When I first started working this morning, I was in quite a bad mood. My coffee seemed broken, no food seemed appealing, and the sun was annoyingly in my face. Since I am a content writer (content with an emphasis on the first syllable. Not like “oh, I’m feeling so content at the moment.” More like “I need some content written about floral pattern sheets.” ), I am relying on someone to send me projects and there is no telling how many there will be on any given day. Today I had one that would earn me a mere 40 dollars, and I had to do it in four hours in order to feel like I was making enough an hour to justify keeping the job. Even if I finished it with the mental idea that I had earned 10 dollars an hour, there was no way to make more than that today. So, I was pissed.
Then I figured, why not enjoy life for once. I mean, it’s my thing now.
The sun is ridiculously perfect today, the leaves are just starting to get all fiery and my dog found a perfect spot of shade on the porch to lay on. I sit with my laptop, feeling the breeze, listening to Hank Williams and yodeling along in the peace and quiet. I finished the articles, and I have no idea how long it took. I still have more work to do on them, but for the moment I am writing this entry. I think that many people have a similar problem, which is that they allow work to create a tunnel vision. After a few years of that mentality, you might begin to forget what is outside of it.
It doesn’t matter what your job is. There is an American thing in which we all want to make money, and we are supposed to all become rich and famous somehow. We are supposed to make some amount each hour, which ends up combining our notion of time and our notion of money into one congealed mess. What happens, at least for me, is that I end up judging myself and the day based on how much I just got paid. This problem has only gotten worse once I began working for myself, because there was no longer any amount of money that I could trust to be there each week for me. This can add a lot of stress, and those of you that are content (again, CONtent not conTENT) writers probably know just what I mean.
So here are three ways that I have found to reduce this tunnel vision.
1. Think About the Nature of Tunnel Vision
First, just realize the obvious. Tunnel vision means that you are looking at one thing in crazy focus while ignoring a whole lot of other information. On one hand, this is necessary. If you have to make coffee, there are a few minutes where your tunnel vision is blocking out all the things that are not related to this task. If something caught on fire, you would notice, but if there is a spot of dirt on the floor you might not. When your focus is on cleaning the floor, your tunnel vision will most certainly alert you to that dirt.
So, when you start to feel like you are worthless because you are not making enough money an hour, or that you are an idiot simply because your boss told you so, then stop for a second. Call yourself out. Tunnel Vision! How much of your mind is occupied with things related to work that really have nothing to do with you and your life outside of it?
2. Look Outside the Tunnel Intentionally
The next thing to do is look at what is inside the tunnel and outside of it. For me this morning, there were a few things in the tunnel. There was the fact that I had to pump out 15 articles in a few hours in order to post them in time to make the ten dollars an hour that I am for some reason attached to as a measure of self-worth. Then there was the fear that no more work was coming for the day. Then there was the worry that if I had to pay more rent, this job wouldn’t work. Then I called it out. Tunnel Vision.
Suddenly, the sun was warm and wonderful instead of just in my face. My coffee was delicious and the perfect temperature. My dog was adorable in his one spot of shade. I felt lucky to be able to listen to music while I worked. I felt lucky to be able to stop working in order to make a blog post. These things were previously outside of the tunnel. What are you missing out on when you start seeing work as taking up all the space?
3. Indulge in the World Outside of Your Tunnel for a Moment
Your tunnel is probably different from mine. Maybe you are obsessing about the argument you had with your partner or a recent break-up. Maybe you are worried about finding a new job, or wondering how you are going to pay for your dual overhead camshaft to get fixed. Maybe you are worried about whether or not the person you like likes you, or feeling anxious about an open mic you are going to play at next week. Whatever it is, it’s your thing and it makes sense. But what is outside of it?
Find one thing, just one thing that is not currently in your tunnel vision. Indulge in it. Maybe you have been thinking so much about your partner and their horrible mood that you forgot about calling up your best friend to say hi. Maybe you were spending so much time trying to make more money that you forgot how fun it is to take a walk and watch the leaves as they change. Find one thing that you have been neglecting, and bring it back in. Make that tunnel bigger. The most important thing to do is notice some aspect of the moment that you have been ignoring. How does the sunlight feel? How is the breeze? If you are inside, how does your chair feel under you? How is the air? Even if it is all bad, at least notice it. Wake up to it. Make an intention to feel the freshness of the air once you are out of the building, or to really notice how delicious your coffee or lunch is. Indulge in the parts of the moment that have been waiting for you to acknowledge them.
The main point is that you are completely free to stop suffocating yourself, and once you do, you are then able to watch how easily the world seems like a better place.