Focusing on the Now
It started when I decided to keep buying books. I had contemplated applying to graduate school next year and so I didn't want to buy too many more books in case I might have to ship all the more back to the States if I left. It was a bottleneck of decision-making, however, and it was forcing me to focus on the future, to concentrate on what I wanted to do in a year or a year and a half. It created a false sense of urgency and a great deal of stress.
So I decided to buy books anyway, regardless of whether I eventually decide to stay here or go. The immediate effect of this was that I no longer felt pressure to decide whether I wanted to go to grad school, stay and become an expert at law, stay and work to make money as an independent publisher (see last week's article Making a Contented Life). This freed up my attention so I could focus on the now.
On Monday I didn't do too much, but at the end of the day my boss called me in for a meeting to discuss the next step in my future. For a few moments I was concerned, but apparently for no reason. He simply wanted me to take more of a leadership role in new matters and to put in the work necessary to take care of the details for clients. But during our conversation, he inspired me. I remembered how he had demonstrated his expertise (see Expertise in the Wild) and how that had caused me to want to become an expert myself. As he spoke I felt that again and I realized that there was something satisfying in doing a good job--something I hadn't truly done up to this point.
I'm not sure what my thinking process was to get me from that point to the next morning. But after I finished my writing on Tuesday, I set about outlining the Vietnamese investment law. And then I restarted the book on Vietnamese contract law from the beginning, this time taking notes and with the intention to actually learn the concepts. I don't remember why I decided to do this, but I did it and it not only filled up the morning, but it allowed me to focus on the now, on what I needed to do now to reach a desired future rather than focusing on that future.
With this newly rekindled interest in learning, in studying and improving my mind, I continued this trend in the afternoon. I searched for free courses online and found a site that listed thousands of free courses with links. I scanned through some of them and saw one that seemed particularly interesting: Australian Aboriginal History, and began to listen to the lectures. And then I did other learning as well, starting a free digital marketing course.
At the end of the day, I realized I had spent the majority of it learning, actively seeking out to make new knowledge a part of me. I was doing more than just reading passively, I was outlining and would eventually begin memorizing, I was notetaking, and I was engaging in multiple types of learning. I looked back and saw a very satisfying day. What if I could do this again?
The next day I was able to largely repeat the feat. I finished outlining the investment law and bought a couple of books related to the lecture course so I could expand my understanding and get a better idea of the history. I again largely filled my day with learning. I was beginning to get excited. I saw a chance to not only fill up the time that I had previously wasted but to improve myself while doing it. And I was learning the law, finally, so I could become a better lawyer and do the good job my employer deserved of me.
And I was satisfied.
I repeated the process on Thursday and Friday, filling most of my work week with learning. I may not be spending all of my day with the law, but I'm spending my mornings with the law and I'm keeping my mind engaged so that when I do have work I can be prepared to activate the mental capacity necessary to do it properly.
And I'm also finding more enthusiasm for work in general. I have resumed posting daily on LinkedIn, a practice I had dropped several months ago because I was feeling little motivation to improve myself or my job. I'm looking at possibilities for improving my relationship with others at work and with contacts who I have already made so that I can develop business. I am proactively engaging with my role as a lawyer and as an employee, something I haven't really done. And as I'm learning the law I'm hoping this trend continues. I will not only increase my enthusiasm but will increase my ability to perform and increase my value to my employer and to clients.
What's more, it's repeatable. Previous efforts at motivational productivity have failed after a day or two. But already I have managed to continue this for four days, longer than any other attempt. It seems sustainable as a philosophy for maintaining myself in my job and for finding the satisfaction in my work necessary for contentment. It's a major win for me and I'm actually beginning to look forward to going to work and learning. Perhaps it's a consequence of focusing on the now, or of feeding my mind with interesting information. Either way, it has a great deal of promise and I look forward to exploring it more.