Avoiding Acedia

Acedia – apathy, boredom. 

Diving right into my 41st year of life, I started to take inventory of my priorities to make sure I was aligned to what I wanted to be aligned towards. Over the holidays, I did some cleaning up of our family finances, and have some near-term fitness goals and competitions I’m preparing for. As I started my new job, I did find some difficulty obtaining traction on my purpose and what I was bringing to the fight. My new job does entail a reduction in overall responsibilities, but that’s ok. I made the determination to dive deeply into my new team and make sure we are providing the added value that is needed at our headquarters.

In addition, I started to see new job opportunities for Deputy Commanders at various Mission Support Group units around the Air Force. These jobs are significantly different than the staff job I’m working on now, and I started to feel the sense that this could be something more aligned with my passion: leading people and leading Airmen. I discussed the idea with my wife, who was on board and has always supported my professional decisions. I then had a chat with a mentor of mine that advised me there are two types of officers: those that make great staff officers, and those that make great commanders. The Air Force needs both, but when an officer isn’t necessarily aligned to this idea, one can get stagnant or frustrated. That advice was spot-on and timely: even though I was excited to start my new job, my passion behind that job was not on par with previous jobs. I was going through the motions, but I was actually stuck in a feeling I wasn’t familiar with.

In the book “The Second Mountain” by David Brooks, I came across a phrase I wasn’t familiar with: Acedia. The specific quote is, “Acedia is the quieting of passion. It is a lack of care. It is living a life that doesn’t arouse your strong passions and therefore instills a sluggishness of the soul, like an oven set on warm.” This phrase immediately hit me because I felt like this was what I was experiencing: a degree of boredom because I was missing passion. This wasn’t a cause for alarm, but more a consolidation of inputs that led me towards finding a label to something that was splintering my mind. More importantly, I was able to immediately find the solutions that would help me avoid acedia and get back to feeling myself.

Listen to this week’s episode to find out how I will overcome acedia and get back to being the leader I know I am capable of.