We are in the midst of a cultural war on misery. Yet achieving worklife balance may depend on us recognising the virtue of dissatisfaction and unhappiness when it comes to progress.
From blogs that glorify the busyness and always-on productivity, to courses that people spend thousands of dollars on to scale up some kind of pay-as-you-go enlightenment, we have a thriving mood-economy gorging on our desire to acquire a permanent state of happiness and bliss.
First of all, that simply isn’t practical. We have a beautiful spectrum of emotions that we experience and they can’t operate in isolation from one another. You can’t have a mood-ectomy!
Besides, misery serves a purpose. Being angry, experiencing sadness, feeling like you should nose dive into a bag of chocolate biscuits and never come out, are all valid feelings. Why they get such a bad reputation may simply come down to how they are used and what for.
Some people enjoy prancing about and getting angry to get their own way and manipulate people into doing what they want. Others really enjoy talking endlessly about the same problems until they wear holes in your ears. Others simply feel guilty about feeling negative emotions and do what they can to pretend they exist, bottling them up inside.
yet if we are so hung up on achieving worklife balance, why then do we not give the same respect to our emotions?
The truly happy people don’t chase after a bliss state like a Border Collie after a car. The truly happy are able to use misery to motivate them.
Here’s how you can use misery in achieving worklife balance and a happier outlook
Recognise no one is going to save you
The first part of motivating yourself with misery is realising no matter how bad your Cinderella existence, there won’t be a Fairy Godmother or a Prince to save you. Clicking your red heels won’t do anything other than make a clicking sound, and pumpkins make much better soup than they do carriages.
It’s you and you alone that can get you out of that hole in the ground. Get used to it.
But that’s great. Because it means you actually have the game plan, you don’t have to rely on anyone else’s flakiness, and you won’t have to wear a second hand shoe that the entire town has tried on to finally get to where you think you should be. Oh, and any success you have and the happiness you feel will be your own.
Once you realise that you don’t have to roll over and take whatever happens to roll past, you’ll develop a little more fire in the belly. And that fire helps in the next stage.
Waiting for the tipping point
More people are motivated to change their circumstances by the words “I can’t stand it anymore” than they are by the phrase “If I got any happier, I’d burst” or “achieving worklife balance was a piece of cake”.
Usually, if we’re happy with something or someone, we stick with it. It isn’t until the longing sets in or the situation changes that we get hungry for more. Then we have to wait for the shift between what we’re experiencing to be less and less appealing against what we desire before we’ll make a change.
Misery and motivation are friends, believe it or not. Those of us that are not content, are not feeling all warm and gooey from the glow of another successful day use this dissatisfaction to change our lives. We do things differently. So there has to be something more in the scheme of things to keep you interested.
When we get to the tipping point, there’s basically 3 ways to react. We’ll either make the change for the better, using the misery to motivate us onto something we can enjoy again. Or we’ll busy the growing dissatisfaction under booze, broads, buying and badness. Or we’ll still keep plugging away and either moan ourselves (and everyone around us) to death, or settle for some kind of daily horror that gets worse over time as we suffer in silence. Yikes.
A little tipping point tip: We always end up making the change eventually via option 1, so you may as well cut to the chase (and minimise the personal injury) by skipping the other 2.
Sure, it’s scary, but what’s worse? Feeling trepidation and fear for a little while, or slowly being ground into pulp by something you used to love and are increasingly learning to hate?
Worries make you creative and hungry
When you have your bum on the line and have to try for an all or nothing shot, it’s when your best game face happens. Just ask the Karate Kid, Teen Wolf, or countless other cheesy teen movies.
Being worried makes us hungrier for finding a solution, and it makes us more creative in the thinking and the tactics we will employ to improve our situation. It’s the friction, the sense of urgency, in any situation that not only causes us the stress, but also creates the opportunities.
So embrace it. Let the fear drive you.
As Neil Gaiman said in his speech to the University of the Arts Class of 2012, “make good art”. Use the wife leaving you, the boring job you have currently, and the IRS chasing you to put some extra fire in your belly and make you even more creative.
If you are nervous, stressed and unhappy, action will do you far more good than sitting like a potato on a couch, trust me.
Look at what hurts you, and see if there’s opportunity in it
As much as we love to think of ourselves and special, unique little creatures, we share this big stretchy glue thing called being human. So chances are, if something is making you miserable, it’s probably making other people miserable, too.
Misery does love company, but before you pack your bag and head to the pub to bitch with everyone about the same old problems, think about it for a second. What could possibly be the solution?
- If you are in debt, what (beyond a lotto ticket) would fix that?
- Is there are career hiding in the fact your boyfriend is a jerk or your father never listened?
- Is there a startup idea lurking around the corner, begging you to solve this problem not just for you, but for everyone?
- Or is there a way you could tell your story that gives you comfort and may also give comfort to other people suffering the same problem?
- If achieving worklife balance seems impossible, why is that? What’s taking up your time that you don’t need to do?
Life can be a bastard. Doesn’t mean you can’t work out how to salve the wounds it gives through a bit of creative thinking.
After all, it’s part of the reason and motivation behind inventing hacking happiness in the first place.
Dual productivity- day jobs and side projects
It may seem counter-intuitive to achieving worklife balance to take up a side project or two, but it’s exactly that kind of moxie and creativity that propels people forward towards great things. People aren’t simply going to work, spending money on stuff they don’t want, and zoning out in front of the TV feeling bored anymore.
Now they are off running creative events, startups, playing in bands, producing their own films, taking on karate belts, learning foreign languages, being aid workers, fostering kittens, growing their own vegetable gardens in buckets on balconies and so on.
We’ve learnt that we don’t have to be bored, unhappy and enslaved. And yes, while some parents may have a problem with their 30’s or 40’s aged children who are still lugging music gear upstairs at the pub, or who are forgoing a decent paying job for the freedom of freelancing combined with creativity, it’s working.
The balance between what you are meant to do and what you want to do doesn’t have to start and end with having your dream career. Use the misery to chew your way out of that trap and invent around it.
The final word on using misery in achieving worklife balance
Being sick and tired of your circumstances can be the best thing for motivating you to make a lasting change that works. Anyone who expects a human being to be happy 247 clearly isn’t human, or wants to make a bucket load of cash out of the human condition.
We need times when things become difficult, problematic and pressing to motivate us into action, and to inspire us off the beaten track. Use that hunger to motivate you to seek out more than what you have and to craft a life that you want to live.
Or it can simply make you appreciate what you have more.
Misery sucks, it truly does. But it’s not useless and can be one of the most powerful motivators you’ll ever find.
Just as long as you’re willing to deal with it and do something about it.
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