Harvey Mackay

How to Banish Apathy

A newspaper reporter secured an exclusive interview with the devil and was especially interested in the deceptive techniques the devil used to build his reputation.

He asked, “What is the most useful tool you use on people? Is it dishonesty? Lust? Jealousy?”

“No, no, no,” chuckled the devil. “The most useful weapon I possess is apathy.”

How true! An “I don’t care” attitude will strip life from the loftiest dreams. Apathetic phrases like “Never mind,” “That’s not my problem,” “I’m not concerned about that” or “I don’t want to hear that” don’t solve anything.

Helen Keller, who overcame being blind and deaf, wrote: “Science may have found a cure for most evils; but it has found no remedy for the worst of them all -- the apathy of human beings.”

Apathy has been around forever, but the COVID pandemic and resulting isolation have left many more people feeling bored, empty and lacking motivation. No energy. No enthusiasm. And then, no results.

Apathy isn’t sadness or anger. It’s more like not feeling much of anything.

The good news is that apathy is temporary. It’s only a glimpse of how you feel now. In other words, you can change. But first it’s helpful to figure out what caused your apathy. Then you can make some adjustments to help you break out of your doldrums.

Are you bored with your job? Have you stared at the same wall too long? Does it seem like too much work to look for ways to improve your situation? Are you willing to settle?

If “I don’t know and I don’t care” are the common answers to questions, it’s time to change things up.

Maybe you need to adjust your daily routine. Get up early and exercise. Go outside and walk and get some fresh air. Take a bike ride or go on a day trip in your car. Become more active. Do something that will help you perk up. Maybe it’s reading a book, listening to music or taking up a new hobby. Plan your dream vacation for the day when life gets back to “normal.”

What did you previously do that brought you joy? Make a list. And then commit to doing some of the things daily that brought you happiness.

Do something that you’ve wanted to do for a long time. Start a challenging project that you’ve been thinking about tackling to get your mind going.

The antidote to apathy is enthusiasm. Enthusiasm is about passion, gusto, excitement and infectious energy. Major League Baseball star Pete Rose once was asked which goes first on a baseball player -- his eyes, legs or arm. He said: “None of these things. It’s when his enthusiasm goes that he’s through as a player.”

What can you do to boost your enthusiasm? It all depends on how much you want to succeed. Take control of your own destiny. Success comes from knowing what you want, not wanting what you know.

A landscape gardener ran a business that had been in the family for three generations. The staff was happy, and customers loved to visit the store, or to have employees work on their gardens or make deliveries.

For as long as anyone could remember, the current owner and previous generations of owners were extremely positive, happy people. Most folks assumed it was because they ran a successful business.

In fact, it was the other way around.

A tradition in the business was that the owner always wore a big lapel badge reading "Business Is Great!" The business was indeed generally great, although it went through tough times like any other. What never changed, however, was the owner's attitude and the badge reading "Business Is Great!"

Everyone who saw the badge for the first time invariably asked, “What's so great about business?” Sometimes, people would also comment that their own business was miserable, or even that they personally were miserable or stressed.

The badge always tended to start a conversation, which typically involved the owner talking about lots of positive aspects of business and work.

No matter how miserable a person was, they'd usually end up feeling a lot happier after just a couple of minutes listening to all this infectious enthusiasm and positivity.

When asked about the badge in a quiet moment, the business owner would confide:

“The badge came first. The great business followed.”

Mackay’s Moral: Apathy is the glove in which evil slips its hand.