I have always been wondering what makes people do what they have to despite their mood, lack of sleep, or other problems. Is it discipline, motivation, or inspiration? Do we need it to accomplish our goals? Inspiration feels good, but it is not consistent to rely on it. Instead, we should focus on discipline and deal with the boring part of an activity or task.
Discipline vs Motivation
When I decided to create this blog, I set the goal to write 2 posts every week. The first 10 were inspirational and exciting. The words and ideas would flow naturally. However, the last week I was struggling with the "inspiration" for a new topic and the current blog post. I did not know what to write about and, overall, I was on the lower part of the mood curve. If I rely on my emotions, then I would not write this post. Missing a task is fine, but if it leads to another miss, then it's over. You will not form a habit and, as a consequence, achieve your goal.
Recently, I stumbled upon a question on Reddit. The author asked how can he manage losing interest in things he was doing. He would give up on a book, on a hobby, or any other activity that seemed captivating at first. There is, of course, a difference whether you are low after 2 months or just 10 minutes, but the essence is the same: losing interest should not be the decisive reason to give up on something. When you are uninspired, the process becomes boring or requires additional efforts. Usually, the end goal is not motivating because the reward is too far. It requires 3-4 years of consistent work to make a blog successful. And even that does not guarantee that people would read it and find useful. So how do you find efforts to write something for 4 years consistently to receive a reward?
Fall in Love with Boredom
Doing the same repetition over and over can be tedious. It is hard to stay inspired for 4 years to train every day to be the first at the Olympic games. Consider how many training sessions and repetitions a sports champion does. If you do not train (aka repeat the same process) for 4 years, you cannot expect to be on the pedestal. James Clear in Atomic Habits book asked a coach about the secret of being a successful athlete. Why some of them achieve extraordinary results, and some don't? Of course, talent and passion are important, but what's more significant is to fall in love with the boredom of repetition.
I used to be, and partially I am, still, the kind of person that always has been looking for something challenging so that I can feel progress and enthusiasm. Doing the same stuff always feels boring and static to me. I wanted to learn and move forward. However, once I am bored, I do not think about the reasons. Instead, I would move on to something new. I was chasing the feeling of novelty and the new portion of dopamine. This trait led me to know a little bit of everything. I know the basics of psychology, fitness, game engine & rendering software, 3d modeling & animation, programming in Swift and Python, deep & machine learning, but I am not an expert in any of these fields. I used to think that I am a polymath, but it's hardly the truth. Leonardo da Vinci was a polymath, and he was an expert in most of the fields he was engaged in. It means that he didn't give up on his hobbies when he felt struggle or boredom. My problem was and is that I am not in love with boredom.
Steps to Take Control
When I think about my younger brother's success in his first business I see the same pattern. You cannot build a successful business without performing the same day-to-day operational procedures (aka repetitions). I used to think about how boring it must be to take care of the same paperwork, issues, and problems. But now I understand that it is critical to any endeavor. Motivation and inspiration wear off at some point. Passion is a limited resource. You cannot always rely on inspiration to do whatever you have to do. So how do we stick to the process and make it until the end?
1. Set a goal or a project
Is it important to have a goal when you start doing or learning something interesting? A goal is a reward you get at the end. If there is no goal, there isn't much sense in doing it. Once your initial interest fades away, there's nothing left. Make your path more engaging with a project: not too hard to give up on it and not too easy to lose the appetite. Find the right balance to keep you challenged.
2. Show up
Showing up is essential. Preparing for the activity is the most difficult part to get things done. When you show up, the difficult part is over and everything else comes easier. For instance, I have been postponing writing this article for the whole day. However, once I started I came up with an idea for the post and finished most of the draft. Promise yourself that at least you can do is to show up.
3. Make it least resistant
Make things easy. Willpower is a super limited resource. We have so much of it for a day. Even deciding what shirt to wear will drain from it. Instead of relying on willpower, make the path as least resistant as possible. Every time you force yourself, you make starting harder and harder.
4. Have intermediate rewards, if possible
An intermediate reward can be either external, e.g., not related to the activity, or physical. As an external reward, you can, for instance, watch a tv show after completing a task. An internal reward can be praise from others or words of support. The feedback that something I wrote about was helpful or insightful is a small reward for me. For athletes, it can be a better personal score. Find something that encourages you to keep going.
5. Increment the challenge
If the intermediate rewards are not possible, think of the process itself. In my case, when I write about an interesting topic and write it well, I feel an accomplishment. That's one of my process rewards. I try to make the task a bit more challenging so that I am more engaged in the process.
6. Keep in mind your end goal
One of the purposes of creating a Vision Board is to have your goals visible. Sometimes we forget what and why we are doing for. It's motivating to remind ourselves about the end goal.
7. Learn from your failures
Missteps can hit hard. If small wins are 2 steps up, failures are 4 down. Failures are what make us more experienced. People expect to become successful within one shot. But the truth is that those who eventually become successful stumble several times before getting there. Find what you can learn from it and move on. A failure should not be a reason to turn around.
8. Fall in love with boredom
Writing 10 blog posts can be easy. The initial momentum can make you through. Finishing the 100th one can be challenging. Very few people get there because it is not simple. It is more comfortable for the brain to chill and watch the new episode of the favorite tv show. Why bother doing the same thing over and over? The secret is that if you want to accomplish your goal and become successful, that is the only way. One can argue that if you enjoy doing something, then it never becomes boring. However, in my experience, there's always repetition in any process. People who enjoy their activity learned to be in love with these repetitions.
9. Keep yourself healthy and rested
If you feel tired, none of the above can help. Your brain has to keep you alive. If there's no energy left, no willpower or possible reward can help. My brother, for instance, must have a vacation a year to reboot himself and be fresh. Sleep well, keep your body well-rested and healthy. Missing a day can help you restart, but you should always get back on track after that. Missing two days in a row is critical and often means that you will not get back. Keep it in mind and start building the next streak as soon as possible.
10. Inspiration is not the starting point
Inspiration is not a reliable resource and it will fail you most of the days. More and more, I am convinced that inspiration comes in the process and not at the beginning. There's a good saying that appetite comes with eating. It can relate to motivation and inspiration too. Having it is always an advantage, but finding the flow in the process is something we can learn and practice. When you think about the activity, you already go through the process and either encouraged to started it or not. If there's something negative that discourages you from starting, figure it out and you will be more often positive about the activity. Make it to the start and get inspired later in the process.
I consider consistency the most challenging part of my identity sculpting. It is difficult and requires discipline. Once you master it, you can build or achieve anything you want. You would not need a boss to tell you or motivate you to do things that are not exciting. You would be able to accomplish whatever you want because all the work, no matter boring or exciting, would be done. Discipline and love with boredom will give you the reign over your life. Money, responsibility, and other external motivation will lose its meaning. Now you can guide your life only by your aspirations, which will lead to your desired place. Learn to fall in love with boredom and everything else will come with ease.