In those formative years when I wasn’t entirely certain what I wanted to do with my life, I somehow became convinced that I wanted to be a news anchor.
So, during one of my final semesters of college, I accepted an internship at a local news station. I considered it a stepping stone into what I thought would be a long and successful career in broadcast journalism, and I was eager to hit the ground running on my first day.
Throughout the next several weeks, I spent hours categorizing old tapes, shadowing reporters on assignments, and watching the noon broadcast from the control room. But, here was the part that surprised me: Any time I was offered the opportunity to try something new and gain some valuable experience, I shut down.
When a reporter asked if I’d like to do a segment in front of the camera, I declined. When the news director asked if I had any ideas during our morning meeting, I shook my head. When another reporter volunteered to help me record a voiceover, I pretended I had something more urgent to take care of.
“What is wrong with me?” I thought to myself as I hid out for far too long in a bathroom stall. All of the other interns were grabbing the reins, putting themselves out there, and getting awesome experience under their belts. Why was I being so lazy? Why was I suddenly lacking the drive and work ethic I prided myself on?
Then one morning, as I strolled up the steps to the newsroom, I had an epiphany of sorts: I didn’t really like this. In fact, I pretty much dreaded heading into my internship day in and day out.
I fell into a trap we’ve likely all found ourselves in before: I confused total disinterest with laziness. I wasn’t a lackluster news intern because I was uncommitted. No, I was a lackluster news intern because I simply didn’t want to be a news intern.
Laziness Versus Disinterest
This is a concept that Tony Stubblebine eloquently explores in his post for Better Humans, in which he talks about how he never excelled at school.
Consider what stories you’re telling yourself about what you can’t do. Are any of those really just situations of disinterest that you’re spinning into personal failings?”
For me, there have been plenty of times when I’ve confused the two. I always find it difficult to motivate myself to go for a run—not because I hate exercising, but because I don’t get excited about running specifically. I’d rather ride my bike or take a group fitness class. I used to accept social media management assignments from my freelance clients, but always had the toughest time actually sitting down and getting those projects done. Turns out, I just don’t enjoy that area of work.
Of course, a big piece of adulthood involves having to do things you don’t always want to do, and that’s likely not changing anytime soon. Unfortunately, recognizing that you’re disinterested in something doesn’t always mean you can avoid it for eternity.
However, the important lesson to take away is this: Just because you’re having a tough time getting motivated to tackle something doesn’t automatically make you lazy, useless, or unqualified. Much like I was as a news intern, you could simply be pursuing the wrong goals.
And, you know what? Recognizing that is the first step to figuring out what you do want to do.