While some people tend to live in the past, others seem to consume every waking moment worrying about the future. Rarely do we live fully in the present.
Often we find ourselves rushing from point A to B and back again – going through the motions without our hearts in what we do. Not surprisingly, what we sow literally becomes what we reap.
The following story by an unknown author offers a simple yet important inspirational perspective for rethinking our lives.
An elderly carpenter was ready to retire. He told his employer-contractor of his plans to leave the house-building business and live a more leisurely life with his wife. He would miss the paycheck, but he needed to retire. They could get by.
The contractor was sorry to see his good worker go, and asked if he could build just one more house as a personal favor. The carpenter said yes, but in time it was easy to see that his heart was not in his work. He resorted to shoddy workmanship and used inferior materials. It was an unfortunate way to end a dedicated career.
When the carpenter finished his work the employer came to inspect the house. He handed the front-door key to the carpenter. “This is your house,” he said, “my gift to you.” The carpenter was shocked!
The carpenter’s lesson is important for all of us. It provides a unique opportunity for self-reflection – a chance to reassess how we live our lives and metaphorically how we build our houses.
This issue recently surfaced in a discussion group at our Center. We were focusing on things that stress us the most. A participant eagerly volunteered that one of her greatest frustrations was dealing with a group of less than dedicated co-workers and her oblivious boss each day. She expressed anger about how many people in her department just sat around and rarely put in a good day’s effort. It was her impression she was being penalized by working harder and compared to some, making less. She also asserted that there was no way to deal with the situation. I wasn’t surprised as I’m certain many people experience the very same feelings.
Yet I couldn’t help but focus on two specific obstacles she was facing. The first was her perception of what her co-workers were or were not doing. Obviously, their actions were causing her to become stressed. As a result, she was experiencing a host of untoward psychological and biological consequences. The second emerged through ongoing dialogue. It was essentially a resignation to mediocrity – a sense that whatever she did would never be appreciated or respected by her boss.
Let’s spend a few moments exploring these obstacles. Of great importance is the fact that the perception of stress is different for each of us. For some, a scratch on a car door tears us apart, while for others – well it’s simply just “one of those things.” The fact that she perceived her co-workers as lazy, was only serving to hurt her. Immersed in anger, each day frustration built and negativity overshadowed the good she was doing in serving others.
The second point is based on a common perception that no one appreciates what we do. The bottom line is that there’s only one perso’ to really be concerned about and that is you. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not stating that we should disregard the feelings of others. I am however convinced that our most precious asset in life is not money, it is time. How we choose to spend our time or share our love makes all the difference.
Often when compared to others, it’s not difficult to shine. Yet standing out from the pack isn’t enough – it’s far from a worthy goal. Our Light shines brightest when we do the best we can and express what’s closest to our nature. A healing sense of self-worth emerges when we simply do our best. A great stress buster is the feeling of personally accomplishing a great day’s work despite the mediocrity to which others have settled. What matters the most is the process of building your dream house – one you would be proud to call home.
A few thousand years ago, a simple carpenter set forth to show us how to build a house, one we could all live in that would endure the test of time. Those architectural plans are a gift from God. Use them wisely – Mind Over Matter!
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Barry Bittman, MD is a neurologist, author, international speaker, inventor and researcher. He is the CEO and Director of the Mind-Body Wellness Center, 18201 Conneaut Lake Road in Meadville, phone (814) 724-1765, fax (814) 333-8662, http://www.mind-body.org.