Balance · Goals · mental training · musings · stress · writing

Gratification

I’ve been scrolling through Medium for 30 minutes, hoping to find a cue or have an idea sparked for something to write about. As I look through my Ulysses library, there are some half-written ideas that I’d like to flesh out. But it seems too hard today. My brain is craving the release that comes from writing without any of the work. But of course the release comes because of the work.

It seems the theme of the past week or so has been me being equal parts tired, bored, stressed, overwhelmed, apathetic, worried, blah. I spent the weekend recharging and then Monday comes around with the shadow of all I need to get done this week and the phase of work I’m in right now feeling like a constant cycle of asking people for deliverables or having people ask me for deliverables, without the usual balance of bigger picture, more creative work.

I get so task-driven that it’s hard to snap out, to block 30 minutes on my calendar to dream, to plot, to strategize, to see past the end of my own to-do list. It’s a catch-22 that the personality trait that makes me good at my job can also be the source of my stress about my job. I know it’s just a phase, but like with writing tonight, I am craving the other side of the phase without doing any of the work it takes to move through it.

It’s so easy to think that identifying a problem is enough to solve it. That identifying a desire is enough to obtain it. Yes, it’s a huge first step, and absolutely necessary. But then, too often, we (I) then get scared of the hard work that then needs to follow. Simply admitting there are ten more pounds to lose, ten more miles to run each week, ten more minutes to spend on a hobby, ten more people with whom to connect, isn’t enough to have a change follow. No, it’s the monotonous, unglamorous, day-to-day, drudgery of plodding along towards a goal that trips us up. How often have you had a lightbulb go off, an “aha, that’s the thing I want” and felt absolutely inspired to get that thing? Perhaps you even think of a different way to get it, the thing that now will make all the difference?

And then a week, maybe not even, goes by, and that thing starts feeling less important as the more you realize it now will take work. And time. In a culture of immediate gratification, one that idolizes pro athletes and movie stars (without showing the process it took to get there), one that looks for a pill or a remedy without understanding the cause, taking the time to plot out how to get from point A (now) to point B (that thing you want) is excruciating. You may even think something is wrong with you, that you can’t have that thing just by wishing.

What am I wishing? Probably for a bit more balance, a bit more levity, a bit more fulfillment. That means saying no to things, reanalyzing priorities, taking deep breaths, stepping away from the to-do list, asking for help—all much harder than what already seemed hard: to identify the source of the pit in my stomach over the past week.

Ten years ago, I’d probably have identified the pit as something external that needed to change right-this-second. Because it’s actually much easier to turn things totally upside down than it is to determine what’s really needed, what really makes us happy. Not just in that moment, but for a lifetime. So no, this isn’t a mid-life crisis quit-my-job-and-cut-my-hair-and-move-abroad moment. It’s a listen-to-what-I’m-telling-myself moment. The good thing is, in this scenario at least, I’m always right. If I just listen.

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