A few weeks ago, I tuned into one of Jay Shetty‘s Live Q&A on the HuffPost Rise page. He was talking about Purpose and he mentioned a story about 3 men who were working at a construction site. This is actually a popular story often offered in motivational talks and, when I looked it up for more clarity, I had no problem finding various versions. But essentially, it is this:

A man walked up to a construction site and came across a rather grumpy-looking man, working half-heartedly. When asked what he was doing, the working man said, “I’m laying bricks.”

The man passing through kept going and came upon another man who seemed to be working a little more diligently with a slightly better attitude. When asked about his work he replied, “I’m building a wall.”

The first man kept going and saw a third man, smiling, whistling away, doing the same work but doing it purposefully and with obvious pride. When asked about his work he replied, “I’m building the most beautiful cathedral in the world.”

Three men doing the same work but with totally different attitudes.

A couple things struck me as I heard this story:

  1. Looking at the big picture is motivating and even empowering. Some of my tasks may be menial, but they all add up to something greater. Cleaning bathrooms, for example. Organizing closets. Filing receipts. Developing a system. If I know WHY I’m doing these things and really want the desired outcome, I’m more motivated to complete the job with less irritation.
  2. How I talk about my task at hand determines how I feel about it – and maybe even how I feel about myself. Am I a brick-layer, or the builder of the most beautiful cathedral in the world? I get to decide. Am I a frumpy stay-at-home Mom, or am I a Domestic Goddess? And if I am the latter in either scenario, how does that make me feel? It’s interesting how our language affects our perception.

Have you heard this story before? What does it make you think about? I’d love to hear in the comments!

taslim jaffer, let me out creative