When I lived in Japan, I was amazed by the pride that workers took in even the most unglamorous tasks. Garbage trucks were virtually spotless, thanks to their drivers concerted efforts, and it was not unusual to see city employees taking care to wipe down the public trash cans out on the street as if they were a Rolls Royce.
Some people, however, seem to have an internal mechanism that calibrates their enthusiasm and attention according to whether they feel like doing something whether they think what theyre doing (or who theyre talking to) is worthwhile, interesting or important. What they dont seem to realize is their approach in any one instance is a reflection of their approach in every instance.
In fact, thanks to the power of individual perception and context, nothing is inherently interesting or dull. There are factory workers on noisy assembly lines who enjoy their work and brain surgeons who are bored with theirs. An actress who was thrilled about attending her first few movie premieres on the red carpet might, years later, view them as routine and time-consuming. It isnt the nature of the activity that has changed, just her perception of its significance.
So the bad news is: theres no set of given circumstances that is guaranteed to be exciting. The good news is: theres no set of given circumstances that is guaranteed to be tedious if you can create a context that will give it more meaning (e.g. if its something youve done a thousand times, find a way to learn something new, recall a time when you were excited to be doing it or make it into a game).
But, wait a minute. Doesnt applying the same degree of enthusiasm and effort into everything require a lot more time and energy? Not necessarily heres what actually happens:
· Get done quicker. It takes time to determine how much you feel like doing something. Once youre in the land of inevitability, why not skip the internal debate and simply default to giving your all regardless of what youre doing.
· Energy begets energy. Whining and grumbling sap your energy and slow you down. On the other hand, if you throw yourself with enthusiasm and a sense of fun into a dreaded task imagining youre in a TV commercial when cleaning the kitchen, say you may just find yourself enjoying it, and having more energy than when you started!
· Transform the result. Have you ever seen that commercial for Volkswagen that illustrates the chain reaction of kindness? One person sees a VW Bug, smiles happily at a passerby, who smiles back and stops to pick up something someone dropped, who then pays the parking meter for someone else, and the chain continues. Every human contact, no matter how mundane, creates energy dont underestimate the power of your attitude to influence others and start a ripple effect. (Remember this when calling the phone company.)
· Enhance your reputation as a person of integrity. Become known for being someone who always gives their all, every time, and the trust and credibility you earn will be priceless.
· Preparation for the big time. Doing your best isnt something that can be turned on as if its a faucet. Its more like priming a muscle; you cant suddenly lift something heavy if you havent been consistently building up strength and stamina. If youre used to doing the minimum cutting corners, taking shortcuts it will be difficult to step it up when theres actually something at stake and you need to perform your best.
This is not to say you should spend the same amount of time on a casual email as you do on an important client proposal, but once youre actually committed to doing something, then ditch the disclaimers, dive in wholeheartedly with all your attention and see if that doesnt change everything.