As I think many people do, I can get into a mindset of constantly forcing myself to work, and never giving myself a moment of “free time.” If I carefully look at the reason I’m doing that, it’s usually because I’m afraid that, if I stopped working for a moment, I’d somehow never be able to start again. Instead, I would revert to my “true nature” of being lazy, and my lollygagging would continue until the end of my days.
Often, if I honestly ask myself why I’m compulsively working, I also notice that I’m worried about other people’s opinions. After all, I don’t want to be seen as shiftless, selfish or apathetic, and in our culture it often seems like constant activity is valued for its own sake.
But Aren’t We Supposed To Just “Shut Up And Do It”?
The ability to force myself to work even when I don’t feel like it, on the surface, may look like a good thing. I mean, isn’t that what all the “productivity” advice out there tells us — just shut off the internet, grit your teeth and slog your way through what you’re trying to accomplish? Isn’t life all about constantly battling our laziness?
Unfortunately, when I buy into this mentality of pushing myself to work, I usually don’t end up producing much that’s worthwhile. Instead, I normally find myself churning out mediocre work that I probably won’t end up using, or constantly bouncing around between ideas, unsatisfied with everything I come up with.
Listening To Our Laziness
What I’ve found is that I can restore my focus and energy by simply admitting to myself that I don’t feel like working, if that’s the truth in the moment. At times, the truth is even “uglier” than that — sometimes, I can’t even bring myself to care about the work I’m doing or the people I plan to serve with it. If that’s the case, I simply admit it too.
When I acknowledge what’s true for me right now in my relationship with my work, it’s as if muscles I didn’t know I had suddenly relax. Often, the sense of relief I experience is so palpable that I start laughing. And then, a moment later, my vitality and sense of purpose come back, and pretty soon I’m able to get back to work again without so much struggle and frustration.
Why does this happen? My sense is that we diminish our vitality whenever we reject what we’re actually thinking and feeling. If some part of me feels frustrated and unmotivated, and I basically try to beat that part into submission or pretend it doesn’t exist, the war I’m fighting against myself drains my energy. It’s much easier if I make peace with the part that doesn’t want to work right now, and let it know I’m willing to hear it out.
So if you ever hear me say “I hate writing” or something along those lines, rest assured, it’s just because I’m motivating myself.