Motivation has long been my most elusive skill. I’m a huge procrastinator and am good at figuring out the minimum viable path that yields the greatest work : reward ratio. In a way this is a good thing. I’m good at figuring out solutions to problems and can accomplish what is expected of me. This also means I tend to stray away from work that may or may not put me in a better position down the line, even if there is the potential for that work to result in something greater than what is expected.
My job is my most current and pressing example of this. I work at Amazon as a software developer. I make good money. Writing software has been, and continues to be, an enjoyable experience. I feel as though I’ve figured out the politics of the company enough to succeed within that system. Put all of these things together and the path forward in my career becomes clear, the writing is on the wall.
The problem with being in a situation like this is that, in the eye of most people, I’ve made it. I’ve been raised by society to aspire to have a well paying, stable job that I don’t dislike. Sure, aspects of my job could be improved, but those are marginal improvements. Many people strive their whole lives to have what I have right now and that’s a scary thought for me to process. It’s scary because I can clearly see a path forward in life from this precise moment until the day I die: pull any year out of this life and I wouldn’t find much to complain about, but put 45 of those years back-to-back and I don’t like what I see.
This path is straightforward and pretty much guarantees me a good life. Here’s how it goes: I go into the office every morning, work for 8ish hours and put my mind towards whatever the company deems I should, get promoted a few times, move companies, change routines, work on different, challenging problems. I won’t hate my job by any means. I’ll continue to have a passion for programming and will always have opportunities to work on complex problems. I’ll repeat this formula for 42 years. Between 40 hours a week at the office, time spent decompressing from the stress of work and sleeping I’ll still have a little time left over. I’ll try to use that time for memorable experiences like seeing my family, connecting with friends, exploring new places and immersing myself in my hobbies (I just have to make sure these “extracurriculars” fit into my few weeks of vacation time each year). I’ll get married, buy a house, a car, have kids and have a perfectly fine existence. Without minding, I’ll get trapped by this comfortable life. Not hating my job, but not caring enough to do anything about it because doing so would be hard. Not only hard for the normal reasons, but hard because it goes against what society says I should be happy doing.
If I allow myself to slip into this life I’ve accepted that experiences I could have had, a world I could have explored and friends I could have kept in contact with will slip away. My daily energy and the prime years will be spent fulfilling the goals of a company and my personal time will be allotted to tiresome evening hours and short vacations after my body and mind have been drained.
The off-putting thing about all this is even after truly standing behind every word I wrote, I still find myself feeling comfortable. I allow my mind to play tricks on me and say, “You’ve had a long day at work and you’re right where you’re supposed to be in life so relax you’ve done enough.” when I know deep down if I don’t put in the effort now and take measurable steps towards a life that allows me to have the freedom and control over my time, I’ll wake up year after year saying the same thing until it’s too late.