After Quitting My Job, These 3 Mindsets Pulled Me Out of a Funk
Burnt-out and frustrated, I promised myself 2020 would be different.
January seems to always be a transformative month for me.
In January 2017, I committed to leaving my full-time job.
In January 2018, I lost my one and only freelancing client.
In January 2019, I flamed out after an ambitious daily-vlogging project.
But this year, this year was going to be different. I wanted to stop chasing distractions and start living. I wanted to stop believing I wasn’t doing enough and enjoy the things I was doing.
I wanted to spend time with my two little boys without the freelancer’s guilt of I should be working. I wanted to ignite a lost creative spirit and make things again.
Tired of chasing unattainable goals, I established three mindsets to guide me through the year:
- Stop measuring my time by productive output
- Focus more on the long term impacts of my actions
- Pursue simplicity
In January 2020, I wanted to be better and I have been better. Here’s how.
Avoid Productivity for Productivity’s Sake
“Time isn’t the main thing. It’s the only thing.”
— Miles Davis
As an ambitious person, I measure my time by output. How many articles am I putting out each week? How many client projects did I complete this month?
When I sit down to read a book, or cook a meal, or play with my kids, the guilt of not doing more — of not building, creating, or making — pains me.
It’s not fair, because reading, cooking, and playing with my kids should be enjoyable activities. Productivity shouldn’t generate guilt as a byproduct of output.
I don’t know where my endless desire to do more comes from. I have a feeling it stems from my need to validate my worth through what I create. However, I’m certain productivity for productivity’s sake is more damaging than good.
That’s why when I feel the guilt bubbling up, I utter three words: I’m doing enough.
For the over-worked and burnt out hustlers, these three words can be life-changing. Rather than seeing everything as a hindrance to productivity, we must realize a balance can be struck between rest and work.
In other words, do I want “Blogger” etched onto my tombstone or “Loving Husband, Father, and Friend.”
To me the choice is simple.
Long-term Thinking Over Short-term Thinking
“Pessimism is a very easy way out when you’re considering what life really is, because pessimism is a short view of life. If you look at what is happening around us today and what has happened just since you were born, you can’t help but feel that life is a terrible complexity of problems and illnesses of one sort or another.”
— Robertson Davies
The quote above stems from a critique of novelists who embrace “the tragic view of life.” Davies believes writing tragedy is easy but taking an optimistic view is hard.
It’s worth noting that being an optimist doesn’t cure the problems of society. Racism still plagues us. Climate change is happening. Deceit, treachery, and corruption keep our governments churning.
We cannot simply say to someone who is suffering “Oh, it’s really not that bad. We have WiFi now!”
On a macro level, it’s easy to succumb to the pessimistic notion that the world is rotten and everything is going to sh*t.
We can take the long view and realize that progress is being made. It’s painfully slow and hardly enough for us to notice, but consider these facts:
- Female education in low-income countries is on the rise
- Vaccinations against deadly diseases are up
- Extreme poverty is shrinking
How did these things happen? Because small, seemingly insignificant steps were made over a long period of time.
So how do we apply this to our own lives? By understanding that our actions have an impact over the long run too.
Saving an extra $10 bucks a month rather than cashing out from your paycheck adds up after 30 years (it’ll more than double).
Dropping to the floor and doing 10 pushups every day is a better workout plan than signing up to the gym that you’ll never drive to because of traffic.
Reading 4 pages of a non-fiction book every night before bed means you’ll finish an additional 7 books every year or 70 books over the next decade.
Every example I listed above can easily be derailed by clicking “Next Episode” or “Add to Cart” or “Subscribe. The main obstacles that are preventing me and you from becoming better humans are typically a click away.
We’d rather receive the instant hit of dopamine rather than the slow drip of meaningful progress.
Your seemingly small and inconsequential actions do matter.
“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”
— Leonardo da Vinci
I’ve always thought of myself as someone with restrained desires. I’ve never wanted more of anything. And yet, I discovered that simply is not true.
- I want more control over uncertainty.
- I want more knowledge of the things I don’t know.
- I want more importance in the way I’m perceived.
My mind has always wanted more, even if it wasn’t more physical possessions. This year I decided I wouldn’t pursue more, but rather, pursue simplicity.
Simplicity isn’t the absence of desire — we will always instinctively want something — simplicity is the act of recognizing the desire for more and saying I am enough.
Where can you apply this to your life? Can your habits and routines be simplified? Can your work? Your ambitions?
Instead of relying on the temporary dopamine hits that come with desire, settle into the comfortable acceptance that you are enough and that your actions are worth doing in and of themselves.
Enjoy a simple walk. Spend an afternoon reading. Drink your coffee without checking email.
Identify where you want more and learn to appreciate what you already have.
Where to Go From Here?
First, recognize the burnout. Burnout is easy to ignore because all you have to do is keep doing the thing that is causing the burnout in the first place.
Second, ask yourself what do you really want? Is it recognition, money, or prestige, or is it something much simpler?
Third, adopt just one of the above mindsets. Tone down the productivity. Start thinking long-term. Seek simplicity. Begin with one and go from there.
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