Sometimes You Gotta Get Your Hands Dirty: The Need for Tangible Results
Do you ever have days where you work hard all day and then go home and wonder what you actually accomplished? Or, maybe you could not manage to get motivated or inspired enough to delve into your work wholeheartedly. Either way, at the end of the day your questions may be something like, “What did I do all day?” and “Did it even matter?”
For those of us who have some sort of desk job, work on long-term projects, or spend our days using “soft skills,” it can be hard to answer those questions at times. What tangible evidence do I have that I made a difference today? How do I know if I made any progress? Does my work really contribute anything important?
If we cannot come up with satisfactory answers to those questions, we may feel our work is meaningless and that we lack purpose.
It may be helpful to create a visual representation of the mini-accomplishments you make every day and how they add up to create larger accomplishments. It might also be helpful to journal, ask for feedback, or find ways to measure the return on investment (ROI) of your intangible contributions. These are all great ideas that mitigate the lack of tangibility.
However, this article is not about how to measure and represent what you did all day, as important as that may be. This article is about getting dirty and doing something hands-on. It is about doing something tangible to see immediate results and to counterbalance all that intangible work you are doing. And, it is about getting your feet on the ground (metaphorically and literally).
Balancing Intangibles With the Very Tangible Ground
I will be the first to admit that I do not know much about electricity. It has always been quite mysterious to me. For those of you who know more about it, please excuse my incredibly elementary explanation of the concept of grounding.
In physics, the act of grounding is the act of removing excess charge, whether that charge is negative or positive. Even though jargon in various industries and fields is often nonsensical to outsiders, the term “ground” is an excellent name for an object that takes on or gives up electrons in order to remove excess charge. Apparently, our planet (i.e. the ground we stand, walk, sit, and lie on) is an excellent conductor and electrical ground.
As a parallel, we humans need to ground ourselves. If we spend too much time in buildings and doing intangible work, we can build up an excess of “charge,” either positive or negative. Excess “positive” energy may come in the form of anxiety, hyperactivity, and even anger. Excess “negative” energy may come in the form of melancholy, disinterest, and disengagement. To ground this energy requires a physical intervention, preferably with the ground (i.e. earth). And it requires being present– in the moment.
One way of being present, getting in contact with the ground, and creating tangible results, is to garden or do other yardwork. Another way is to make pottery from clay. If you do not have a yard or access to a pottery wheel, you could volunteer to plant trees, clear hiking trails, or remove invasive species from a nature preserve. If you are okay with your work being washed away by waves, you could build sandcastles or other elaborate sand art at the beach (you might want to take some pictures before it gets washed away). The results are somewhat less tangible, but you could also hike to a beautiful viewpoint or walk/run in a local race. Everyone has their own way of connecting with the ground.
Whatever you do, take joy in being in the moment. It is not necessary to break a sweat or create a masterpiece. Touch earth, be purposeful, and feel your excess energy being absorbed by the ground. Connecting to the earth is a great way to rekindle feelings of meaningfulness and a sense of purpose. When you connect to the ground, you connect to everything else on the Earth, giving and receiving electrons as everything else gives and receives electrons. You are a part of something bigger than yourself, and if you get grounded you will be able to tap into that “something bigger.”
Sure, it sounds a little metaphysical, but groundedness and connection to the earth actually lives in the physical realm. We are talking about electrons after all. We could discuss breathing in the same way– as we exchange carbon dioxide for oxygen in a continuous dance with photosynthetic organisms. In fact, breathing is another excellent way to draw ourselves into the present and connect with the world around us. The results are just a little less tangible than moving earth.
And now that I have shared my tips for grounding excess negative or positive energy and creating tangible results when your work is intangible, I am going to do some yardwork to re-connect with the world around me and create some tangible results of my own.
Did you find any useful suggestions in this article? Try them out. And feel free to use the comments section to report in about your experience. Do you feel renewed meaning and purpose in your life? Did you go back to work revitalized and ready to take on the day? Do you have other suggestions people can use to get in touch with the earth, create tangible results, and be in the moment?