How to do awesome work.

Updated: Dec 28, 2018

The ancient Yogi text, Bagavad Gita, "The Lord's song", is not only beautifully written but immensely practical. I have learnt a lot from its wisdom. Mostly I've learnt how to concentrate on being awesome at what I do by not giving a f*ck!

OK so I do give a f*ck about the quality of my work and the people I work with - I have extremely high expectations in how and what I deliver. However, The Gita explains the process of work differently. It's similar to when we were kids, throwing ourselves completely into the task at hand such as learning to tie our shoe laces, drawing a picture of our cat or building a den in the woods. It's only when we attend secondary school at 11 that all that changes. We start to get assessed and we begin to gear our energy towards the "right" outcome - usually good grades.

In the Gita, work is our duty. Which is not as arduous as it sounds. It's about living as an expression of who we truly are and offering our talent or divine gifts to the world. It tells us that once we know who we truly are, at our core, then we are compelled to just get on and do what we were born to do.

I recently, worked with a renowned heart surgeon. He has performed over 12,000 operations. He feels unequivocally that he was born to do this work. He has excellent manual dexterity and a "detached nature" (the ability to stop the heart of a living person and hold it in his hands). These physical attributes combined with how the events in his life unfolded - his grandad dying in his arms from heart failure and a rugby-induced brain injury that affected his emotional processing - conspired in such a way that meant he literally had no choice. And now at the age of 71 with declining manual ability, he has thrown himself into research building artificial hearts. He just can't stop!

When we know who we are, our work is compulsive or driven from desires deep within. It's an irresistible urge to behave in a certain way. And as the Gita explains, every one of us has this drive within us, the path of Dharma or “law of the universe,” or one’s own individual mission or purpose. It stems from our uniqueness, our nature - who we truly are! So once we know who we are - or the more self-awareness we attain - we cannot escape our Dharma (the role we are fulfilling at the moment is our Dharma - until we develop our next level of awareness).

This resonates with me (I've come across much psychological research in support of this view - more on this in a later blog). I followed my Dharma as a Psychologist for many years. As I developed my yoga knowledge and practice I began finding as much meaning and wisdom in this ancient system as I did in modern day science. The combination became so compelling that my new Dharma came into existence. And this is when The Gita really made a difference for me. It arises from Lord Krishna's quote:

“You have the right to work, but never to the fruit of work. You should never engage in action for the sake of reward, nor should you long for inaction. Perform work in this world... without selfish attachments, and alike in success and defeat.”

How much easier it becomes to let go of the fruits! When I listen to that voice within, I feel that I have no choice. This is truly who I am. I have to do this work. And I'm able to do it to the best of my ability because I am released from wanting results to be a certain way or I've let go of the idea of failure (the "don't give a f*ck" bit). I used to be driven by a fear of failure and it meant that I was too anxious to ever start something that was meaningful because I might just fail. Fear of failure results in suffering and anxiety. It  overwhelms. It stops you putting your full attention into what you do.

Today, I am committed to pursuing my dharma mindfully, focusing on the big picture of how I want to make a difference and acting out of gratitude for the opportunity to do this work in my life. This concept from the Gita provides a very practical way to focus on the day and give your best in the moment. When you live this way, you can't be anything other than awesome at all you do!

© 2019 MarieBurns