Monday, March 12, 2020

Are you enjoying the ride?

What jobs and roller-coasters have in common.

Like certain children on a ride at a theme park, many people aren’t enjoying the ride that their work or career is giving them. They only stay on the ride because they think that they must, due to peer pressure, fear of disapproval, or a hidden belief that there’s something wrong with them for not enjoying what everyone else says is so great. But is it true that all the others are enjoying the ride? Might they too choose to fake it for similar reasons?
Have you ever watched the faces of children on a carousel of other fairground ride? Some show pure delight. Others display fear, boredom, or a self-conscious concern with how they appear to parents or friends watching them. For every child who is enjoying the ride, one or more is there only because they have to be, and would get off at once if only they felt it was possible. (As an aside, much the same seems to be true of adults on the far scarier rides at today’s theme parks).

The experiences of these children are almost identical to the experiences of many people in today’s workplaces. some truly enjoy the ride—even the scary parts. Others are doing what they do because they think that they must, not because they get any pleasure from it.

How often have you seen a frightened child being urged onto some ride by amused parents. “Come along,” they say. “Don’t be afraid. you’ll love it.” And, in many cases, the child finally does what the parents want. Do they love their ride? Some do, perhaps, but I suspect more only say that they do afterwards, wanting to please their parents and avoid appearing to be uncomfortable with what their parents so clearly approve.

We comply and smile, and pretend to be enjoying ourselves, rather than face the supposed consequences of defying authority.

In the same way, many of us are urged into careers by authority figures—teachers, parents, ministers, even writers—and assured it will all be pleasure and gain once we overcome our strange reluctance at the start. And so we comply and smile, and pretend to be enjoying ourselves, rather than face the supposed consequences of defying authority.

Of course, peer pressure is equally important. Many of those inwardly frightened or bored children on the carousel are there because all their friends have indicated it’s the right, the exciting, the cool thing to do. These friends show off their “bravery” at facing the worst, most frightening theme park rides and enjoying them.

In work too, peer pressure keeps many people in jobs they dislike, or even hate.

Does this sound familiar? Have you heard people boasting, not just that they can handle the crippling work pressures and ever-extending hours in the office, but that they actually enjoy the whole process? Can you bear to be left out? Can you bear to be marked down as a wimp and a pantywaist? In work too, peer pressure keeps many people in jobs they dislike, or even hate. Their friends all have expensive cars, huge homes, and crushing working weeks. “See how successful we are,” they say. “We’re rich and important. 80-hour weeks? Child’s play to people as tough as we are.” So you join in, afraid of what might be whispered behind your back at the golf club otherwise, or the pitying looks exchanged at the PTA meeting.

And the bored children? They aren’t afraid or excited. They can handle the ride, scary or not, but it has no real interest to them. In part, they are there for the same reason as the rest—pressure of some kind. But there is also, perhaps, an element of self-doubt. “Everyone says the ride is wonderful and exciting. Since I don’t find it to be either, may be there’s something wrong with me?” So they keep riding, attempting to hide their supposed “problem” and pretending to enjoy it like everyone else.

By any rational criteria, the conclusion is obvious: they should try something else. Yet they don’t.

All too many people don’t enjoy their working lives. By any rational criteria, the conclusion is obvious: they should try something else. Yet they don’t. Many even pretend to enjoy their jobs, further fixing themselves into a stressful and meaningless round of drudgery and frustration.

Why is this? Like the children at the theme park, they have maybe given in to authority figures. Or they have accepted the notion that there’s something wrong with them: “This is a good job with a high salary. I ought to love it”. Or they are obsessed with keeping up with the Joneses and cannot contemplate the potential financial consequences of changing to a career they might really enjoy.

We all have only one ride around the sun. It’s our choice whether we select a ride we enjoy (even it isn’t the most financially advantageous), or one that scares or bores us (however much we earn). Having free will in broadly free, industrialized societies, means being able to choose wealth or social respectability over happiness—or the other way around.

If you truly love the ride you’re on, regardless of all the pressures, horrendous working hours, and terrifying ups and downs of the business roller coaster, what you have chosen is clearly right for you. You should ignore anyone who tries to tell you that it’s too risky or too demanding.

You are spending your one life doing something that you dislike—and often suffering as a result. It makes no sense.

But, if you have all the fears, pressures, and frustrations—or you are bored to distraction much of the time—without the corresponding enjoyment of what you are doing, why are you still on that ride? Whatever the pressures, you are spending your one life doing something that you dislike—and often suffering as a result. It makes no sense.

Come the end of your individual ride around the sun, will it have been worth it?

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Tracey Smith said...

A very thought provoking subject and one that lifted my attention, as a writer/broadcaster on sustinable living and the work/life balance.

I think the secret to getting a firm grip on it, lies with ‘embracing’ living with less. We have credit thrust upon us from every form of the media and it’s no wonder our kids think money really does come from a hole in the wall.

I shot a short film which I’ve stuck on YouTube - have a look if you have a moment and let me know your thoughts.

Keep it real, do it slow, make it green!

Tracey Smith

1:45 AM  
Carmine Coyote said...

Thanks, Tracey. I'm glad that you liked the article.

Your film was great! It also gave me a moment of nostalgia, seeing all that Englishness again.

If you think the average Englush person doesn't give much attention to sustainable living, you should live here in Arizona!

Keep reading, my friend.

7:02 AM  
Worksona said...

Hi Tracy,

I found your blog when looking for bloggers interested in workplace satisfaction and recognition. We're a startup that's building social networks for people who work at big companies to build their profile for co-workers to see and recognize co-workers when they do a good job for all to see--check out

If you're interested, I'd love to hear your thoughts on what we're working on.


2:15 PM  
Carmine Coyote said...

Thanks, Justin.

Sounds a great idea. I'll take a look.

Keep reading, my friend.

3:08 PM  
Aaron Kassover said...

I like the analogy. Of course, sometimes things being a little scary or uncomfortable can be a good thing. A hard workout at the gym, for example. It's no good to do things that we don't like because we feel like we have to, but we'll also miss out on a lot of growth if we don't do things because they're scary or uncomfortable.

6:29 PM  
Carmine Coyote said...

Nothing wrong with scary so long as it's fun and you've chosen it freely for yourself.

Thanks for an interesting comment, as always, Aaron.

Keep reading, my friend.

6:55 PM  
Einstein said...

The most correct observations regarding life in general. I totally agree with you that you get one life, and you should do what is right for you and not what seems to be right.

On a different note, I think this *pretending-to-enjoy-the-job* leads to a feedback effect which glorifies a job unnecessarily. The people who pretend to like the job influence other people to pretend, who further influence other people.

So, I guess many jobs (e.g. corporate jobs) are bloated in reputation more than they truly deserve.

8:30 AM  
Carmine Coyote said...

Thanks for your comment, Einstein.

You are likely right about many jobs. The pressure to say that you enjoy the work, even if you don't, is quite intense. Many people don't want to stand out by admitting to the truth.

That's rather sad. Until you acknowledge the truth, you can't make your life better.

Keep reading, my friend.

6:55 PM  

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