By Dr. Daneen Skube
Tribune Content Agency
Q: I'm working remotely but with no enthusiasm. I find myself drifting toward watching funny cat videos. I don't feel depressed I just feel like what I'm doing is meaningless in the face of our big problems. First off what is wrong with me, second how can I shake it, and third how do I even began to contribute to solving these huge problems?
A: First off you're normal and just overwhelmed because the problems facing us are too big for any one person to fix. Second you will shake it if you realize this is a phase and caused by you feeling overwhelmed by your powerlessness. Third, you can begin to solve these huge problems by starting to do small things every day.
There's a story about a man that leaves home to walk to the mountains where a wise man lives to learn the secret of enlightenment. After a long tiring trip he finds the guru. He asks about the secret. The guru smiles and says, "Go home and do your breakfast dishes that you left before your journey."
The advice of the wise man was on the importance of focusing on doing the small things in front of us that we have complete power to tackle. When we face big problems most of us have a tendency to freeze. However, freezing gives us no forward momentum toward any improvements.
Instead of looking at the huge problems like social unrest and the pandemic look at the part of these problems you can influence. Improving your mental and physical health, working on your conflict skills and dealing better with the unrest in your relationships is powerful and meaningful.
When we focus on the actions within our grasp we don't instantly fix the big problems. We do become part of the solution. Solving for world peace means doing the uncomfortable work of creating peace inside yourself and within your world. Otherwise an ideal like world peace is just a vague idea with no legs to move anyone toward answers.
We can all agree in theory with our need to solve big problems like world hunger, disease, mental illness or addictions. However, the rubber hits the road when we look at the specific ways these issues are personal challenges. Wanting to tackle social justice issues without taking a good hard look at how unjust, judgmental,or unkind we are is useless at best and harmful at worst.
We perpetuate what we hate when we aspire to change the world without changing ourselves. Hating social injustice in others is easy. Changing the ways we are unjust and cruel is hard. Changing the way we are unjust to those we see as impediments to our ideals like social justice is even harder. If we take the easy road of attacking others we only contribute to making the problem we say we want to fix bigger.
When we feel we have no power to make a difference funny cat videos at least gives us an emotional break. Even when we're working with enthusiasm on solving the small problems we all sometimes need to do the equivalent of watching entertaining animals.
Start by making a list of the small tasks you can do to improve relationships and your health and your enthusiasm (and sense of power) will return.
The last word(s)
Q: I work in a business where personal contact is important but now have to work completely remotely. Are there any creative ways to meet in person?
A: Yes, for instance, I have built an outdoor gazebo and am setting it up with fabric panels, a heater and soft lighting so my coaching and therapy clients have the option even in winter to see me in person.
Daneen Skube, Ph.D., executive coach, trainer, therapist and speaker, also appears as the FOX Channel's "Workplace Guru.”. She's the author of "Interpersonal Edge: Breakthrough Tools for Talking to Anyone, Anywhere, About Anything" (Hay House, 2006).