This blog was featured on 11/07/2018
Grounding vs. Grinding: The Truth About Productivity

I come from a long line of creative, capable women. Women who worked outside as well as inside the home. Women who knew how to get things done. My role models were reliable and strong. “You can sleep when you get home,” my grandmother told me while we traveled together through Europe when I was a teenager. Her intention was clear: leave no sightseeing stone unturned. 

I’m grateful for my ancestors, who possessed intuition as well as fortitude. But one thing my Type-A loved ones neglected to teach, and perhaps didn’t know enough about, was the importance of slowing down. Granted, their worlds weren’t as fast-paced as ours, and if they understood the advantages of downtime, I didn’t get the message. Not to the extent that was necessary. They seemed always to be doing. Laziness was practically a sin. A lazy person was a “bad” person.

A few weeks ago, returning from my morning walk, I was tempted to skip meditation and journal writing and head straight to work. It was a Monday and I had a lot to do: a writing deadline, a client proposal to get out, a slew of emails to answer, materials to send my writing students. And more. “But I’d like to get in some groundingbefore my grinding,” I said to my husband. Not that I see my work as a grind, but when I get busy the first things to go are my grounding practices. 

Grounding means centering. It means dropping beneath the turbulent waters of activity and thought and connecting with the place inside that is untouched by business or daily drama. It means feeling the place inside that is naturally joyous. This is different from the joy I feel when thinking happy thoughts or having fun. For example, that Monday morning I felt happy anticipating Family Weekend at my daughter’s college. I was also delighted to read an email from a new student who said she was enjoying my class. And I was both surprised and thrilled to hear from a reader who loved my memoir, which was on display at her local library in Okotoks, a province of Alberta, Canada. 

Then there are the people in my life who bring me happiness—the fact that I have a loving husband, who patiently guides me through technological wilderness and supports my vision and ideas; that I have a daughter and two sisters I love; and on and on.  

But there’s another kind of happiness, too—one that resides deep within—underneath the circumstances of my day or the people in my life. This happiness is inherent; it’s the happiness we were born with; and it’s 100% unconditional. I find it helpful to remind myself that it’s there—especially when the circumstances of my life become difficult. Middle age has brought challenges. At times the joy within has felt extinguished. 

Grounding invites me to visit this place, to dwell peacefully there, to slow everything down. And the irony is that I get more done from this place. I’m more productive when I’m grounded.

Grinding energy is completely different. Grinding has to do with cranking out work. In this mode it’s easy to overwork, which leads to burnout. Although grinding can be gratifying, it’s a cheap thrill that doesn’t last. It’s not sustainable. But here’s the thing I find most interesting about grinding: unlike grounding, grinding is fueled by lack and negative thinking, by thoughts such as I don’t have enough timeI’ll never get everything doneIf I don’t do this—and do it really well—xyz terrible thing will happen. These are the thoughts that fuel the hectic, perpetual doing that is grinding.

Grounding offers a completely different way to approach work and life. It offers the possibility of being at home in the truest sense of the word: being in touch with your own true nature. Not the you who becomes agitated, worried, and afraid. These are our human frailties. I’m talking about our divine nature. We have a choice: we can live from love or fear. I’m running either fearful or loving thoughts in my head. And which thoughts I’m believing in a given moment determines whether I’m grounding or grinding. When I “attack” my day or my to-do list, my energy tends to be manic and fear-based. I’m learning how to roll up my proverbial sleeves and work from a calm and loving space inside—and it’s amazing how productive and sweet this can be.

So, busy authors, writers, and humans: don’t feel the need to “tackle” your list, or feel that you must do everything all at once. Take a breath. Slow down. Find your own way to ground, to connect with your inherent inner joy. You might be pleasantly surprised to discover easier access to insights and inner wisdom. When you’re less reactive you’re likely to have more energy and be more present. Daily dramas don’t have to suck you into their vortex. 

Duck down underneath the turbulent waves of your life and look for that calm feeling. It’s there. We all have it. Spending time in still, eternal waters that run deep will deliver you to your grounding. Save the grinding for your coffee.

Are you grinding or grounding? I’d love to hear from you.

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