Wasn’t it just a couple of weeks ago, when we had wind in our sails propelling us toward our better, smarter, fitter, richer selves? Now those dreams are barely afloat against the tide of menial everyday tasks.
It’s dismaying how ephemeral our grand resolve can be when juxtaposed with the everydayness of daily life. We’re a bit snobbish about work, preferring glamorous, high-profile people and big idea, high-minded work.
So how are we supposed to remain faithful to our dreams in the face of our everydayness?
According to Wendy Wood of Duke University, about 40-45 percent of what we do every day is based in habit. "Many of our repeated behaviors are cued by everyday environments, even though people think they're making choices all the time," she says.
For example, we don't realize the reason we keep eating fast food at lunch is because it is cued by daily routine—so the Key to Changing Habits Is In Environment, Not Willpower.
When it comes to living our dream, the hierarchy we give to what we do on a daily basis may be standing in our way—and the key may lie in being present and giving credence to the small acts that keep our lives running smoothly.
We forget the importance of our lesser tasks in moving the ball forward, yet if we look at the arts, we’ll find that everydayness is the subject of some of our most admired works—Van Gogh’s Postman, Vermeer’s The Little Street, Elizabeth Catlett’s Sharecropper, Garry Winogrand’s entire body of work and even Sly Stone’s Everyday People.
We don’t like to think of ourselves as everyday people but we all are—and I think Dr. Martin Luther King recognized this.
King saw that we all belong to the same humble tribe of people who perform daily, mundane tasks. He saw the dignity of those tasks—and he died because he went to Memphis to march for the sanitation workers. Certainly, he recognized the importance of everydayness.
The things you’re doing every day ARE the biggest things, and it’s the pursuit of glamorous ideals that causes us to miss the steps that will actually get us there.
So how do we tap into the beauty and dignity of these habitual tasks? We can start by giving our attention to the smallest things.
Life is both created and revealed in simple, everyday actions. So let’s invest our attention in the minor, repetitive steps we take during our daily regimen and tap into the magic of the moment.
We may start out focused on enhancing ourselves and living the dream, but it’s in our everydayness where the richness of life truly lies.