Sometimes I feel like things are progressing too slowly. I’m taking too long to do this, I should’ve seen that result by now, etc.
But at least things are progressing. When I worked in the pharmacy, I felt like I was going nowhere. Total stagnation.
It was the same tasks day in and day out. Count pills, scan bottles, encounter glaring problems with the healthcare system that I couldn’t solve. And there were no promotions ahead. A retail pharmacist gets the occasional raise, but the job doesn’t change.
None of the other pharmacists I worked with seemed happy, but they didn’t seem anxious to leave it all behind either. I thought I was the only one bothered by it.
Spoiler: I wasn’t. When I did a search online, there were tons of people (including pharmacists) who felt the same way. Turns out people avoid complaining about work at work because they don’t want to get fired. Truly a big brain moment for me.
But I didn’t see a satisfying solution. Most of the advice I found can be summed up as, “change your mindset, this is how life is. The problem is your attitude.”
But… I actually knew people who were fulfilled and enjoyed their work. They were always excited to talk about whatever project they were focused on. They weren’t just going through the motions.
Life doesn’t have to be stagnant… it doesn’t have to be anything. If you’re feeling stuck in a rut, try doing the opposite of what you normally do for a day.
Spontaneity is the antidote to stagnation. Whatever you do during a typical day, try doing the exact opposite whenever possible.
Obviously I’m not suggesting you cross the street without looking both ways, or punching the mailman since you wouldn’t normally punch the mailman. I’m talking about areas where you can safely experiment without messing anything up.
Do you normally send emails at work? Try calling and discussing it over the phone. Do you normally get coffee from Starbucks? Try the coffee shop on the other street. Normally don’t talk during that meeting? Try asking a question that gets people talking or even laughing.
The possibilities here are endless. Not only does it shake up your routine, it shows you new ways to approach your different parts of your life. Opposite Day lets you get out of your comfort zone a little bit without breaking anything in the process.
I learned how to network very effectively during one of these opposite days. Instead of the formal, careful emails I would usually send, I decided to send something more casual. Closer to the tone I now use to write these blogs.
People actually started responding. Try it! Find someone who does something cool on LinkedIn and ask them for advice. My guide on how to change careers without applying online has specific instructions on what to say to get a response.
How does it help?
If you try an Opposite Day, you might not wake up the next day with a sudden epiphany about what you should do with your life. But you will learn about yourself.
The Opposite Day exercise lets you zoom out, remove yourself from your routine, and observe your behavior on a typical day. Because you have to consciously notice and acknowledge something before you can do the opposite.
It’s similar to the principle of mindfulness meditation. Instead of acting on instinct, you take a second to notice your thoughts for what they are. You’ll get insight on what parts of your day are the worst, what parts you look forward to the most, and tedious tasks that might be unnecessary.
What parts of your routine feel repetitive and pointless? And more importantly, why do you maintain those parts of your routine? This isn’t a rhetorical question to shame you, there’s probably a good enough reason.
Here’s an example from my pharmacy days, when I finally realized why it felt like a dead end. It was the bright retail lights over my head while I looked out the big grocery store window into the blue summer sky.
I resented the fact that a beautiful day was literally right in front of me, but I couldn’t step outside to enjoy it. So why did I maintain this part of my life? Because I needed the job and I thought I didn’t have any other skills (which wasn’t true).
That realization helped me kickstart my career change. I thought about learning new skills on the side, but first I took stock of everything I learned up to that point. And then I realized I already had some skills that were applicable to other careers.
I finally landed a remote job and learned how to work less and enjoy life more. For me, that means taking a walk whenever I want!
But the key to making that change was pinpointing what exactly I hated about my old job. A vague sense of dissatisfaction tells you something’s not right, but it doesn’t help you figure out what to do instead.
Try and Opposite Day. You won’t break anything other than the monotony, and you’ll get some more clarity on what you do want.