Everyone wants happiness, no one wants suffering

“Happiness is not a station you arrive at, but a manner of traveling.”

Please sign the Guestbook

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Exercise four: doing chores

Posted on Happy Minds!

This particular exercise may seem very simple at first glance, but if you do it right, you will find that it is not that easy to do!

The object of this exercise, is to practice humility. You may wonder: why should I practice humility, I thought this was a blog on happiness?
Well, let me tell you a little - true - story to illustrate why I think that practicing humility can bring about a lot of happiness.
It is about a young woman who had a good job in a respectable company. In the department she worked for, most people worked hard and were pleasant coworkers. The head of department decided to buy a fridge, that all employees could share to keep their drinks and food nice and cool. Everybody was happy with this initiative, and as soon as the fridge arrived, it was used from top to bottom. Of course, with such extensive use, the machine soon got very dirty inside. The cleaning lady employed in this company cleaned the outside, but she made it clear that she wasn't going to clean out that fridge on the inside. So what happened: the fridge went from being an appreciated luxury that all enjoyed, to an annoyance to all who worked in that department. The result was endless discussions, and even fights about this tedious task that nobody felt like doing.
One night, the young woman had worked all day and even a little longer then usual. All her coworkers had left for home already. She decided that she was not going to listen to anymore complaining about the stupid fridge any longer. So she got a sponge, a bucket of luke-warm water and some soap, and spent an hour on emptying, cleaning and refilling the fridge. After she was done, she felt very good about herself. She thought it best not to tell anybody that she had performed this task, for she didn't like to be the centre of attention. In stead, she put up a message on the fridge: "Complaints and irritation about the dirt inside have cost us days. Cleaning it took me exactly 1 hour." She went home wisteling, thinking happily of all the suprised faces of her coworkers.
On seeing the fruit of "anonymous" labour, everybody was happy the next day. But also, some people felt a little ashamed because they had not taken the initiative themselves, and instead just spend their time complaining. After that occurence, the fridge was cleaned regularly. No discussion was needed, every time it became necessary, someone else felt responsible enough to start cleaning. And as a little bonus, every time somebody cleaned it, they didn't tell anybody it was them, but instead left a humorous note on the door of the fridge.

So, if you practice a little humility, you can increase your happiness, and the happiness of the people around you, sometimes a lot with fairly little effort!

Now here's the exercise: this week, act at least once like the woman in this story. Do some chore that all your coworkers/family members/fellow citizens are anxiously avoiding. Clean something, water all plants, finish a nasty project. Go to a parc near your house and (carefully!) get rid of the junk there, put used needles left by junkies in a glass jar, so no children or animals can hurt themselves on them. Try to do this without taking any credit for it. If anybody sees you doing this exercise and compliments you, tell them that it's just your job. If you start doing this in order to receive compliments, the exercise is on getting a bigger ego, not on practicing humility.
While doing this exercise, watch your feelings carefully. If you start having thoughts like: I am crazy for doing this, nobody does this, why should I do it? Then start to realise that the reason this chore has not been done yet, is not because it is not worth doing it, but because many people have to big an ego to do it. You are showing yourself that you can do without that big ego. And that's one big step on the road to happiness!

If you like doing this exercise, take it one step further! A little addition for the "more advanced users"! ;-)
Lets say you have cleaned the department-fridge, like the woman in the story. Now next time you are spending some time chatting with a college you like, you can say very casualy: "By the way, I noticed somebody cleaned out the fridge. I am happy someone has done that. I think it must have been Leo who has done it, he's always very helpful" (where of course the name Leo has to be substituted by the name of one of your co-workers). Giving someone else credit for something you've actually done, that is humility training for the advanced!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please add your contribution...

Submit your website to 20 Search Engines - FREE with ineedhits!