When you dream of making it big with your business, you probably picture yourself taking luxe vacations, driving a flash car, or even cutting a big check to your favorite charity. What you probably don't picture yourself doing is hanging out your laundry or tending a coop of backyard chickens.
Being rich and successful is supposed to free us of most of these dull everyday chores, but Tim O'Reilly, the so-called "Oracle of Silicon Valley" and founder of a $100 million media company, finds surprising meaning in continuing to tackle menial tasks.
And no, it's not just that drying your clothes in the sun is better for the earth (though that is a factor too). Nor is O'Reilly's commitment to day-to-day household chores some enlightened effort to remain in touch with the common man. No, as he tells author Gretchen Rubin on her blog recently, hanging laundry actually makes him happy.
The most unlikely happiness booster around
"Every morning, before I plunge into work, checking my devices and getting pulled into the digital whirl, I do some yoga or go running, and do morning chores -- feeding my backyard chickens, emptying the dishwasher, hanging the laundry that I ran overnight, making tea for my wife and for myself," he tells Rubin.
"I treat morning chores as a kind of meditation. Hanging laundry on the line is especially like that for me. It's a wonderful practice that saves energy, makes clothes last longer, and gives me a chance to watch the sunrise over my back yard," O'Reilley opines.
In fact, he even goes on to wax a little lyrical about the pleasures or wielding those clothespins. "The clothesline is also the subject of one of my favorite poems, Richard Wilbur's 'Love Calls Us to the Things of This World'," he adds.
Doing the dishes can be meditation.
Are these the musings of one well-meaning but perhaps slightly eccentric millionaire? As batty as it might initially sound to those of us who are drowning in household chores, O'Reilly's commitment to immersing himself fully in even the most prosaic tasks has serious scientific backing as an effective happiness hack.
A recent study out of Florida State University taught volunteers to truly focus on washing the dishes, feeling the soap bubbles and noticing the texture of a mug or dish, for instance. If this sounds a little wacky to you, then take note of the results. Those who gave their full attention to what's usually a pretty mindless chore reported that a few minutes of dishwashing actually reduced their nervousness by 27 percent and increased their inspiration by 25 percent.
The fact that chores, if done with mindfulness, can actually clear your mind and boost your happiness is something that O'Reilly obviously intuitively understands. It's also something meditation teachers have long pointed out. They insist that nearly anything can be a form of meditation as long as you focus fully on the present. Many suggest savoring rituals to help you slow down and actually experience even mundane moments more fully.
Unlike O'Reilly, doing laundry might be a necessity for you rather than a recreational choice, but that doesn't mean you can't follow his lead and turn usually dreary chores into small rituals that calm you down and brighten your mood. After all, you're going to have to grab that sponge or those clothespins anyway. You may as well make the best of it.