The other day as I was running after my dog with a ladle (urine test), I had this thought about how absurd my life was at that moment and how boring. I seem to spend a lot of my life chasing after my pack members for various things that seem to involve either driving, cleaning or eating (or the end result thereof). This was not the domestic bliss I dreamed of in my 20s. That dream seemed to involve a lot more traveling and adventure and less responsibilities and bill payments. I finally understand the lyrics to that Talking Heads song Once in a Lifetime that state, “You may ask yourself, “Well, how did I get here?” Indeed.
I was having a Shirley Valentine moment. The urge to run away and do something completely exotic and wonderful far away gripped me. I didn’t want to be sensible, responsible, charitable or any other “ible.” Have you ever felt that way? An existential freak out? I used to think that this feeling meant I had to make a big, sweeping change in my life – and sometimes I did. For that reason, ennui can be a dangerous experience. Suddenly you want to throw out everything that mattered for something unknown. It’s risky and a bit like throwing the baby out with the bathwater. If you are in your 20s and unattached…moving across the country or doing something completely different is a thrilling adventure. If you are middle-aged with lots of ibles there are more consequences.
Today I recognize that I’m sometimes bored with routine, but I don’t have to stay that way. There are two approaches that can work here. Zen would have me find the joy in everyday things and understand that my happiness or unhappiness is from within, not outside myself. You’ve probably heard the old Zen saying, “Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.” Zen tells us that things don’t really change. We change in relationship to things and that mindfulness can be found in daily activities.
The other approach is to stretch myself. A new challenge will help me grow and then I’ll appreciate routine as a way to let me focus on what’s really interesting to me.
So what does this have to do with selling stuff on Amazon? The first year selling online is full of adventure and challenge. New technology, new language, new ways of doing business, new revenue…lots of new, new, new. And then what happens? We get experienced. Yep. It’s the curse of competence. While there is always excitement around finding a great deal, the thrill fades pretty fast. There is tedium in this business like processing inventory, repricing and following up on lost inventory or keeping our performance numbers high. Yawn.
Because so many of us work out of our homes, we are also vulnerable to distractions like laundry, picking up kids from school, taking a nap, facebook, making dinner and so on. Admit it: you’ve done all these things at one time or another when you were planning on working. I sometimes write blog posts in advance. All of a sudden, the day is gone and things start to slip in the business. Enough time goes by and ennui sets in. Suddenly we don’t want to do all the things we know we need to in order to be successful. Isn’t that new show starting on TV tonight?
When I’m feeling restless, I get a bit introspective. My first question to myself is “Why am I here?” Sometimes, it is simple. I’m tired. I’m running three businesses and a household. If I sleep and rest for a couple of days, I’m all Zen and happy again chopping wood and carrying water (and ladles). If I’m in the grips of ennui, however, then I need to take steps and ask more questions:
- What’s missing? – Try to identify what is lacking for you in your life right now. Do you need more connection with others? (not facebook, I mean person-to-person) Do you feel unappreciated by your family? Maybe you need help with something? We’re not good at everything. Maybe you need more time for yourself to work out, read or meditate?
- What is my Why? – Have you lost touch with the reasons why you are working so hard? Maybe it is time to remind yourself of your “Whys.”
- What’s the next step in my business? – A business is like a shark, it has to keep moving or die. Is there something new for you to learn/explore?
- What have I put off for too long? – Sometimes we feel ennui because there is something we would much rather be doing – or something we absolutely should be doing but we’ve put it off. It may be time to shift your priorities. Once you get this task completed, you may feel much better.
- What am I scared to do? – Ennui is a great deflector. It takes our minds off the fact that we’re afraid by telling us we’re bored and that’s why we’re so antsy. Uh-huh. We’re so clever as a species that we fool ourselves.
- What do I like to do? – This goes hand-in-hand with its opposite. If you are spending too much time doing stuff you don’t like or that you are not good at, it can make you restless. Maybe you need to find a way to be more efficient in the not-so-fun part so you can do more of the fun stuff that you like. If you’re not sure what you like, this a great question to ponder as you go through your routine. Notice which activities seem easier and are more satisfying to you. How can you change your environment so you are doing more of those activities? This applies not just to your business but to your whole life. If you feel like you spend a huge part of your day driving around, for example, you need to find a way to either make it fun again or get out of the car. Take care of yourself first and chopping wood becomes more bearable.
- What is one small thing I can do to feel better right now? — This is possibly the most important question. If you can take even a tiny step, you will find momentum quickly building and you will already be living the new life that you want. It works both for personal stuff and business stuff. One small step leads to the next. Don’t get all over-achiever on me here – one. small. thing. Really, it works.
Now would be a good time to mention that a lot of times we are not conscious of our motivations. You may have to sit with these questions for a while until you experience clarity. Examine carefully any answer that looks like Shirley Valentine running off to Greece. Our ibles are an important part of who we are.
The final step is to actually take a step. Nothing blows away boredom and the fidgets like action.
Change your perspective and you could find your own business enlightenment even if your day is the “Same as it ever was, same as it ever was.”