As a grad student, I know apathy well. Writing a paper the night before? Check. Figuring out the exact lowest score I have to get on a test in order to keep my grade intact? Check. Infuriating professors and mentors alike because of “potential” that never seems to be tapped? Check.
Apathy is an unsuspected villain. It seeps into your life and next thing you know, you’re finding it difficult to wake up for those early morning meetings. You dread the scheduled appointments and highlight the days on your calendar when you don’t have to appear. Your dream job has turned into bureaucratic nightmare; you go through the motions but the passion is gone. What was once so thrilling now leaves you glassy-eyed and looking for a way out. Where did the engagement go?
We’ve all experienced this to one degree or another. Whether it started with frustration, disillusion or weariness, you’ve been to a place (or might be there now) where you just can’t seem to find a reason to continue. You just don’t care.
The question is— how do you shake the slump? Here are some suggestions:
1. Get to the Bottom of Why You Feel Apathetic
How did you get here anyway? The first step in fighting apathy is discovering what has made you apathetic in the first place. Frustrated by misguided expectations? Worn down by the constant strains on your time and energy? Feeling unaccomplished in what you set out to do? Take the time to sit down and reflect on why it is exactly you’re feeling this way.
There is a good possibility that the problem doesn’t have to do with the job you’re apathetic about at all—the apathy may be coming from another place entirely. What are your relationships like? How have you changed since when you started? What else are you committing to that you’re not apathetic about?
2. Repent of Wrong Attitudes
Your work is not your own. If you’re going about your career for personal gain or glory, then there is a solid chance you will begin to not care once you get a taste of success. You accomplished the task! Now what?
Apathy ends where repentance begins. We’ve taken our (work, volunteering, education, ________) and made it all about ourselves. Don’t believe the lie. In actuality, the work you do isn’t just about you—you’re supposed to be giving gGlory to God through it (Colossians 3:17). Pray for God to grant you a changed mindset.
3. Remind Yourself of All You’ve Been Given
When I was a sophomore in college, I tried to make a list at the end of every day of all the things I was thankful for. I failed miserably at it (we’re talking like, three days, max), but I sure did realize how much I had to praise God for.
Often, we let pessimistic attitudes, cynicism and sarcasm bring us to the point of apathy. We can no longer see the thing we once cared about, and instead can only seem to focus on all the negative aspects. Take time and make a list of all the relationships, experiences and lessons you’ve gotten to have. Rejoice that the source of your apathy has in the past has probably given to you more than you could ever give to it.
4. Take a Step Back
Sometimes, feeling over it is just a sign that you’re doing too much. Take some time off for rejuvenation. Get away. Take the time to breathe. Do what you enjoy. Forward the emails elsewhere. Sometimes we just need a little time to reboot. You very well may find that you are missing whatever it was you were apathetic about by the time your short vacation comes to an end.
Maybe you’re already gone through these first four steps and you find yourself still feeling highly apathetic. The first four were internal—now look externally. What is it that you are doing? Has the situation around it changed? Have your views on it changed? Maybe some of the things you’re doing of the way you’re going about them are highly ineffective. Maybe they are a waste of time.
Some things are not worth your time and energy. Revise what it is you are doing. Change the mission statement, or at least the way you are carrying it out. Although it’s obviously possible, it’s pretty hard to feel apathetic about something that is highly effective.
James Harris is a third year Divinity student at Wake Forest University, and creative editor at MyBigJesus.com. Follow him on Twitter for insights on life, Jesus and The Walking Dead here: @jamesharris13