You become what you do

12 May 2009

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.