Bored Without Work

I don’t know what to say to people that proclaim they would be “bored” if they didn’t have to work every day. I have to believe that I am just misunderstanding them somehow. They couldn’t possibly genuinely be saying that they are that empty, boring, and directionless as human beings. What do you MEAN you would be bored? I don’t think they grasp what that statement insinuates.

To me, when someone says they’d be bored if they never had to work again, it breaks my heart. Do they realize that means they have no personal motivation or interests to pursue? They really believe their heads are so empty that without someone else beating their back with a whip, they wouldn’t know how to move forward? They have no goals other than the ones set for them? I can’t imagine a sadder existence than that.

Also, have these people never been bored at work? I’m bored at work nearly 90% of the time anyway. Our system is set up illogically. We are forced to sit in offices for a certain amount of time regardless of how long it actually takes to complete the tasks we have for the day, leading us to actually be less productive as other (better) countries have demonstrated through shortened work days/weeks for their employees.

Maybe it’s more about the social stigma attached to not working. Perhaps these people have an image in their head that it’s either work 40+ hours a week, or literally sit on your couch 24/7 and watch TV. Capitalism has seeped so deeply into their psyches that they cannot fathom what it would mean to live for themselves. Maybe saying you’d be bored without work is a strange form of virtue signaling. I could never stop working. I have too much self-respect and am a motivated, productive person. I enjoy contributing to society. There is always the subtle insinuation that those who don’t work a 9-5 job do not contribute, which is obviously not true.

I personally think many peoples’ talents are wasted by the way our society is set up. I think I would be able to offer society much more value if I were able to spend my time as I pleased, working towards my own interests instead of struggling and exhausting myself in a structure set up by other people in which I simply do not fit. If everyone wasn’t constantly expending all of their energy stressing about money and working for other people, who knows what amazing contributions individuals would be able to make? Even if you already work in a creative field or are self-employed, wouldn’t it be nice to not have to take into consideration what other people want or what would make the most money? You’d be able to be more true to your own interests and creative ideas. You’d have so much more freedom.

It also saddens me to imagine most people seem to be unable to even conceive of activities other than work that would be fulfilling. Even if you enjoy the work you’re doing, like I do, I would still prefer to not have to do it. That’s not to say you’d have to stop either. It would just mean you weren’t dependent on it in order to feed yourself. Just that small change would inherently make the work itself more enjoyable. There have been studies that show even when you like an activity, if you’re paid for it, it becomes less pleasurable. Your mind begins to rationalize that you are doing it, not for the enjoyment, but for the money, which is less fun.

If you are someone who believes you’d be bored without the need to toil for our capitalist overlords, here are just a few of the myriad of options you could devote your time and energy to:

  1. Volunteer work
  2. Activism
  3. Learn a new skill/hobby
  4. Learn an instrument
  5. Study a different language
  6. Go back to school to learn about a subject you enjoy
  7. Make art
  8. Spend more time in nature
  9. Travel
  10. Spend more time with family and loved ones
  11. Workout
  12. Practice yoga/meditation
  13. Invent something
  14. Clean
  15. Home improvement projects
  16. Write
  17. Read
  18. Draw

I could go on, but you get the point. There are a limitless amount of things that you could do besides work! You really wouldn’t find any of these alternative activities adequate to keep you from boredom? Or are you just considering some of these things as work? If you don’t have to do it for a paycheck, it’s not work. I don’t mean literally any amount of physical or mental exertion when I say work. I mean traditional employment. There is a big difference between doing something because you want to and doing something because you have to, even when it’s something you love.

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Motivation

Most days I feel like I’m dragging myself through life. Very rarely is there anything I feel myself wanting to do. I manage to get a lot done, but it’s more out of a sense of obligation (usually to myself/my OCD) than motivation. I’ve met so many people in life that seem to happily buzz around getting so many little projects done every day, with little to no mental effort. In fact it seems to refuel them rather than drain them. What gives? Why can’t I do that? I’m left endlessly wondering.

I have a few theories. One is that I commit myself to so many “have to’s” every day that I have hardly any energy left to feel motivated to do more. Perhaps not allowing myself any significant amount of true rest time, leaves me perpetually too burnt out to experience that sense of internal drive I so long for. But what if it’s just how my brain works? Maybe I’m just someone who is lazy and disinterested by nature. I think this last theory is really what keeps me from further investigating the first one. If I stop the momentum from years of diligent daily tasks, what if I never feel like picking them back up again? Then I’ll just end up doing nothing! That fear keeps me filling up each and every empty moment with something whether it’s ultimately in my best interest or just gives me the illusion of being productive in some way.

Part of the problem is being paralyzed with too many options. There are millions of things, big and small, that I’d like to accomplish one day. When the time comes to actually choose one to work on, I get distracted by all the others and start doubting myself. Which is most important? Which should I do first? Which matters most to me? Which would I enjoy more? Would I really enjoy any of them? What’s even the point? Then I usually default to an autopilot task just to find relief from thinking about it anymore and spiraling into an existential crisis.

I guess one of the few things I do feel motivated by is coming up with plans. I LOVE to make new schedules for myself, to-do lists, goals, ideas. All of that stuff is so much fun to think about and fills me with a seemingly endless supply of energy directed toward completing all my lists. However, when I find myself facing putting my plans into action in the moment, I lose all of that drive in an instant. It’s much more fun to plan to change your life than to actually change it. The idea of becoming a master piano player is way more exciting than practicing the scales for hours on end.

So here I am again, at this familiar impasse. My internal stand-off. I want to feel more motivated, but I’m not motivated enough to uncover and take the necessary steps to get there. Pretty ironic, isn’t it? Let me know if you have this same struggle or if you’re someone more like the people I mentioned earlier who don’t seem to have an issue getting into new projects with passion and enthusiasm. If you happen to have any tips or tricks from either perspective, I’d love to know!

Priorities

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I feel I may have revealed a bit too much of myself to my coworkers this morning. When I get nervous, or in this case, excited, talking to people I’ll often say things without thinking. I went to college with someone we used to work with, although neither of us ever really acknowledged it. I mentioned that I thought this other woman probably disliked me because she was an overachiever in college, going to fundraisers, very active in all of our psychology clubs, etc. I, on the other hand, was somewhat of a slacker. I did the bear minimum that was required of me. I was a member of Psi Chi, but basically only so I could put it on my resume, I never went to meetings or anything. I didn’t even go to my own induction ceremony. I blame that one on social anxiety though.

Everyone seemed to get a kick out of hearing about my college memories, but I immediately began to regret being so honest. I’m often afraid that my coworkers will get irritated with me for being lazy or a slacker. Now I feel like I’ve given them even more proof of my poor character, more proof that they’re right to think that. I don’t really picture myself as lazy though. I guess I’d describe it more as selfish. Maybe that’s even worse, now that I think about it.

The thing is, I get a lot done everyday. I have dozens of tasks that I diligently complete day in and day out. The problem is that none of these things really matter to anyone but me. The rest of the world could care less if I study Spanish or workout and do yoga for hours or read. These are all personal endeavors. Ideally they are things that are about self-improvement. But in what ways am I really trying to improve myself? To who’s benefit? It’s probably time for me to reevaluate my priorities.

Since I entered the working world, my mindset has always been me against them. The working poor, against the corporate machine. Even though I must partake in this system to survive, to play the game, it always felt like an act of rebellion to do as little as I could get away with doing. If I was going to be paid nothing, I was going to do as close to nothing as possible. Spiteful, yes, but in my mind it only felt fair. If I didn’t matter to the place I worked, then they didn’t matter to me. This is a mantra that for so many years I burned into my heart and mind. Always playing the part of the petulant child.

I never expected to find myself working for a place that I do genuinely care about. A place that also seems to genuinely care about me. I work with such incredible people. I don’t want to let them down. I love my job. I love what I do. I believe in what we do. I want to be helpful. I want to prove that I am worthy of having a place here. But no matter how many times I resolve to do better, I always find myself falling back into old patterns. Shirking my responsibilities just because I can, because it’s even easier to do here where no one is breathing down my neck, micromanaging my every step. Everything in me, everything about who I’ve been, keeps tempting me to take advantage of that. It’s nearly irresistible.

I am tired of feeling guilty. I am tired of feeling like I am letting everyone down. I am tired of feeling like I am taking advantage of an organization that is truly a benefit to this world. I really want to go above and beyond what is asked of me here. I have a lot of ideas too. I know I am smart. I know I could really make a positive impact for this organization, for the kids we see here everyday. I could really help them. I’ve just always been afraid of showing my full potential. Any other job would take advantage of that. I’ve seen it happen to my mother and my sister. I’m also afraid that I won’t be able to live up to the standard I set for myself. I’m afraid I’ll crack under the pressure of always doing my best. When no one expects anything of you, there is no pressure, it’s easy to impress when/if you need to.

After working here for a year and a half though, I think I finally feel safe enough to show my true colors, to really contribute as much as I can. Self-improvement may once have looked like only inner work, but now I think it looks like giving back, sharing my intelligence and creativity with those that will be able to benefit from it, to be an asset to my friends and coworkers, to finally utilize this freedom and agency at work to be all I can be. I know I can do this. I want to do this. I’m going to enjoy doing this.

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Anxiety & Procrastination

Whenever I thought about procrastination in the past I imagined lazy or easily distracted, flighty people. I had an idea that whatever task was being put off, just really didn’t mean all that much to the person avoiding it. A procrastinator in my mind was someone who was disorganized, irresponsible, disinterested, etc. I don’t think the synonyms most other people would come up with would be very positive either.

Until recently I would have never thought to consider myself a procrastinator. And maybe it has gotten worse as I’ve gotten older and taken on more responsibilities. But trying to see myself from the perspective of my friends, family, and coworkers made me realize that they may view me that way.

I do tend to put things off and spend time doing things others may think of as less important than what I should be doing. It had just never occurred to me how this looks from the outside. Because internally I never fit into the mold of the type of person I would call a procrastinator. You see, I wasn’t lazy or careless or irresponsible or being distracted by other activities I found more enjoyable. I was putting important things off, not because I didn’t care about them, but because of my anxiety.

Once I realized this, I immediately felt guilty for being so quick to judge the procrastination of others. What if they are just like me in reality? Just too paralyzed by anxiety to do what they want/need to do. Maybe they were also too embarrassed and ashamed to verbalize their reasons to those around them, thinking it wasn’t necessary. Instead of sympathizing with them, I was silently criticizing them from up on my high horse.

I am hoping that there will be at least a few people reading this that, like me, never thought of things this way before. The next time I see someone avoiding their responsibilities, rather than judge them, I am going to reach out to them. Maybe they just need some support and understanding. I know it would mean a lot to me if the people in my life understood why I put things off and let important tasks pile up. I would feel even worse about it if they were all thinking I just don’t care. The opposite is actually true. I care so much that I become incapacitated and have to avoid thinking about it at all.

I’m going to try to remember this realization in the future. I am often so sure of my perception of other people’s intentions and motives. I forget that life isn’t always as simple as I think it is. Everybody has their own inner world that I know nothing about. Instead of analyzing, I just want to observe and accept from now on.