I've been suffering from a bout of something bloggers and entrepreneurship gurus don't seem to cover very often: feeling deeply, darkly unmotivated.
Over the past few weeks, I've been living in one of the hippest and most inspirational cities on the planet, Berlin, and sticking my toes into what — with the recent Brexit decision — is about to be Europe's most dynamic locale for technology, startups, art and creativity.
But, I'd been dealing with serious "blinking cursor" syndrome.
Not only did I have writer's block and feel unmotivated to work on my side projects, but some days, I also couldn't even think of anything in the whole world to Google and just learn about.
I'd pick up a book, read a page and put it down. I'd tart a documentary, watch five minutes of it and turn it off.
It seemed nothing in the whole world was interesting to me anymore and never would be. (Well, except maybe techno parties, coffee with new friends, open air concerts and Berlin itself.)
When it came to my professional life, I felt small, alone, lost and just unable. I had the enthusiasm for work that cats have for baths.
What was happening?
Then a couple weeks later, I experienced a shift in my thinking that helped re-spark my usual excitement for life.
Along with taking baby steps in the right direction — forcing myself to read something that usually held my attention, writing the outline of an article, going to just one networking event and staying focused on my health and physical well — this way of conceptualizing my relationship to the world and to work got me right back on track.
I stopped thinking about things like, “What am I doing in the world? What is my purpose? What kind of role do I want to have? What do I want to create? What difference can I make? What am I truly capable of?”
Then, I started thinking along lines like, “What are the big issues I care about? What ecosystems of people and ideas do I find most compelling? What categories of problems really need to get solved right now? Where do I want to plug in and co-create? Where can I participate? What big idea would I be happy to play any role in at all?”
Essentially, I shifted from focusing on my role as an individual — a fundamentally self-centered way of seeing my place in the world — to seeing big groups of possibilities and arenas of ideas that I could play in. It was a fundamentally more collective, participatory way of seeing my place in the world.
I took my thoughts on my work life from a micro perspective (What work did I want to do day-to-day in my life?) to a macro perspective (What are the larger pieces of work that we need to get done?).
Here's a small sample of the things I came up with: changing workplace models and driving forward the future of work itself, experimenting in collective living and purchasing, disempowering “banksters” in America through public investment mechanisms like crowdfunding, seeing the role enterprises could have in improving public welfare beyond traditional CSR, creating new systems for funding higher education and advocating for universal basic income to fight poverty and inequality.
See how these are bigger groups of thought than “I want to be a doctor or a consultant," or "I want to start my own company,” but also more manageable than “Make a difference, help the poor, improve inequality and protect the environment”?
Ultimately, we cannot have a planet of 7.2 billion individuals thinking about what each of us individually wants to achieve and how comfortable we want to be on our own little island of existence.
Of course, we cannot deny our innate drive for survival and right to a comfortable pursuit of happiness, but shouldn't our individual survival and comfort be met while we work to meet a larger need for society?
I know that it sounds like I'm telling you stop your heart from beating by concentrating hard enough, but all I'm saying is. it's important to take time to align our personal goals with a more holistic view of work, the world and our collective future.
PS: You aren't alone, so don't ever feel alone. Everyone and everything is all interconnected.
Whenever you feel unmotivated or disempowered, connect with others. Connect one idea to the next. Up-level your thinking about what you want to do in this world from what you want to do, to what you can give and how you can participate in what's already happening.
Because so much is already happening out there. Not everyone needs to be a pioneer coming up with the next big thing like how the media glamorizes individual achievement. (Note: They usually focus on the CEOs and the founders instead of the company, the cause and the ecosystem of issues it's working on.)
There are already so many “next big things” that need the rest of us to simply become aware of, crosscheck them with our interests and capabilities and devote ourselves to working on them, all for the sake of ourselves, our society and our planet.
This article was originally published on the author's personal blog.