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The Hate List

A friend of mine gave me a great idea the other day – write down a ‘hate list’. Totally counterintuitive, right? Why fuel your feelings of dissatisfaction, especially right now? But stick with me...

Here’s how it works: write down all the stuff you hate – the stuff that annoys you. Really let yourself go. Be specific. The car rego; that annoying team member; social injustice; traffic; Covid-19 restrictions; people who carry out conversations on speaker phone; the fact that you are procrastinating the car rego. You get the idea. Go for it!

Now, sit back and look at your list. How do you feel? Where’s your energy?

The hate list is full of energy… the kind that saps us. But there’s something to be learned from it, too: what we care about. The trick is to bottle that energy and look for new places to spend it.

Try this instead: what’s captured your attention during lockdown? Where did your brain go in free moments? What did you get lost in? What stirred you? In the absence of social commitments, office interactions, and functions, where did you spend your time? Those are energy sources, too – the opening kind.

In absence of the busy-ness, how you spend your time is a great clue to what you care about. And what you care about can be a source of purposeful, sustaining energy. After all, as (one of my favourite academics) Robert Kegan reminds us, a complaint is just a commitment in disguise.

So, before you screw up that hate list and throw it away – let it teach you something about yourself. Look beyond those noisy annoyances and shine the light of attention on the quieter, yet more satisfying stuff you love.


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