When we are working well, it feels wonderful. Energy flows along, things get done, tasks get tackled one by one. There’s few things better than that feeling you get when the day draws to a close, that you’ve been productive and moved things on in one way or another.
When we are not working well, it feels very different. There can be a tinge of panic. And a masochism. It can feel like swimming against a current. Whatever we have done well, in the days or weeks before, it often seems like it is not enough, or worse, not relevant. It is as if all the productive, positive action that has gone before dissolves and has no bearing, and we are pushing the gas pedal down hard on an empty tank of fuel.
We might identify this second way of working as the necessary drive to keep going that all success depends on. A healthy no pain, no gain mentality.
But it is not. It’s an impatience, and ultimately it fuels discouragement and demotivation. This way of working quietly erodes our confidence in our abilities to solve problems as they arise and do well. And when confidence is lowered, we don’t approach opportunities in the same way, we don’t act in a bold, creative manner. Instead, we shrink back and don’t do so well. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. A trap.
It’s so easy to get sucked into the vortex of this second way of working, and stay unwittingly trapped inside it all day until it spits you out at home time feeling pessimistic, stressed and useless. When this happens it feels so draining, and it so greatly undermines any gains that the first way of working accrues, that it is crucial to watch out for this psychological tendency more and to take its menace more seriously.
Perhaps next time you spot it taking over, consider going on strike against yourself for half an hour, have a walk and some self-talk reminding yourself that working hard is meant to feel good, not bad.