A Christmas tree in the lobby of an office building caught my eye yesterday. It was big, fully decorated and seemingly brand new. Yet, it felt sterile, put together quickly and uncaringly.

Two sides to the coin

This office Christmas tree made me think of how we might relate to so many things we do. To the very acts of working and living. How, structurally, we might find ourselves in situations that require us to churn out work that is sterile and uncared for. Because that’s what is asked for. Because that is the employer’s chosen business model. 

The other side of the coin is that the employee too makes a choice. A choice to take on sterile and uncaring working. To accept a role that does not fully engage their enthusiasm and spirit. Perhaps, because it feels easy. Perhaps, because so much of it goes on that it seems very normal. Or, perhaps because they have not deeply appreciated what they might be putting themselves through.

The difference

Now contrast this with the home Christmas tree that you really spent time on. It may be a little smaller than the office tree, but it feels real, put together with care and attention. Think of the fun you had decorating it and the joy of seeing it completed. What if everything you do, including work, could be like that?

Ultimately, it is a choice. Albeit a choice within in a world that has a structural bias towards having a large number of uncaring jobs. You can either decide to spend your time doing such uncaring work that resembles an office Christmas tree. Or, you can do something that demands your fullest energy and enthusiasm and in which you find meaning.

You must decide.

How you relate

The interesting thing is that in both situations, we are dealing with the same activity, decorating a Christmas tree. What’s different is how you relate to the activity and how you feel as you engage in each situation.

Home Christmas trees can be as sterile as office trees if you approach them in the same way. What really matters then is your inner state as you engage in the thing, whatever that may be. So, it is very much a decision around how you relate to what you do, as much as it is about what you actually do. And, the two are very connected.

One could ask at this point: Is it possible to fully engage in something that is sterile? But, perhaps a more interesting question is: What really keeps you doing things that you already know to be sterile?


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