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
The first time I was unemployed, I became an incredible basketball player.
Several players, in fact: a playmaking point guard, a high-flying forward, a 7-foot defensive specialist. Not real ones, of course — these were all versions of me that I created in NBA Live ’99 on the GameCube. Eventually, my team of avatars played for the NBA championship, and it felt — well, kinda awesome at the time.
That period in my life was hardly the most productive or rewarding one I’ve experienced. As I’ve reflected on why I spent so much time playing video games, when I could – should – have been doing so many other things, a few reasons occur to me.
A lack of urgency: My wife and I had very few bills at the time (we were living with her grandmother), and she had a full time job as a teacher. So, from my (mistaken) perspective, I could wait for the perfect job to find me. But here’s what I didn’t know:
- My wife would become pregnant while I was unemployed.
- It would take me 9 months to find a full time job, never mind the “perfect” one.
- Eleven years later, we would still be paying off the student loans that we thought would be “easy” to pay off once I got a job.
I should have felt urgency. I should have been doing much more with my time. There were ways I could have been making money that I didn’t even consider, and there was a tremendous amount of unpaid work that I could have been doing. (More on that in a minute.) Continue reading A Second Chance at Unemployment
It was my first business trip as Associate Director for InterVarsity’s Emerging Scholars Network, and it was going great. I had visited a couple of my oldest friends, who soon became my first financial supporters. At their church, they had introduced me to a PhD candidate who immediately understood and appreciated the idea behind ESN. This job is going to be easy, I thought. Then the PhD candidate said, “There’s someone you’ve got to meet. She’s the associate dean for the largest university in the state, and she’s sitting right over there in the first pew.” Excellent! Another convert to the cause of ESN.
“Hi, my name is Mike, and I work with InterVarsity’s Emerging Scholars Network”
“Really?” Her eyebrow went up. “What do you do?”
“I help students who are trying to get their PhDs and become professors.”
“Oh? And do you have a PhD?”
I didn’t like where this was going. “No, I don’t.”
“Then how could you possibly help?”
The conversation went downhill from there. At one point, she even said, “I don’t see the point in trying to ‘help’ students trying to become professors. If they can’t make it on their own, they don’t deserve to make it at all.”
Here was the exact kind of person that I thought would support my work wholeheartedly, and instead she dismissed it as a complete waste of time. Continue reading When Others Dismiss Your Work