In Greek mythology, a character named Sisyphus was once a powerful king. He was evil, however, and was therefore punished by the gods to carry and roll a boulder up a hill. The catch was this: every time he succeeded in this arduous feat and sat the boulder on top of the hill, the boulder would, without fail, roll back down the mountain. Sisyphus was condemned to an eternal struggle of brawn against rock. Life can feel like this at times. Sometimes we can feel as though our fate is that of Sisyphus. We may not have conniving gods cooking up devious rock-rolling punishments for us, but monotony in life can be a very real thing. Work, eat, sleep, and repeat the next day… and the next, and the next…Our eternal struggle, our boulder. We feel that our work and our repetitive days are profiting little, just like Sisyphus. Our drudgery feels like vain repetition and nothing more.
Although we can feel that our job is repetitive and monotonous, this is looking on the negative side of things. Much of our life will play out based on our attitude. Our attitude should not regress into the mindset that our job is just a meaningless tedium. Unlike Sisyphus, there is a point to all the repetition of our work. Although you may feel that you are painstakingly appeasing the work gods for their enjoyment, your work does have purpose for several reasons.
1. While Sisyphus was being punished, you are being paid. Even if you have a job that is the same, day in and day out, be grateful that you are being compensated for that work. Work diligently in that capacity so that you can further your ambitions.
Tip: Look for ways to make improvements in your current job. Could policies and procedures be put in place to make it more efficient? If the job is arduous, take the initiative to find ways to make it interesting. This ability will set you apart in your current and future positions.
2. There is no progress in the tale of Sisyphus, nor is there growth. Sisyphus learned nothing from his toil, he gained nothing, nothing was produced, and nothing completed. You can and should be learning in your work. You will also complete projects, or fulfill a certain amount of products. You likely have some way to measure your productivity. In this way, you can see what you have produced, learn how to be better, and grow in turn. Also, your work is not a hill that throws everything you do back down its side. Think of your work more along the lines of a road with checkpoints interspersed along its winding route.
Tip: Keep detailed notes on what projects/work you are completing. When your evaluation or new job opportunities come up, you can use these examples to highlight your expertise.
3. Sisyphus could never leave. No matter the rough day we have at work, we don’t have to stay there at all times. We have the ability to leave our jobs at the end of the day. We have lives outside of our work lives. Our time is not constrained and limited to our work, and we are not chained. Rather, while our lives do involve work, they also involve friends, music, movies, and laughter.
Tip: As much as possible, don't bring your work home. Create a definite barrier between your work time and your family/leisure time. Establish a short ritual after work that will help you create a mental separation from your work and personal life. This could be a few moments of meditation or breathing, saying a quick prayer, or listening to a song. Anything can work that will signal to your brain that now is the time to forget about work and focus on friends/family.
If you are stuck in a work life that feels like Sisyphus, what can you do to get out of that situation? Grit your teeth, throw your power into your rock and hurl it up the cliff. Get recognized at your job. Use your creativity to find ways to be more efficient. Learn something at your work so well that you become the expert. Move up the chain, or move out and find a new chain! Don’t surround yourself with others who revel in the misery of Sisyphean attitudes. Surround yourself with people of positive, game-changing attitude. If there aren’t any people like that around, then immerse yourself in blogs like this one! Find podcasts, inspiring books, and other materials. Don’t wait for your work to give you meaning; instead, give meaning to your work.
Jonathan King, Co-founder