What I have seen to be good and fitting is to eat and drink and find enjoyment in all the toil which one toils under the sun the few days of his life that God has given him, for this is his lot.” – King Solomon
How do you find enjoyment in the toil of life?
There’s no way around it. Much of life is toil.
Much of our time is taken up by the everyday stuff and struggle of life.
- Getting up to the sound of an alarm.
- Driving to the office.
- Doing the same job day-in and day-out.
- Doing the dishes.
- Getting through emails.
- Brushing your teeth.
- Cleaning the apartment.
- Paying the bills.
- Preparing tax documents.
And the list goes on.
Repetitive. Burdensome. Toil.
But does it have to be?
For me, it used to be that these details, the toil of life, were suffocating and daunting. I would wake up exhausted because it all seemed too much.
Little by little though, I’ve been learning to enjoy the toil of life. And here’s a little secret that I’ve uncovered:
if you enjoy the toil, it’s not really toil anymore.
All of a sudden, all of life can be enjoyed- every moment.
Really, then, toil is in the heart.
It’s not as much about what we are doing as it is about what is going on inside of us while we are doing it.
So, again, how do we enjoy the toil of life?
1. Expect enjoyment.
According to king Solomon, it’s not just good but it’s fitting to find enjoyment.
That means, like your favorite pair of jeans, enjoyment fits you well. You were meant to enjoy life.
Stop settling for less and convincing yourself that you can’t be happy with life- even the toilsome parts.
It’s a matter of expectations.
Expect the worst, and you’ll get it. Expect enjoyment, and you’ll find that it fits you well.
For a period time, I expected the worst, worried about the future, and felt resigned to frustration. Those thought patterns got ingrained and soon discontentment felt like it fit me better than enjoyment.
I needed to retrain my thought patterns to embrace enjoyment.
Notice that King Solomon refers to finding enjoyment. It’s an active process.
Like weight lifting, it’s difficult at first. But it gets easier, and the results are undeniable.
Here’s a simple method that works.
When a negative, anxious, or destructive thought pops into your head, try the following:
- Take a breath
- Remind yourself that you are made for enjoyment
- Think a thought of gratitude (for anything you want)
I know it sounds hokey, but just try it.
When writing this post, my computer crashed on me and I lost my work. Perfect opportunity to practice finding enjoyment in the toil of life .
Here’s the sequence:
- Document crashes, work is lost
- I sense frustration coming on
- Deep breath
- “I’m made for enjoyment”
- “I’m grateful to be writing about a topic that I love for readers who care”
Yes, I had to go through the toil of re-doing some work.
However, I got to practice the very thing that I was writing about. And I got the perfect illustration to my point.
It wasn’t a setback. It was a gift.
2. Number your days.
When we’re bored with the toil of life, it’s easy lull ourselves into the faulty belief that life will drag along forever.
Unfortunately, our days are actually few.
There is a real possibility that we’ll slog through life only to find out that it’s over and then want those days back.
I came across a blog 17,000 Days, where the author did a calculation of how many remaining days she has to live based on average life expectancy rates.
It’s a little morbid, but it’s also pretty powerful.
I did my calculation and I have 16,875 days.
The point is not to scare you into a panic- though I am freaking out right now!
The point is to remind you that you don’t have time to waste on frustration and anxiety.
You were made for enjoyment. Spend your days finding it- even in the toil.
(Instructions for finding your expiration date here.)
The picture that Solomon paints is one of a simple person doing simple things like eating, drinking, and working under the sun.
This is his lot.
Our lives are very different.
We are rushed and hurried people with no time for a leisurely meal. Instead of regular and festive drinking with friends, we spend time glued to social media. And we work inside, in front of a computer.
Perhaps, we are so stressed because the lives that we are living are not our lot.
Perhaps, we were designed for a simpler existence- an existence with less hurry, less distraction, and more space to find enjoyment.
No, I’m not contending that everyone ditch technology and work outside. (I’m blogging right now .)
I am suggesting though that we stop muddying our lives with complexity and waste.
It’s one thing to find joy in the toil of life. It’s another to create needless toil.
Want to rid yourself of that haunting feeling that you are incredibly busy and yet woefully unproductive?
Here are some quick ways to simplify your life:
- turn off the internet while you are doing focused work
- clean off your physical desktop and declare it a clutter free zone
- clean off your digital desktop and store your documents in dropbox or work in google docs
- have less stuff; go through your closet, take everything that you don’t use and give it to Goodwill
Question: What are the areas of your life that are most toilsome? What does it take for you to enjoy that toil or simplify your way out of it?
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