If you can do your job with your eyes closed, then chances are you aren’t getting a lot of satisfaction from your day-to-day. Here’s a challenge to kick it up a notch. Watch the video here, or check out the transcript below.
Today I was at the gym lifting weights in total autopilot mode. My mind was mentally running through all the things I had left to complete for the day, and the only focus I was giving to the exercise was the count from 1-15.
Emerging back to the present, I realized that I had just completed an entire set without any struggle. The weight that had previously been difficult was no longer a challenge, and I hadn’t even noticed.
It can often be like this with work. When you start a new job, you were likely on high alert at all times, as every task came with a learning curve that you wanted to beat. Perhaps you built certain processes for yourself, and once you had worked out the strategy, execution became a lot easier mentally.
If you’re someone who likes a challenge, chances are that once that initial excitement fades away, you’re going to start feeling a little bored in your position if your day-to-day is looking far too… well… day-to-day.
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (let’s call him Czik for short) developed what he calls the theory of flow, which he defines as, “the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity.” According to Czik, ensuring constant levels of flow throughout your day is a key factor to your happiness.
Do you see where I’m going with this? If you’ve hit a point in your position where you’re able to achieve your daily tasks with little effort, then perhaps it’s time to consider adding a little extra weight.
Now, before you start looking for another job, why don’t you think of a different way of approaching the one you already have?
Here’s my suggestion: Learning something new in a very intentional way.
Good news! Degrees are really expensive, but these days learning doesn’t have to be. Why don’t you listen to some free online lectures with the guiding question, “how can this make me better at my job?” It doesn’t have to apply directly to what you’re doing either. Why not try taking something completely out of your field? Disciplines have different ways of approaching problems, and you can glean insights that will be useful to you.
For example, I once had a time constraint that I needed to solve for while doing investigative work on an insider trading case. Essentially, the evidence needed to be submitted to the court in a month, but I had two months of labor ahead of me.
When I sat down to approach the problem, I immediately thought about a random lecture I had heard a few years back in the computer science field. The solution immediately hit me. I needed to create a database that would do the manual work for me.
Instead of taking two months, the project literally took two days. Sure, the lecture did not teach me how to create a database, (we hired someone to do that part) but it taught me to approach the problem in this way.
Learning for the sake of learning is a good thing in it’s own right, but I propose learning for the sake of approaching your work through a completely new lens.