Don't Be Like Sisyphus

Photo by  Logan Fisher  on  Unsplash

Sisyphus was punished by the gods for his ego. He thought he was smarter than everyone else, that he could outwit the plans of Zeus, that he was omnipotent. Cursed to spend eternity pushing an enormous rock up a hill only to find it right back at the bottom again the next morning, his task was never-ending. 

We can all relate to that when our lives end up feeling like a Sisyphean challenge. Every day we wake up and find our rock at the bottom of the hill, and every day we struggle to push it to the top. And the next day we find ourselves right back where we started.

It’s not always a bad thing. Our ego can cloud our judgement. When things go in our favour it’s easy for us to lose sight of reality. We get our rock to the top of the hill and our heads get bigger. We think we can do anything. No rock is too big. And when we wake up to find our rock back at the bottom it can bring us back down to earth, restore our perspective and keep us focused on who we are, what we’re capable of. It can restore our humility.

But other times it’s a drain. When we struggle up that hill each day and find our rock back at the bottom every morning, we wonder what it’s all for. What’s the point? We lose our motivation. We get caught up in the eternal slog of having to repeat our task and we end up stuck in a rut, on a treadmill that’s going nowhere. Where’s the sense of accomplishment? Why don’t things ever go our way?

But we don’t need to be like Sisyphus. 

Every day Sisyphus took that rock up the same path. Perhaps if he’d tried from the other side of the hill he’d have had more luck. Perhaps if he’d tried a different shaped rock, or a smaller rock, or even a bigger rock, it wouldn’t have rolled back down again the next morning.

Or perhaps if he had another interest on the side, something that would change his priorities and his focus, then the eternal task of pushing that rock wouldn’t have seemed so dreadful. It would have become something that he did every day, but once he got to the top he could focus on something that would bring him satisfaction elsewhere, that would build towards something different. And when he found the rock back at the bottom the next morning, it wouldn’t feel so bad because he’d have something else in his life that would light his fire.

But instead, every day, all he could focus on was rolling that rock up the same hill, the same way, day after day after day.

When we do the same things every day, but somehow expect different results, and just like Sisyphus we’re going to feel powerless. We fall out of love with life because nothing ever changes. The spark is gone. Our fire no longer rages. Life is no longer for us

But how about we do something different? A different rock? A different hill? A different path? How about we give ourselves something else to look forward to on the days when we don’t have to think about the rock?

We cannot expect things to be different if we don’t do different things. If something isn’t working for us, we need to do something else. Look at the rock with a different perspective. Forget about the rock altogether. Find a different way. Choose a different seat on the train. Go somewhere different for lunch. Get up earlier than normal. Read a different newspaper. Do something you’ve never done before.

We are not the rock. It doesn’t define us. It’s not our life and it’s not our world. So look around – what else is there? What else can we turn our attention to? How can we reignite our fire? What action can we take that is different to the same action we take every day, that brings us the same results?

And when we change our focus, look beyond the rock and do something different, we see that it’s not just about the rock. It’s about us, and it’s up to us. It’s totally up to us.

Do something different.