When I went freelance in the 1990s, very many people enthused at me about what it would like not being a boss. I knew they were wrong: it was more like I was taking on 17 bosses, each of them paying me a tiny bit.
All these years on, though, they were right. And I was wrong. (Would you look at that? A man saying he was wrong. Songs will be sung of this day.)
I have all these clients, all these editors, most people have just the one boss. But we are all working for ourselves and as easy as it can be to let the boss decide everything, as even easier as it is to just complain about that man or woman, you will be more productive and you will feel better when you realise that you are in charge.
Let’s not get silly about it. Punching your boss in the face is not empowerment, it’s unemployment and a possible legal case. But take everything your job requires you to do and look at it all is if you are the manager. Which bit does your client, your boss, really need? What bits are quick wins you can knock out in ten minutes? What’s the stuff that you know is just bollocks and busy work? And what is the stuff that you can do that needs help from other people? Best yet: what’s missing? What more can you do that will be really good for you, your boss, your company and your future pay rises?
Look at your job not as what you have to do or as who you are, but instead as this business that you are running. You have clients and customers, you have resources, if you use them like that instead of constantly reacting to whatever happens next or whoever demands things the loudest, you’ll feel in control. It’s the best feeling because it’s real, you’ll feel in control because you are.
Mind you, keep doing that and you could end up being promoted to boss. Or go freelance.
Normally, people do not enjoy being forced to do something. People also do not enjoy the guilt that comes with doing something that is bad for them. Surprisingly, these two wrongs seem to make a right: when people are compelled to engage in vices, they feel better than when they freely choose the vice for themselves. According to a new paper in the Journal of Consumer Research, persuading a friend to share a dessert removes the burden of choice from them, reducing their feelings of guilt and making them less conflicted about the decision.
Vices—junk food, movie marathons, celebrity gossip news, procrastination—have adverse consequences. Choosing them is ‘bad’ and results in guilt that we don’t get from virtuous activities such as exercise, working on a passion project, or reading high-quality media. “It has long been believed that yielding to vices…is bad,” write the researchers. “While not disagreeing with this picture, the current research presents the observation that a negative view of vices does not quite tell the full story.”
The researchers suggest that the guilt of choosing vices weighs us down, reducing our sense of ‘subjective vitality.’ Vitality, a term used to describe the feeling of being energized, has been linked to mental and physical wellbeing, improved task performance, tenacity, and self-control. It is not quite the same thing as happiness, which is a related but conceptually different experience.