Shelf Life

It’s been a tough couple of years. I’m writing this at the start of November 2021, just to get some thoughts down on paper. I have noticed that my motivation has crashed over the last few days, and I’ve been wondering why. I’ve been feeling periodically tired for months now. But most of the time, I’ve been able to get myself back up again relatively quickly. My productivity has been remarkable – writing three books, more media than I’ve ever done before, podcasts, and a Psychology Today column too – despite the situation we find ourselves in. Or perhaps, precisely because of the situation we find ourselves in.

Being a psychologist, doing what I do, has been a solitary furrow to plough. And what I do is increasingly detached from what my professional peers do – leaving me wondering why I continue to do it. Yes, I’m still a psychologist, but in NZ, my experience and what I do feels unique.

And very lonely

I’ve been working at home, on my own, for endless months now. And I think I’m reaching the point where I am considering calling time on doing things as I have been doing them. I need some sort of break – not just a holiday, but a discontinuity. Something different.

Possibly even an early semi-retirement

Yes, radical I know. I ventured my plan in a little WhatsApp group with friends that I still have from primary school.

“Are we old?”, was one reply. Older yes, but there is something else going on.

“Maybe this is burnout?”, I ask myself. I suspect not. I think it’s more about having been a psychologist for 30 years and wanting to explore different ways of being in the world. I still get excited about possibilities. But I increasingly think and feel like I am approaching my shelf life as a practicing psychologist.

I recently posted this on LinkedIn:

“Doing. Thinking. Feeling. Being. These are states we humans spend time in. One or two are likely to feel more comfortable than the others. Understand your dominant states. Develop the others. Switch to what comforts you when times are tough. Stretch yourself when the time is right.”

I’ve spent a lot of time doing, thinking and feeling these past two years. But not enough time being. And perhaps not enough time feeling and experiencing in broader ways: Being a Dad, being Sarb, being a husband, being a son, being a brother, being a part of community. Yes, but I’ve been helping, but I get very little feedback or connection with others with what I do and how I choose to do it. So, it’s hard to keep on doing it. I get excited when I think about making more YouTube videos and exploring how I might start a new series on being a father, of young girls, who is older than the average dad, or more podcasts, or writing.

These are the activities where I feel most alive, most useful

But, I have been reflecting that I derive a decreasing sense of excitement and engagement from my daily practice of being a psychologist. I want to spend more time being and exploring, mining and reflecting on just being present to see what emerges. That my children are constantly reminding me they miss me is also a call to action to change things.

I’ve banked over thirty years as a Psychologist. I’m not ready to call it a day just yet

We are still in the middle of a global pandemic and I think I still have useful contributions to make. But I am setting the clock and hitting start as I consider what my next chapters might look like. I’m giving myself a few months to think about it and come up with a plan.

My last booked work for this year is in the middle of this month. Other stuff will come up, but I’m going to get back to making fun YouTube things, engaging with that community, and continue to look for opportunities to serve that public mental health agenda for a while yet. But right now, I feel like my identity is too enmeshed with my practice as a psychologist. 

Get in touch if you’ve any reflections and thoughts, or drop a comment on my blog, tweet, or LinkedIn post – wherever you find these reflections. Are you going through a similar experience?


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *