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12 May 2009

You become what you do

I have been thinking about last Friday's Home made post and want to add to it because as it stands, it's not sitting well with me.

I wrote last week that I find meaning in much of what I do at home and that being at home and doing all the small things of the every day make me the person I am today. All that is true, but as I'm writing this post for the world to see, I want to add this: I believe that if I had the same mindset that I have today and was practising my simple philosophy while doing my main work away from home, if I was mindful and worked to my potential, it would strengthen my character and make me better for it, just like it does at home.

Becoming a quieter, gentler and simpler person while being at home is a wonderful and significant thing, but I know that many of you work away from the home and that many of the men who read here spend a lot of time at their place of work, and often that is far from home. So let me clarify: I believe progress towards a simpler mindset is possible at most places of work, not just at home. You will be remade by whatever you spend the majority of your hours on. Home is my main workplace, but if I was spending most of my working hours outside the home, I would endeavour to make the actions of my day meaningful, I would do my best for my employer (or myself I were self employed), I would treat people with respect, I would be mindful of my actions and how they impact on others.

If you are working away from home most days you can take your simple mindset with you. Don't get weighed down by the culture you work in, try to reverse the trend and show, by example, there is another way. Oscar Wilde wrote in De Profundis: I forgot that every little action of the common day makes or unmakes character ... I have found that when I'm away from home, if I show kindness and respect, most of the time, it is returned to me. But this is more than that. This is respecting the way you want your life to be as well. No matter what work you carry out every day, be it for yourself at home, for yourself in your own business, on contract or for a wage or salary, do your best work because your best work will make you too.

A simple life can be built anywhere and I'm not naive enough to believe that we all live in cocoons. I go out to my voluntary work, I see the good and bad in people I meet, I understand that life is not black or white but many shades of grey in between. Just yesterday while I was at work, I sat with two other volunteers at our kitchen table having lunch. One of the other ladies was older than I, the other the same age. They had a mutual friend whose husband died a month before and they were discussing how they could support that grieving lady by getting her back into normal everyday activities, inviting her to their groups and just talking to her. As I sat there listening to what they said, I was struck by how generous these two women were and how they were a shining example to me of that famous quote of Mahatma Gandhi: Be the change you want to see in the world. They were making the everyday actions of their day mean something.

So now I feel better because I don't believe home is the only place good things happen. If we take the time, if we are true to ourselves no matter where we are, if we live to reflect our values, our work, whether it is at home or not, will be an important part of who we are. And whether you share your philosophy with your colleagues or not, doing your best and being mindful of your actions will make you stronger and proud that your work day produced not only dollars for the time and effort spent, but also the knowledge that you become what you do.


  1. What you are referring to Rhonda reminds me very much of the Buddhist concept of mindfulness, paying full attention to those around you and what you are doing. If you fully concentrate on what you are doing and do it deliberately and thoroughly, whether talking to a colleague, working on a problem, or weeding your lawn, the result will usually be wonderful. It is about respecting the moment, and respecting the people and other living creatures with which your interact. And, this can be done anywhere, not just in the home. Thanks for your blog.

  2. Great addition. I work two days a week in paid employment and I try very hard to bring the, I guess, 'peacefulness' of home with me. I avoid getting caught up in the politics and try to focus on each action, just as you have explained in your posting. It isn't easy sometimes though (!).

    PS thanks for adding Permaculture Pathways to your list of friends and neighbours. I hope to catch you at Reality Bites too, and hear the secrets of your success.


  3. Dear Rhonda
    Today's post is outstanding and very timely, a broad view of the situation most people find themselves in work completed outside the home.Your comments are particularly helpful in reminding all of us must work that we have a CHOICE in how and why we work, undertake that work and that the even the most menial and simple of tasks done well within the workplace can give a peronal pride and sense of achievement to individuals, even if these actions are unnoticed by employers and fellow employees.
    Well done and thanks for giving me a much broader perspective on a day when I will be facing some very difficult and unnecessary situations at my place of work.

  4. We have just returned from a visit to our daughter in a capital city and I was amazed at the service or lack of from some people. I stood waiting so long for coffee at one outlet while the girls chatted away that I thanked them for their non-service and went elsewhere yet a bus driver went out of his way to give us some great suggestions on which bus to catch to see the best of the city.Perhaps I have reached the cranky old woman stage but a smile and good service really does not take anymore effort.
    I appreciate your blog and it is daily reading but since starting my own I have discovered that it really is hard work.You make it seem so easy.Congratulations,Rhonda.

  5. Rhonda,
    Thank you so much for your blog. This is a wonderful post. Thanks again.

  6. Good morning Rhonda,

    I really agree with all you have said today. No matter what area of life if you give it your very best you will always have an aura of peace and joy surrounding you and it rubs off on others then as well. This is what it means to really live!!!! your life. Thankyou for the timely reminder Rhonda.

    Blessings Gail

  7. Rhonda Jean, your original post was so beautiful and touching. Being a homemaker and homeschooler, I felt the warmth that comes from really living into your home. But this post has just as good of a message--that we can really live into wherever we're at. Which could even be this wacky world of cyberspace. Thanks for sharing yourself in, what seems to me, such an intimate way.

  8. Dear Rhonda,

    This is an absolutely outstanding explanation of a wonderful way to live. Thank you.

    Donna in CO

  9. This is an important post Rhonda. While I've been reading a long time and know a bit of your backstory, posts like this reach out to others who are like me - early thirties wife, mother, worker, heavily mortgaged, tired just getting it all done - to show us that we can make small steps around, or even in, the things that dominate our life at this stage/age. Lovely.

  10. This is a wonderful post and although at times it may be tough, I intend to take the message with me to my place of employment. I can teach my younger co-workers through my actions to be mindful and peaceful and maybe I will have fewer headaches myself when I leave for the day!
    I have to thank you again for an earlier post where you said for those of us with some disabilities to just do what we can. I have always tried to get it ALL done and with my temporary disability I have not gotten much of anything done. Now, each week on my weekends I am doing just what I can and doing everything I can deliberately and it seems that I am accomplishing more! Or maybe it is that I am now satisfied with what I have done. Either way, I am smiling more! Thank you!

  11. Beautiful, insightful, and compassionate as always, Rhonda. I think that home offers a particularly unique and special place to develop a simpler mindset; since homelife is able to be adapted to our needs and personalities, it makes it "easier", in a way, to keep things simple. At work, we are often at the whims and demands of others. While this may be more challenging, it is by no means a necessasry hindrance. We might have to be more purposeful in our choice to live with simplicity than we would otherwise be at home, but all things are possible with God!

  12. Hi Rhonda, I have been following your inspiring blog since I heard you interviewed on Radio National a few weeks ago. I am the co-editor of a magazine (called Barefoot) for parents & families which deals with the same sort of themes as you do on your blog. We would love to interview you or have you write an article for us. Please let me know if you're interested. Yours is the first blog I have ever looked at, so please excuse me if I have broken some sort of blog-etiquette by approaching you in this way! Many thanks to you for your thoughtful words, Rachel

  13. Another great post and an encouragement as I was feeling a bit discouraged in my goal toward a more simple life...

  14. We are self employed and we work to make a living, we don't live to work. We aim to provide quality goods and services to our customers and a happy productive workplace to our employees. We have had continual "luck" with our employees, we have hard working people who are a joy to be with. Attitudes towards our work -- inside or outside the home -- matter so much.

    I'm about to pick up my bag and go to work -- with home baked goodies for everyone's morning tea. :)

  15. Great article! It all comes down to being true to ourselves not matter where and what we are doing in life. On last article on my blog I said my wishes for my daughters were to hold on to their moral and values, and thine on self be true. As I have read your article I have always thought I have been those things. Now, I see,In the last six years, I have let my illness, take me away from the life I have enjoyed so much. Yet, as I look back over my week, I have been trying to have my life back, if only for a few months, before surgery again. Thank for helping me open my eyes.

  16. Thank you so much for posting this! I love reading homemaker blogs - they have helped me learn so much, but I feel condemned by most of them because I work outside of the home. This is not the situation I always want to be in, but it is the one I need to be in for the time being. What I enjoy is bringing the things I've learned from blogs like yours to the other women I work with and showing them a better way than stress and overwork and "just getting by".

    Lisa S

  17. Thanks for another great post Rhonda.This also reminds me of something CS Lewis wrote about each small action we make being like a key, turning our character slightly each time in one direction or another. There's something incredibly empowering about the concept that "you become what you do".
    For me, too, it helps to reconcile the concept of valuing others with that of regard for one's own value and being. This is something I've constantly struggled with, having that tendency to wear myself down and treat my own self with disregard, believing I'm doing the right thing while in fact just ending up feeling resentful of, rather than connected to,those I've tried to help.
    Mindfulness helps me to integrate my own being with other people and the world around me .I have found that this seems to infuse my actions with a warmth and light and connectedness not present when just obediently "doing the right thing", without regard to the cost to myself( and inevitably, to my family). It doesn't always come easily but in all these things, I do keep trying to remind myself of the cumulative effect of the babysteps I make.And people like you and your readers, Rhonda, just keep generating such support and inspiration.

  18. Thanks Rhonda I enjoyed both your posts about what makes us.

    I also received my swap package today and wanted to thankyou for hosting it. I have taken a moment to thank my swap partner Susan in my blog post today. Expressing gratitude is something I value highly.

    Now I just need to find out where to post the pics to flickr. Do you have a group there and a link to it?


  19. Hi Rhonda....thank you for this wise addition to your previous post. I was touched by what you said about being in our homes...but I am so glad you broadened that to cover those dear ladies who do work outside the home...our peace in any situation is a deliberate mindset. Thank you.

  20. Rhonda, I tried writing my own blog but found it a bit difficult. Am using the same blogger site as you have but am finding it difficult to get started. Do you have any suggestions. Also, how did it all start for you and was it as simple as starting a blog one day and going from there. I read somewhere that in a former life you were a nurse but also that you are a writer. What skills do I need to have my own blog?

  21. You're right, it's all about being mindfull!


  22. Thank you for expanding on your previous post. I'm middle-aged and support elderly relatives, but live alone and so have no choice but to go out to work in order to have an income. Your words struck such a chord with me. I don't usually leave comments but I'm a keen reader of your blog and now I feel very 'included'. Thank you!

  23. Lovely wise words! :)
    The principle of good work ethics and attitudes are often tested, sometimes moreso in certain employment situations.
    It can be so easy to fall to the 'lowest standard on the ladder' rather than aim to climb to the highest.
    If we focus on edifying others highly, setting the very best standards we're capable of, then even if we fall short (as we all have those days) at least we can be content that we've done our best and been of encouragement. Oh, and on that note - to remember that not all workmates or employees like to compliment or verbally acknowledge outstanding efforts, but it's never unnoticed! :)
    I've read a few blog entries today which have reflected similar thoughts about work ethics, including my brief thoughts about the Amish today. It must be the season of reflection!

  24. Rhonda,

    Thank you so much for this reminder to find what you can from every situation and leave the rest.

    I have found when you think and act the way you want to you will attract more of the same.

    This is a great post!

    If you have time I would love to see more of your cotton bags. I just love the recycled ones. I have been looking for a liner for a bread bag I am working on. I don't want plastic or nylon, perhaps a double layer of linen would work? Have you tried this?

    The blog is looking great, all that hard work is shining through!

    Hope you had a wonderful day.
    Hello, Hanno!


  25. What a great addition to your other post. Respect, grace and generosity are welcome everywhere, and all honest work is noble.

  26. Thank you for this post!

    cathy c

  27. As always, Rhonda, you seem to hit the nail on the head and with such well put, commonsense I am always surprise by the clarity you manage to convey.

    Keep it up, you too are making a great contribution to the world.

  28. I recently posted this quote by my phone at work:
    Make a gift of your life and lift all mankind by being kind, considerate, forgiving and compassionate at all times, in all places, and under all conditions, with everyone as well as yourself. This is the greatest gift anyone can give.
    (David R. Hawkins)

  29. Well said...I really appreciate your blog and the wisdom behind it. I'm glad also that you aren't preachy or religious oriented, but true to your heart and caring about others. I wish more people were like you, myself included! Thanks for being an excellant example and role model for many of us, from the bottom of my heart.

  30. Absolutely! So many different types of people want to live a simple life - men, women, young wives, older wives, mothers to any number of children, grandmothers... of course, the path cannot be just the same for everyone! I'm sure the simple and peaceful of our family is not the same as in yours. And it just makes things more interesting!

  31. Hi

    Another quote I enjoy is

    "How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives."
    Annie Dillard

    Very true!

    Love Leanne

  32. Hi Sonya, I'd like to see you again. Hopefully we'll find each other soon.

    Rachel, you can contact me using the email link under my photo on the home page.

    Rose, you are such a lovely lady. You get it and live it deep down to your bones. I think your work place would be a delight to visit.

    Cee, I'll ask Sharon to post about photos later in the week.

    Karyn, please email me your postal address. I have a couple of spare Kialla bags here I will post to you.

    Many thanks for your comments. I enjoy reading every one of them.

  33. Thank you! As someone who has worked 23 years as a military person, as an officer with a high pressure job, I was a little down at the previous post. Most of my adult life has not been my own. But this does reinvigorate me!

  34. As a mother working outside of the home, I can really relate to the comment by mom of 3. Through much prayer, God showed me that I can really bloom right where I am. That I don't have to wait for the "right" time (in my case when I can be home full-time). Your post speaks to that as well. Thanks!

  35. Perhaps it is simply that "home" gives us the peace, tranquility and strength to go out into the world and be all we can be.

    I put home in inverted commas because it is very different for everyone. I see "home" as the physical place my refuge and the heart place, my children feel it as the support they get from their family others may see it as their own inner strength.

    We all manifest home in our own way as children it may be our secret hiding place, for teenagers it may be their car, and for some of us it may even well be the office as this is where we spend most of our time.

    "home" is probably the most powerful word we know.


  36. I really do appreciate this post, as I do many of the ones of yours I've only begun to read recently. I have the "luxury" of staying at home with my son, but wonder sometimes how I can make my life simple the way I see yours is when we live in a rough, urban neighborhood and don't have the capacity to grow our own food, etc. For me, I try to think more about how I can not just practice simplicity myself, but share it also with my son. Instead of trips to get out that involve shopping, I try to take more trips to parks or zoos. But now I hear him waking up from his nap, so I have to go!

  37. I'm finding this more and more everyday. I can't believe how living a deliberate life has begun to mold and shape me. I am so different than I was even a couple years ago!

    Doing your best, and putting your heart into whatever you are called to do, will make even the mundane things "yours". We can make a difference when we are in settings outside the home, just by our attitude.

  38. I admire you. Thank you for your sharing and mentorship! Peace and good things to you!


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