As you get organized for your day, in the morning, you may begin to make a mental list of things you need to do. Or maybe you make a physical list. Some of what you need to do may involve leaving your home and venturing out into the world.
Generally, we don’t look forward to errands in the same way we might look forward to a concert or dinner at a nice restaurant. So we often go through our errands with a task-oriented determination and define success by how quickly we get everything done. We want as much time as possible for those activities that we truly enjoy.
But when we see our errands as opportunities for presence, engagement and even joy, we are living with greater vitality and deriving greater satisfaction. Being efficient is not the only sign of a successful errand trip.
Here are a few ways in which you can enrich your experience of doing errands:
Don’t ruminate when doing errands. Instead, notice how the loaves of bread are displayed in the bakery window. Make note of the graphic signs at the pet food store and the art work at the bank. Rather than daydream, notice the name tag of your cashier, the fragrance in the deli and the sounds of life around you. Notice something new in your own neighborhood as you drive around. We feel more alive when we’re present.
- Moments of Connection
If you’re running errands you will find yourself in front of a lot of counters. Behind those counters are human beings. Many of them are not there because they love their job. They are there because they need money. Their interactions with people are brief and often involve only the most functional exchanges. So you have a great 60 second opportunity to bring some joy into their day. Say something to them instead of the habitual “how are you?” Ask them something about their day. Compliment them on their hair, or eyeglasses, or bracelet. Ask them if they like their name. Take a risk and ask them if they have something they’re looking forward to doing this weekend. Expand your goal to include creating some good karma.
- Express Gratitude
Thank everyone who does anything at all to help you. “Thank you for bagging my groceries.” “Thank you for filling my prescription.” “Thanks for holding the door open for me.” When you express specific gratitude, you have to first notice that something was done for you. It influences your attention. And it affects the people around you, as well.
- Learn something
The more you pay attention, engage and ask questions, the more likely you will learn something new. You may discover what kind of flour they use for Gluten-free muffins. Or what they are looking for when they put your car on a lift for the state inspection. Be curious. Learn something you didn’t know when you left your home.
When I used to drop my daughters off at school, just as they were leaving the car and we were saying goodbye, I used to end my good bye with BPFITW. That was a code. It meant, “Be A Positive Force In The World”.
Even in our high technology world, errands are a part of life. But they don’t have to be boring or tedious. Even if there’s something we’d rather be doing, we can make each errand a small adventure. We can challenge ourselves to find ways of connecting, engaging, learning and making a contribution.
And while you’re out . . . . BPFITW.
Gregg Krech Author, Naikan: Gratitude, Grace and the Japanese Art of Self-reflection (2002)| Author, A Natural Approach to Mental Wellness (2004, 2011)| Author, A Finger Pointing to the Moon (2000)| Editor, Thirty Thousand Days: A Journal for Purposeful Living (1993-Present)| Director, ToDo Institute (Vermont) (1992-Pr......