This one’s going to be painful.
An old farmer I felt particularly connected to once told me of a boyhood lesson. One job on his routine set of chores was to chop the weeds out of the irrigation ditch. It was a job he particularly disliked. He avoided the ditch whenever he could, and busied himself doing other things first. When his dad told him the irrigation water was on its way to the family farm, the little guy thought he’d better head on out and start removing weeds. It wasn’t long before water gushed into the ditch, spraying out everywhere. He shoveled and pushed mud around the best he could, but that water did not channel into the neatly plowed, thirsty rows of seedlings. To both his fear and his relief, his dad showed up and took the shovel from his hands. While the boy had been attempting to move mud, the man focused on the overgrowth of the weeds. Soon the precious water was forced back into the ditch, and a life’s lesson was etched in the little boy’s mind. “Clean up the weeds in your life,” he said, “before it’s too late. Dabbling in the mud is not the best way to get where you’re wanting to go!”
A 16-year-old boy once told me he was grounded because he’d angrily thrown a plate into the kitchen sink. When it shattered, he was surprised; he hadn’t meant to be that destructive. When I asked him why he’d gotten so upset, he said, “I’d just finished eating dinner with my family. Everything was fine. I started to pick up my plate and bring it to the sink. Then my mom said, ‘remember to take your plate to the sink.’ And I already was. And her telling me to do it made me mad!” He snickered and shook his head. “It wasn’t that big a deal,” he continued. “I guess I just don’t like people telling me what to do!”
Who does??! His inner motivation was already in place, but the boy’s mama didn’t happen to see it. Her reminder was an attempt at external motivation. But it backfired because it was already inside him. Without realizing it, at that moment she un- motivated him. She’d robbed her son of that inner sense of satisfaction. (No offense to that mom out there; how was she to know he’d finally remembered on his own??) You all know what I’m talking about: it happens to each of us. Workplace, home, school, volunteer work…seems there’s never a shortage of hierarchy! It’s a dream, I suppose, that we think when “we’re all grown up” (whatever that means) we can do what we want. Less authority, more freedom. In employment, for example, if it’s not our boss bossing us, it’s our customers. Or our tenants. Or our clients. Perhaps the most difficult part of “adulting” is answering to the call of folks we want or need to please, while preventing ourselves from being consumed by their demands. There’s nothing left of us if we do. We face pretty tough consequences if we don’t. The line is thin.
Now for the painful part. I have to admit, I have weeds. Overgrowth in the ditch. My inner motivation at the workplace is alive and well! But I just received a “reminder.” And I’m mad! And I feel like throwing my plate in the kitchen sink! Can’t they see they don’t have to tell me what to do??
The answer is apparently no, they can’t.
So I have to show them my willingness. My ability to adapt to new things. My pride, a.k.a weeds, needs to be trimmed down. The precious force of water is bringing good and wonderful things into my life, and my job is just a part of that goodness. I love my job. I used to. Until yesterday. So… am I scrapping around trying to divert goodness back where I want it to be? Is random splashing acceptable to me? I need to remove the weeds. And try to conform. And try to still be me in the process.
Wish me well!