Throughout life many potential dance partners look us in the eye and ask, “May I have this dance?” One of those potential partners is drudgery—that life stage where work and life are dull and fatiguing, and labor is uninspired or menial.1
Drudgery is that stage of life where life and career become boring and routine, and making a living is filled more with a sense of “wooooorrk” than it is fulfillment. Drudgery is such an ugly dance partner, but if we’re not careful—especially the older we get—we can find ourselves not only dancing with her, but allowing her to take the lead. Dancing with her comes with a price. Dance with her, and we forego the opportunity to dance with purpose, meaning, and fulfillment.
When drudgery is taking you for a spin on the dance floor, how do you let purpose and meaning and fulfillment break in and dance with you instead?
- Determine what it is that you are doing when you are most yourself and milk it for all it’s worth. Let me give you an example from my own life:
I am a formerly retired minister. Why did I come out of retirement recently to take a part-time ministry position? In part my openness to the idea was prompted by the energy, fulfillment, and sense of purpose I felt one day last fall when I voluntarily made some hospital visits to members of the church I now attend. When a friend asked how it felt, I said, “I felt like I’d been resurrected.” I felt an energy, a meaning, and a purpose in life I hadn’t felt in quite some time. As for you, what is it that you are you doing when you feel most alive, most fulfilled, most energized, and most purposeful? Pursue that.
- Dream new dreams, set new goals, and then pursue them. Those who say no to drudgery’s invitation to dance are those who, in the words of C.S. Lewis, realize they are “never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.” But notice I didn’t just say, “Dream new dreams and set new goals.” We have a name for people who dream new dreams, but do nothing further. We call them daydreamers. Those who avoid drudgery are those who pursue their dreams and work to meet their goals.
Years ago I read a Dear Abby advice column where a man explained to Abby that he had always wanted to be a doctor. Since he was age 36, that seemed out of the realm of possibility for him. He noted that even if he started med school right then, he would be 43 when he finished his residency. Abby’s advice was spot on when she said, “How old will you be in seven years if you don’t go to med school?” To avoid drudgery, dream dreams, set goals, but by all means pursue them.
- Have a reason to thrive, not simply to exist. “Existers” go to work, punch a clock, draw a paycheck, and repeat regularly. “Thrivers” have a greater cause to live for than simply paying the bills. “Thrivers” determine to leave their part of the world a better place than when they found it. “Thrivers” live for a purpose bigger than themselves.
No better strategy exists for saying no to drudgery and yes to purpose, meaning, and fulfillment—in other words, for thriving—than the words found in the Bible in 2 Timothy 4:7, which the Apostle Paul used to sum up his life. Paul said, “I have fought the good fight. I have finished the course. I have kept the faith….”
Let me reword Paul’s words into a three-part strategy for saying no to drudgery’s offer to dance:
- Fight the good fight, not just any fight. Make sure what you fight for in life makes a difference in others’ lives. No better fight exists than living well the Christian life.
- Finish well in life. Don’t bail out before the finish line. Determine that when the end of life comes, you can look yourself in the eye and conclude you gave life your best shot.
- Keep the faith. While many faith options exist which promise purpose and meaning in life, none equals or surpasses the purpose and meaning found in genuine Christianity.
When drudgery asks you to dance, say no, so you can say yes instead to a fulfilled life.
1 Merriam Webster Online Dictionary