E is for Easy

It’s funny that a message titled, “E is for Easy,” has been the hardest for me to write in my blogging career.

I suspect it’s because I started off with two messages tangled together.

I also suspect it’s because I was writing to get good feedback from new subscribers to my list, instead of doing my thing like normal.

And it’s doubly funny I’d vie for praise for this post of all posts because here’s the point of it:

You don’t need to work hard for things to work well.

If that idea offends your sensibilities, carry on doing what you’re doing.

But if you’re tired of breaking your neck for no good, read on.

You don’t need to work hard for things to work well.

As much as that idea sounds enticing, it might, ironically, take some work to believe—from an early age, we’re fed messages to the contrary.

Like, of all the things that teachers wrote in my primary school report cards, this is the statement that’s stuck with me through the decades:

Mary needs to work harder in math and science.

From nine simple words, my ten-year-old mind was inoculated with the thought that I got poor grades in certain subjects because I just. didn’t. work. hard. enough.

And as I got older, I learned what it means (in some circles) to be an upstanding American adult:

Hard-working and tax-paying.

Paying taxes seems obligatory to avoid trouble with the IRS.

As for working hard, I now question its merits as a default behavior for reasons including the following:

  1. Working hard is no guarantee that things will work well. In fact…
  2. Working hard with a wrong approach seldom works well,
  3. Things have worked well when I’ve consciously stopped working so hard at them, and trusted life to step in and support me.

What I didn’t say is that the nine simple words from my teacher—Mary needs to work harder in math and science—pushed me to work harder in math and science.

But failing to work harder in a better way, my results stayed the same.

You don’t need to work hard for things to work well.

You might wonder if my grades in math and science didn’t improve, how I became a scientist (turned storyteller).

The answer is that I didn’t say my grades in those subjects never improved, they just didn’t improve by me working harder; they improved by me deciding to take it easy on the studying and trusting that things would be OK, which they turned out to be.

If you’re working hard for things to work well, try consciously taking it easy.

Taking it easy comes in different flavors: there’s the doing nothing kind (that I’m NOT knocking, by the way), and a conscious, co-operative kind.

The conscious, co-operative kind of taking it easy says, “I’m stating the support I want and going with the flow,” trusting that there’s some force in the world that will work jointly with you to help good things happen, if you allow them to.

The unfortunate part is that this kind of taking it easy isn’t easy if you think that you need to work hard for things to work well, that you need to do things all alone, or if you try to control what things happen.

Or if you forget about it when things get rough.

Earlier this month, things got rough—I felt quite overwhelmed, and working harder to get things done wasn’t curing it. Things were weighing so heavily on my mind, that I considered staying in bed one day. But then I heard something that helped me to get up and take it easy; consciously easy:

Hiding (unsuccessfully) from stress beneath my comforter, I was listening to a recording of a woman who’d herself been overwhelmed. Sitting in a diner with a list of responsibilities she had no idea how to get done, she got the idea to draw two columns on the paper table cloth: “Things I will do,” and “Things I’m asking the Universe to do.”

That might not be exactly how the woman named her columns, but it was something like that. The important part is that by her account, the Universe got more done than she did.

After Mimi Harmon finished the recording and got her butt into the kitchen, she made two columns on a page in her wide-ruled composition book: “Things I will do in December,” and “Things I am allowing the Universe to do for me in December.”

Me, I was going for EASY when I divvied up my tasks, so I took the straightforward ones that required effort but not much thinking, and gave the Universe the more complicated ones like…

  1. finding me a part-time job to pay the bills while I help care for my parents and work on my second book,
  2. figuring out where to find my kind of people in Chicago, and
  3. devising a plan to get 1,000 subscribers to my blog by June 2018.

It’s still December so the Universe (which I personally prefer to call God) has more time to lend me support. But it’s already helped things work out well without me working hard:

Last week, I learned about a part-time job that I expect to have mostly nailed down by the end of this week. And “coincidentally,” I stumbled on a website—with over three million readers—that could be the perfect place to submit an article to attract readers to my blog.

You don’t need to work hard for things to work well.

If that idea is growing on you, try taking it easy—consciously easy—by stating the support you want and going with the flow.