“Success in highest and noblest form calls for peace of mind and enjoyment and happiness which comes only to the man who has found the work he likes best.” – Napolean Hill, author of “Think and Grow Rich”
cognitive dissonance (n. Psychology) A condition of conflict or anxiety resulting from inconsistency between one’s beliefs and one’s actions, such as opposing the slaughter of animals and eating meat. – from American Heritage Dictionary
The quote and definition above describe my current mental state about my work these days. I thought for many years that I could achieve happiness through one of about five different ways. When I write the list out now, several of them seem terribly trivial to me now, but bear with me:
- Making a lot of money
- Travel throughout the world
- Nonstop nightlife
- Working at a big corporation with a good title
- Keeping myself free of obligations as much as possible
If I redid the list today, it would probably read more like this:
- Achieving financial freedom
- Travel throughout the world
- Safe and comforting home environment
- Going to work for myself doing something I like
- Loading myself up with obligations that please me; exercise, family time, etc.
Here is the real problem, though: although I have read many books on financial freedom, productivity, etc. I am often suffering from cognitive dissonance trying to pursue my “old” goals (with the exception of the nightlife) even though I know better! Even though I know, for example, that I should do something for my work different than what I do today, I have taken very few steps to pursue it. I still avoid obligations out of laziness or simply fear of setting priorities. I still worry more about making money to pay for things (although when I say things, I mean “our house” rather than “my iPhone”) than achieving financial freedom. I talk the talk, but often I don’t walk the walk.
So why is this? I think the problem is that your thought patterns and objectives are often set more firmly in stone than you realize in your youth – and by youth I’m talking about the years from, say, 13-30. All of the patterns set then are interrelated. Your exercise (or lack thereof), your entrepreneurial spirit (or lack thereof), your creation of a lifestyle where financial freedom is a forseeable future or even your ability to easily change goals all intertwine and make a tangled mess where changing one goal means changing all of them.
I debate, therefore, how to smash through these bad habits that prevent my goals. Should I:
- Abruptly quit my job and launch a private company doing something interesting?
- Massively restructure my work life to free up more time to prepare for something ‘new’?
- Work like crazy ‘on the side’ (although at the expense of my time with my family)?
- Just suck it up, hammer down at work and try to grit my teeth through to 60 years old when I’ll achieve freedom?
This is my building mental storm – the idea that nothing will change with a continuation of the daily rotation of wake, brush teeth, ride train, stare at computer screen, attend meetings, ride train, brush teeth, sleep. This daily rotation is a part of the steady progession: Birth, School, Work, Death. But finding the right moment to make that break, to take that leap, seems to me to require a spark of inspiration.
But what I’m really afraid of is that there’s no inspiration needed. What I’m afraid of is that Nike is right and we should just do it. Don’t wait, just change. And doing that without seeing the guiding star of inspiration seems really scary to me. And so I will wait for inspiration and thereby find none. Or, hopefully, I will simply just do it.