Have you heard the story of the three stonecutters?
It goes like this…
“There once were three stonecutters.
The first, when asked by a stranger about what he is doing, says,
“Can’t you see I’m cutting stones?”
The stranger quickly moves off.
He comes upon a second who, when asked about what he is doing, says,
“I’m working for income so I can take care of my family.”
The stranger moves on.
He comes upon the third stonecutter who, when asked about what he is doing, says with a smile and affirmation,
“I’m building a cathedral. Each stone I cut is placed into a house of praise that will be here centuries after I am gone.”
It resonated instantly.
Cause the GTD® Practitioner in me could see the parallels with the Horizons of Focus model.
Why was the Third Stonecutter’s Answer So Remarkable?
After all, the first guy had it right. They were cutting stones. Nothing out of the ordinary about that.
But here’s where the plot thickens.
The first stonecutter was focused on the physical aspect of the work. He thought of it only in terms of mundane everyday actions.
In GTD speak this is the Ground Level. Here we are trying to grapple with the information and inputs that come our way without stepping backing and surveying how our efforts are adding value to our lives.
People who operate on the Ground Level without clarity around how it links to their higher horizons rarely find joy in their career and their relationships.
Did you detect the hint of anger in the first stonecutter’s reply when the stranger asked him what he was doing?
No wonder. The poor man was frazzled and probably felt like a hamster on a wheel – stuck doing something he doesn’t like.
The second stonecutter did better than the guy before him.
He at least knew that the task he was devoting energy to would feed and support his family. He had a purpose. But the purpose was limited to Horizon 3, his “Area of Focus”.
It offers people somewhat of a “why” – even if that why doesn’t go beyond the immediate future.
People who operate in this state of mind find temporary motivation and can see where they are going.
But they are not in a state of complete clarity.
And that’s when we come to the third stonecutter.
He stopped work and actually gave the stranger a long winded answer. Perhaps the mere act of stone cutting had him so enthralled that he wanted to share the fact that he was becoming part of something transcendental – the house of God – with everyone he saw.
The third stonecutter was gliding through life with a view of his Fifth Horizon – the ultimate purpose!
He knew what he wanted to be remembered for – the greater good – and he connected the rather menial job of stone cutting to his Vision & Purpose.
How to Connect Your Day to Day Actions With Your Life’s Purpose?
Just ask yourself the question “why”, repeatedly till there is nothing left to probe.
So it’s Friday night and the boss has dumped a new project – urgent – on your plate.
You have to get it done.
You ask yourself “why”.
“Why should I do this project and not enjoy my weekend as planned?”
The answer may be “Because I don’t want to risk getting fired!”
“Because this job is a steady source of income for me!”
This is where you will get down to the wire.
The answer will maybe “Because I like the job and it gets me closer to my vision of being a CEO” or you will realize that you hate your boss, your present career and everything about it.
In the latter case, you can take an informed decision around doing the project or just tendering your resignation to embark on the journey to find a more rewarding career.
The bottom line is, you will start making trusted choices. You will understand that the option to work or leave is yours. And that will make you a lot more joyful – even if you do spend the weekend slogging.
When you always know your “why” and can connect with your purpose, you:
- Overcome procrastination. The cost of not taking action is crystal clear – It is denying the fulfillment of your life’s purpose.
- Bring energy and enthusiasm to your commitments. Each to-do, each agreement is a stepping stone towards ultimate vision achievement. You try your very best to honor them and give your 100% to your work. It generates an overabundance of motivation.
- Trust your choices. Since you know the destination, you use the GPS of your intuition to choose and execute tasks that leave the positive impact on the journey – given the time and resources available. And it works out just fine.
- Become mindful of the present. You realize that finishing one task means you are not doing a dozen other perhaps urgent things. But since all to-dos are aligned with your purpose, you feel a sense of calm and are okay, not obsessing about your crowded plate. You live life to the fullest.
The GTD system makes referencing the Horizons of Focus a great habit that can take you far in life.
Do you have any practice around this useful concept?
To get more Control and Perspective in your life, we invite you to attend in a GTD® Workshop. We’ll show you how to master the Art of Stress-Free Productivity.
Hi! I’m a Master Trainer in Getting Things Done (GTD) and a Holacracy Coach. I believe our work should be an expression of our most creative selves. I work with business owners and their teams to achieve stress-free productivity.