Category Archives: Finding the Wrong Center


Dealing with Discontentment

Discontentment is a feeling that I struggle with on a regular basis. It’s a common vice for Americans to be discontent with the things that they have – wanting a bigger house, a better car, a more important job – but my discontentment takes on a very specific character: the nagging worry that I’m not doing enough, not performing well enough, not working hard enough. This discontent makes it hard for me to feel a sense of accomplishment in my work or family life. Weekends and holidays, instead of being times to relax and have fun with my family, are spent worrying when I’ll have enough time to work on side projects (like this blog).


The other day, my wife challenged me on this. “Just relax,” she said. “It’s okay to have downtime.” She’s right, of course, but it’s still difficult for me to accept that truth.

Can others relate to this nagging feeling of discontment? As I reflected on this struggle, I realized that my discontent was both a blessing and a curse: it motivated me to keep trying new things (sometimes entire new careers), but it also often kept me from enjoying the fruit of these new experience. The constant worry that I ought to be doing something more important also prevents me from focusing on the moment in front of me.

Evaluate the roots of your discontentment

If you, like me, experience this sense of discontentment, where does it come from? It likely has a mixture of both positive and negative origins. Simply because it’s an uncomfortable feeling doesn’t mean that it’s not an appropriate feeling. Yet, by its very nature, discontentment often springs from motives that are less than pure. Continue reading Dealing with Discontentment

Finding the Right Level of Focus

On NPR’s TED Radio Hour, Arctic explorer Ben Sauders was asked what he thought about during his attempt to ski solo to the North Pole. He described his mental image of himself, a small red dot of body temperature in a vast field of freezing cold blue the size of the United States, standing on few inches of ice floating over miles of black ocean – but he quickly said that he tried not to think about that very much. Mostly, he focused on two things: the menial tasks that keep him alive and the ultimate goal of getting home.

Finding the Right Level of Focus

Saunders set for himself the very ideal of a BHAG – Big Hairy Audacious Goal. It’s more or less his method in life. As I’m writing this, Saunders and a partner are attempting to recreate (and complete) Robert Scott’s failed expedition to the South Pole. This kind of attempt requires years of planning and a tremendous vision for what’s possible. Once in the middle of the actual mission, though, Saunders adjusts his focus to those things that will keep him alive and motivate him to continue. Without the big picture planning, though, even Saunder’s world-class survival skills would mean nothing, because he wouldn’t have a route to follow or the means to return home.

Finding the right level of focus has been something I’ve struggled with. Often, when beginning my day, I’m tempted to begin attacking the details of whatever problem appears in my inbox as I’m finishing my first cup of coffee. Through difficult experience, however, I’ve learned that I need to take a step back, look at my schedule for the day and week, and quickly review my project and action lists before diving into the details of a specific problem. Continue reading Finding the Right Level of Focus