I am obsessed with productivity. Obsessed.
I started spending tons of time worrying about the art of getting things done when I got to law school. By the middle of the first semester, I had completely lost my motivation in life, my raison d’etre. I was devastated. I didn’t know who I was.
Who was this unproductive person inhabiting my body? When had I become completely disengaged?
As I imagine many of us do, I started looking outside of myself for answers to the question of how to make something of myself — how to GTD. I started trying to find that perfect technique or system that would help me to “grow up” and get things done.
Now let’s be clear: I was always a highly motivated child. I devoured books, I skipped a grade, I was in honors programs and I won a full scholarship to undergrad. I graduated magna cum laude (half a one hundredth away from summa cum laude).
I got into a great law school by studying for the LSAT at my kitchen table after a long day at work and an hour and a half commute. I am not the kind of person who doesn’t know how to get things done.
The Answer Might Not Be External
So what is wrong with me?!
I have a few working theories:
1) I am burnt out.
2) I went into the law/corporate world in defiance of my “Voice Within” because of other fears and now I cannot even begin to hear that voice.
3) I never really stopped to figure out what I’m doing all of this for in the first place. I just kept up a running narrative to make it sound plausible.
4) I just haven’t figured out how to properly frame the story about my experience in a positive way.
5) I am more motivated by running away than running toward and I no longer have anything left to run away from.
6) I don’t know who I am or who I want to be.
Drudgery, Craft and Calling
You see, I was always motivated internally by interest, or the pursuit of excellence as I defined it or a thirst for knowledge. I loved to say that I lacked self-discipline and never did anything that I didn’t want to do. I felt like school and learning were truly enjoyable. They didn’t feel like work. They felt like “Calling.”
In Making Work Work For the Highly Sensitive Person, Barrie Jaeger argues that you cannot escape a work life filled with “Drudgery” until you grow. You don’t find a job that tells you from the outside what your “Calling” work is. You build up yourself and hear your inner voice that starts to guide you toward something great rather than away from something bad.
I listen to the stories I told myself as a child while things were tough. Back then I always had a smile and a sense of humor. No matter how hard a situation was I would joke that it would make for a good story. I was optimistic.
But now? Nothing is funny. I feel like my fate is out of my control and like I am stuck. Is it normal to go backwards as one ages?
Maybe instead of growing up, I have shrunken down?
When Motivation Wanes, It May Be Time to Ask Hard Questions
I read a book recently that repeatedly asked three questions:
1) Who am I?
2) What is my purpose?
3) What will make me happy?
Maybe it is a good idea to stop and ask these questions sooner, rather than later.
Maybe if I’m still for a little while I will start to hear an answer.