Getting Shit Done Keeps the Monsters Away
If you want to feel better today - the recipe is simple. Just keep busy.
In his autobiography Benjamin Franklin describes how he and his men were sent to build a fort, to guard against the Indians.
Franklin noticed that on productive days, when the soldiers were busy building the stockade, they were in a better mood. But on idle days – when the weather kept them from working - they were mutinous and quarrelsome, finding fault with their pork, the bread etc.
Franklin remembers talking to a ship Captain. He always kept his crew busy aboard the ship for this reason. If the men had already cleaned the deck - just do it again. This was a sound policy to keep boredom and frustration from creeping into their minds at sea.
It seems to me, that it doesn’t matter what you're actually doing - as long as you think it matters. And you feel productive doing it.
I just read the book "Iron Coffins" about a German U-boat crew during World War II. When they weren't out sinking allied ships, they quickly got bored at base and wanted to set out to sea again – even though they might never return. They wanted to contribute to the war effort. Be productive.
Looking at this today it would have been much better, if they had never set out to sea in a U-boat - the world would have been a better place. But to the U-boat crew – at the time - it seemed immensely productive and full of value to sink allied ships.
To put this even more into perspective. I'm sure that a mass murderer feels productive scoping out his next victim. Maybe even more tired and happy, having just buried his last victim in the woods and settling down for a well-derserved dinner.
So, achieving the good feeling of being productive is relatively easy. But this feeling doesn't mean that you're doing anything worthwhile at all. It might even be harmful to everyone else than you. An emotion is just an incentive, it doesn’t tell you anything about the moral value of what you’re doing.
I find something else about motivation interesting. When I stop procrastinating and get going on a task, the motivation and inspiration will automatically ensue. Once started I often get so focused on doing the work, that I don’t want to stop. In a way the work finishes itself. The hard part is getting started at all.
So, keeping busy is paramount to having a good day for me. It also comes with the added benefit that I get work done. Even if that work doesn’t put money in my bank account, cure cancer or impresses people – the work is valuable in itself for keeping me happy.
With this thought in mind, all I need to do now is convince my son, that cleaning his room will automatically boost his happiness for the day.