Big Why.


brettjarman November 16, 2011 at 5:22 pm

Nicely said Jonathan.

Answer to the first question is yes – almost daily. In fact it’s probably my big life lesson at the moment.

What do I do about it? At the urging of my coach (@DerekRydall) I’m learning to extend the ‘pay yourself first’ notion and applying it to time. Most time management systems talk about doing the most important tasks, or the ‘on the business’ tasks first before getting into the mundane grind that chews away at your day.

Paying yourself first time-wise means setting time aside each day to do the stuff that’s meaningful to you before you do anything else. If it happens to be connected to your ‘work’, even better. My experience so far is that it cuts away at procrastination. I have less of that ‘rather be doing something else’ feeling when I’m doing the grind work as I’ve already satisfied that need. The grind gets done in half the time, more time up your sleeve for meaningful.


spiritsentient November 18, 2011 at 7:26 am

@brettjarman _ I teach something similar Brett!”You are your most valuable resource, and that means every molecule, every action you take is valuable, and if you are not directing them properly… you will feel consequences.”Great point on valuing your time.

KateBacon November 17, 2011 at 9:54 am

This is so interesting Jonathan! I’m part of a face to face business mentoring group in Brighton, UK and we were did some action learning around a very similar topic today – it boiled down to not getting trapped in the daily email grind.

Focusing on what inspires you, what you do best (and I agree, when I get an email from a happy client that puts me firmly back in my “place of best work zone” as well) is the ONLY place to be to stay inspired.

Cheers for the reminder

Kate :-)


spiritsentient November 18, 2011 at 7:25 am

@KateBacon I love timing like that Kate! :)I think people sometimes forget how powerful appreciation is, and how much ENERGY it gives the worlds companies + entrepreneurs.Today I will thank more people and write more appreciative comments. :)

spiritsentient November 18, 2011 at 7:24 am

This is fantastic! I think it’s extra helpful in this information-age.

I tend to focus on things that feel good, stuff that sucks can`t hold my attention long, I just won’t do them. In fact, I’ve been homeless because I refused to do things that didn’t suit me.

I`ll offer a related flipside that I *have* felt the effects of…

I`ve been pulled from my why because “I want to help or invest in others”, or “I saw a shiny opportunity”

For example:

I might set out to reply to a comment, and end up spending hours on a blog or site. I might go looking for an image, and end up browsing galleries.

I might meet someone I feel really good about, and decide to devote time, energy, attention, resources to them, etc.

This was fine to a point, but I learned that if I can’t clearly relate something to my core purpose, I skip it.

Anyway, you nailed it Jon, aligning with one’s vision is KEY.


mikevardy November 18, 2011 at 4:53 pm

I think I’ve “grown” into not being so mechanical. I used to be insistent that everything got put in my trusted system so that I wouldnt wind up dropping the ball. The long-term result was the ability for me to see what was automatic, what was urgent, what was important and what was crucial — and I was able to cull from those lists accordingly.

Now I’m more mindful about what I do and how I do it because I had laid the foundation for success way back when. When I feel like I’m slipping, it’s easier for me to “get back to one” now that I’m connected to my important stuff rather than all of my stuff.

Great post, as always, Jonathan!


Paul from Selfgrowthproject November 24, 2011 at 11:22 am

This is a great post. In fact people choose to live a life of passion because they want to experience the excitement of the unexpected. So when the routine becomes too mechanical anything can lose it’s passion, even for activities we normally love doing.

I think that life has to have a balance in terms of having a variety of experiences which challenge and excite us. Providing we know how to jump back onto the bike to move towards direction we desire we will not give up our dreams. I think a flexible mind and lifestyle keeps up the inspiration and drive to keep moving towards creating the dream into reality.


ibuildtribes November 25, 2011 at 7:35 pm

I think my biggest struggle has been a disconnect between what is producing income, and supporting my family vs. the ultimate why. This year, actually, was the first that I was able to rise up and discover the ultimate why which was a huge step for me. Now I’m in a difficult spot that I know many others find themselves in… you know what you are meant to do, you know what you are built for now… but the income is coming from a different place where there is no room for the ultimate why. I am fortunate that my “different place” is not a cubicle or job working for someone else (I know there are many stuck in this unfortunate position), but even in entrepreneurship, you can get caught up becoming a slave to a machine that you’ve built, but don’t really love or care about.

I have a positive outlook that I will overcome this hurdle, and I am encouraged by my progress in that very important first step of discovering the ultimate why. Any advice anyone can offer on the conundrum and next steps for me would be appreciated!


actualinfinity December 1, 2011 at 7:24 pm

jonathanmead , great post! It was great to get some perspective that even those we look up to have to make conscious effort to stay grounded in their “why”. Yet, we see it over and over again in large and small organizations – they start off on the right foot, completely centered on their “why”, and when they look back and wonder why they got derailed, it is very frequently due to completely losing their sense of why.

Your post really caused me to look inward and realign, checking myself to ensure I am standing on the foundation of my purpose. That reminder can never come too frequently. Thank you.

Every morning, I use a PAGE Card (Personal Alignment & Growth Exercise) card. It’s a little business card sized ‘grounding tool’ I use to start my day. I review my values, strengths, and my “Why” statement, then it gives me a short “remembrance” queue, appreciation exercise, then I review the key states of “being” that I want to consciously practice, then a brief review of my commitments to myself and life. Takes about 20 minutes every day and really helps keep me grounded/centered. I also do an annual (week-long) and quarterly (1-day) life design work, which is focused mainly on this connection to why.

Thanks again for this insight. It takes strength and vulnerability to put this stuff out there. It’s meaningful and appreciated.


SheThinksFunny November 20, 2011 at 6:20 am

@spiritsentient I actually have plans to work with a business coach that I’m really really excited about. I think working with him will clear me up quite nicely. And thank you for suggesting that offering of yours! I appreciate it. :-)


spiritsentient November 20, 2011 at 6:37 am

@SheThinksFunny _ Fantastic miss! You rock, keep on taking those steps! :)


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