Can Each Thing Be Honored?
One sure sign the ego is in the driver's seat is that everything we are doing feels like a "means to an end."
The absolute key to sacred conduct is the honoring of what is in front of us at any given moment. The sense that the process of doing - the quality of it - is every bit as important as the so-called outcome. The quality of the doing is the basis for contentment - for freedom.
It's worth remembering that the process of accomplishing things actually accounts for most of our life. If we are absent for that, and only allow peace when things have been "achieved" or "completed," we're setting up a subtle (and usually unconscious) dynamic that sees life as more or less a low-grade, constant struggle that is occasionally punctuated by moments of respite.
While this is totally normal, it has far reaching consequences on our mind and energy system. Basically, it produces this sense in the background of consciousness that we are waiting to really live. "If I can just get this project done, then I can really relax...." etc. It's saying that there is something in the world that is more important than being at home in myself. This is a lie. It is even a lie at the relative level of doing - being at home in myself is the basis for all skillful qualities and activities in the world.
Finally, the fact that you sometimes cannot honor the activity that is presenting itself is always useful data. It means stop what you are doing and investigate. Maybe you are trying to force action on an issue prematurely. Maybe something else needs to be done first. Maybe now is not the time.
The inquiry into how and when we act to accomplish things is a subtle art. We must inquire - at many, many moments during the day - into what is skillful. What is needed. What the way forward is in that moment.