25 Jan

The difference between being flexible and giving up

Banner: Meditation at the lakeshoreI’m not lazy, no matter what my father said during my teenage years. I like to work. I like to create. What I don’t like, is pointless busywork, or work where I feel I’m not making progress.

At those times, my pace slows down, and I don’t really produce anything. For a long time, when this happened, I would give up.

I would figure that this wasn’t a job for me, or this wasn’t something that I could handle, that it was too big, or I didn’t know how to do it. Luckily, I figured out that, to me, not wanting to work is a sign that something is wrong.

When work becomes a chore, I’ve made a mistake.

Years ago, when I had I bought into the notion that I was lazy, I believed that I had to power through. Work was to be done, end of story.

The effect of that mindset was that’d I throw a lot of mental effort at the job. And then I’d give up, and feel bad because I’d really tried and nothing came out of it. Meaning that I was useless and worthless and couldn’t work and I was lazy, and so on and so forth. Work was pointless. I didn’t achieve anything. So to hell with everything.

It wasn’t until I figured out that I needed to be flexible that things started to change.

By flexible, I mean that I could put work aside without giving up. I didn’t have to finish a story. I didn’t have to complete the task I was doing right now.

I know people for whom this doesn’t work. They sit down and they gnash their teeth and gird their loins and go into battle against against their To do-list.

Not me. I’m more of a live and let live type.

What I need when work isn’t working is a break. Maybe that break is five minutes, maybe an hour, maybe two days. But I need to put the work aside and get some perspective.

Then one of two things happen: either I’m doing something completely different, like walking or vacuuming or showering, and a brilliant idea strikes me on how to solve the problem, I didn’t even know I had so I can start producing again.

Or I realized that something else is wrong, that I should be dddress instead of trying to power through. This can be a matter of stress or conflict. Or it can be having the wrong information, or lacking enough information. Or simply lacking the skills to do something and being afraid that I won’t be able to learn it.

Usually fear is part of it.

So if taking a break doesn’t work, I need to be flexible enough to address different problems until those problems resolved themselves and I can work again. It can be a complex issue, but often it’s quite simple. Sometimes as simple as me needing to get some sleep.

That’s one that I have a lot of trouble with. Because even though we do have a couch, and a quiet room at work, going in there and sleeping in the middle of the day feels too much like being lazy. Somewhere in my gut, even though I know that sleep is what I need to move on, I’m afraid of what others will think of me.

But those days that I realized that I’m not working because my tank is empty and my brain is foggy and actually take a nap, I can usually get back to work a lot faster than if I try to power through and hit a wall.

In none of these cases, am I giving up.

I’m merely putting the work aside to solve the problems that need solving before I can be effective again.

Giving up means not addressing the problems. Therefore, continuing to work can actually be a form of giving up. Being flexible, on the other hand, can look like giving up. I am putting the work aside, after all.

But I’m not abandoning it.

That’s the core difference. I am resolving other issues instead of giving into those issues.

By being flexible, I can set the immediate task aside so that I can create a long-term solution. And that’s when I can be truly effective, without feeling the need to give up.

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