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How to Take a Positive Approach to Daily Demands

Yes, there’s inspiration to be found in that long to-do list.

Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

At my son’s middle school, tasks are divided into two main categories—“must-dos,” and “may-dos.” The latter are optional, and they typically include activities that kids are more motivated to get to, something that keeps them engaged in working through the “must-dos.”

As a grown-up, I often feel my to-do list as an endlessly spooling ticker tape reel. If I’m asked in a moment of overwhelm to describe it, I would likely respond that it’s full of “must-dos,” required errands and tasks that leave me with minimal opportunity for the things that really bring me joy and meaning.

The thing is, I’d be wrong to see it that way. When I look at my daily tasks through an authentically positive lens—the one that tells me not everything is my favorite, but overall I have a pretty good life—I start to see the glimmer of gratitude in even the most mundane “must-dos” on my list.

For example, noticing I have to stop by the grocery store for tonight’s dinner, I can take a moment to focus on the gift of nourishing myself and my family with healthy, delicious food.

When I have a pile of emails to respond to, I can note that my work brings my life purpose and meaning. I don’t have to abandon my feelings that sometimes my cup runneth over—and not everything is going to be enjoyable or special—in order to feel gratitude for the opportunities my obligations present.

The good news about taking this positive approach to daily tasks is that it is actually a motivator to help us be more productive and successful. Psychologists studied this phenomenon in a recently published peer-reviewed study that showed that college students who felt their academic studies were building toward achievement of a goal or purpose were more engaged in and motivated by their obligations.

I’m not working toward a degree, but I can certainly take inspiration from this idea that when we focus on feelings of gratitude for the opportunities we have, we are going to pursue those tasks with more gusto, energy, and satisfaction than if we feel bowled over by a “must-do” mentality.

Have you ever felt motivated by a greater purpose when you’re facing a long to-do list?

Read More: 3 Short Bible Verses to Read When You’re Overwhelmed

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