Working Beyond Everyday Expectations—Learning from Rain

July 26, 2007

It is not a popular idea these days to do a task without a specific reward or compensation. There is nothing wrong with that. People need to be compensated for their effort.

The possibility for an outcome beyond imagination or expectation is often overlooked, yet experience shows that such results happens all of the time.

It is often not recognized that the approach to doing the activity can have a major effect on an unlikely positive outcome. There are many different attitudes towards performing any activity. The trick is to harness as much energy into the activity as possible. Nature is a guide here.

Nature just operates according to its own truth. Watch the rain for example. It falls from the sky, wets things, and in doing so, nourishes them, and allows them to grow. Then the rain moves to the lowest position, disappearing into the ground, just to repeat the cycle. The occurrence of the rain has effects, usually positive, but at times negative. However, the rain takes no note of these effects, does not compliment itself on the result, or wait for a reward; it simply and directly continues the cycle. There is only direct activity

Our activities can be just as direct as those of nature. This is true for all activities—projects at work, at home doing the laundry, driving, playing with children,

Actions are often not direct however–there is scheming to be done, ambitions to be achieved, goals to be met, expectations to be fulfilled, and frustrations to be vented. Scheming, ambitions, expectations, and frustrations have their place in the human activities. However, they dilute the energy available for the activity itself and dull the potential for unexpected positive results. The mind sticks, the energy is compromised, and there is a loss of creativity.

Typical of the distractions are the internal conversations that begin with questions and lead to an on-going story that runs at the same time as the activity. For example:

“Why am I doing this?

“What am I going to get out of this?”

“How will this help me?

“Will this project ever work?”

“What is for dinner?”

Instead of allowing these distractions to grow, simply acknowledge them, allow them to drop off, and return attention fully to the primary task at hand.

This approach to an activity takes discipline and an effort. It means becoming aware of and suspending the normal processes of mind activities of mind. Repetition and practice may be needed.

Then, there are the consequences of the activity. In the ordinary perspective, there are planned results to be obtained. Sometimes things work out according to our plan, but on occasion things just go in their own direction. From a different perspective, the consequences are the due to time and conditions beyond planning and rational control.

The approach of bringing full attention is simply to harness our own energy so that the effects are more likely to be creative and useful.