The Conundrum of Forcing Ourselves to Do What We Dislike

A few days ago, I was sitting at my favorite Starbucks writing a blog post. As much effort as it takes for me to sit down and get started, once I get in the flow, I become encapsulated by the task.

When I do this on weekdays, I make sure to check the clock at the top right corner of my laptop a couple of times. That particular day, the excitement carried me, and I failed to realize how swiftly the minutes were passing by. It was almost 8:30 a.m., and I had to get up and make it over to my job by 9.

Being passionate about my writing side hustle gives me joy, and getting up at 5:30 in the morning is much easier than you would imagine. There is enough time to go through the rituals of the morning, and spend a solid hour and a half writing while drinking a tall dark roast with half & half before work. Life is great.

On this particular day, as I dreaded having to shut off my laptop with a half-finished post, I could not help but think about why I needed to leave this tasks that gave me so much fulfillment, and halfheartedly march down towards a place that drained all my energy and left me with so little to show for the time and effort spent.

Why do we force ourselves into tasks and circumstances that we don’t enjoy, or perhaps, that we may even dread?

I’m grateful for my job, and I understand that sometimes in order to make a living, we must sacrifice our wants for our needs. But who says this has to always be the case? If we take inventory of world around us, it is clear that many people are living a life that makes them unhappy, and they choose to stay there. This was certainly my case, though I have been committed for a while now to changing this fact.

Looking back at my own experience throughout the years, I found that we unconsciously strive towards unhappiness for the following reasons:

We Are Not Clear About What We Want

It is so easy to drift into an unwanted life if we don’t know what we want.

We naturally start by living with the expectations of our parents, our friends, and the people we admire in our youth. We assume that we must follow suit, and construct our future around these same expectations.

At a certain point — it could be as early as our teens or perhaps later in life — an indescribable emptiness begins to invade us. There is a nagging realization that despite checking off each item on the grown up ‘should’ list (college, marriage, mortgage, children, etc.), we’re unhappy.

If you’re lucky enough to discover this earlier in life — and sadly, some people never do — taking the path of self-correction involves looking deep within, and uncovering what you really want from your life.

We Trade Our Personal Liberty For Comfort And Financial Security

This is the most difficult observation to acknowledge, at least at first. Despite all the quips about the perils of materialism, it feels amazing to own the home of your dreams, a great vehicle, the most advance phone to entertain you, and to splurge on vacations that afford you memories you will relish for years to come.

However, there is something unnatural, in my opinion, about trading our time and happiness for these ‘things,’ and we do this often. I’m not claiming that every person who pursues and attains them is miserable, but there are many who are. If we take the time to examine our spending habits, we soon realize that we have enslaved ourselves to the comforts of materialism, to the extent that debt is becoming a normal expense, like taxes or health insurance.

We Are Not Aware of All Possibilities Out There

Going back to the idea that we subscribe to the expectations of others in our earlier years, we can also become hypnotized into believing that there is only one path towards achievement and happiness.

For the longest time, I felt so insignificant because I didn’t have an impressive job with an amazing salary. I felt that, compared to some of my cousins, and even fellow graduates from my university, I stood in the lowest ranks of the professional ladder. The most devastating part for my ego was that I did not fulfill others’ expectations for my future.

Because of this, I spent a good part of my post-undergraduate years drifting from one job to another, searching for the mythical ‘perfect position’ that would pay me what I deserved.

What I failed to understand was that there is not a ‘correct’ way to live life. If you’re happier pursing work that does not conform to what your family, friends, or neighbors consider successful, or doesn’t pay six figures, all that matters is that you’re not disappointing yourself and are happy with your choices.

Though I’ve made a point of speaking to our lack of fulfillment as it pertains to work and career, this also applies to relationships pursued, activities engaged in, and beliefs subscribed to.

I do’nt purport that it’s best to undermine what has worked in the past: Our success and accomplishments as a species speak for themself. What I hope to be driving home is this; We need to take what is handed down to us with a grain of salt, and find ways to adapt it to our own personality and circumstances, instead of following it like a rubric that must remain unchanged. If we do, we will engage our time in tasks that, though they may take tremendous time and effort, will provide us with the personal fulfillment we yearn for.

How are you striving today to be faithful to your own desires?

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Angela Martinez

Angela Martinez

Teacher, traveler, and language learner. Writing about productivity, personal finances, life abroad, speaking another language.