What happens when you get bored of working on your goals?
Let’s start at the beginning, when you first commit to goals and building habits to work toward them it’s fascinating, exciting and you have tremendous momentum.
Often when sticking to habits we struggle to stay motivated. The human brain loves a challenge and we have that when we get started, but it’s tricky – if the challenge is too easy we quickly become bored, if the challenge is too difficult we often back down. We’re also impatient if we don’t see results quickly we get bored and look for a new habit to work on that might get results faster (or so we think).
When starting a new habit, it’s important to keep the behavior as easy as possible so you can stick with it even when conditions aren’t perfect. (Although we do challenges focusing on multiple habits this is also why we encourage you to really focus on improving one habit at a time – make improvements on one habit before overwhelming yourself and spreading your focus across multiple habits)
Once a habit is established, it’s important to continue to advance in small ways. These little improvements and new challenges keep you motivated.
Improvement requires a delicate balance. You need to regularly search for challenges that push you to your edge while continuing to make enough progress to stay motivated. Habits need to remain novel in order to stay attractive and satisfying and generate rewards / fulfillment. Without variety, we get bored. Boredom is the greatest detriment to self-improvement.
In Atomic Habits by James Clear there was something that really struck me – (paraphrasing some relevant points)
What’s the difference between the best athletes and everyone else … the factors you might expect: genetics, luck, talent. But then he said something I wasn’t expecting: at some point it comes down to who can handle the boredom of training every day, doing the same lifts over and over.
We often think people succeed because of their passion or really wanting it – as a result if we don’t stay on path or achieve the outcome we thought we get depressed or lose focus or motivation. We think successful people have some bottomless reserve of passion, some magic power that we’re lacking.
Nope. Often – mastery requires practice, and that includes repetition that can become boring and our interest starts to fade (especially if we don’t see or feel immediate results).
If after a few days (or weeks) of repeating a habit we don’t see results, or we think we have it nailed we start to skip days rationalizing days off because you’re “in a good place” .
As soon as we experience the slightest dip in motivation, we begin seeking a new strategy, a new workout, a new habit even if the old one was working – the problem is we don’t stick with the initial habit long enough to see results.
We all have goals that we would like to achieve and dreams that we would like to fulfill, if you only do the work when it’s convenient or exciting then you’ll never be consistent enough to achieve results.
There will be days when you start a habit and then think you want to quit – there’s a reference to complaining about an ice cube not melting when you’ve heated it from twenty-five to thirty-one degrees. Your work is not wasted; It is just being stored. All the action happens at thirty-two degrees.
The only way to become excellent is to be endlessly fascinated by doing the same thing over and over. You have to fall in love with boredom.
“Mastery is the process of narrowing your focus to a tiny element of success, repeating it until you have internalized the skill, and then using this new habit as the foundation to advance to the next frontier of your development. Old tasks become easier the second time around, but it doesn’t get easier overall because now you’re pouring your energy into the next challenge. Each habit unlocks the next level of performance. It’s an endless cycle.”
We’re going to come back again to WHAT’S YOUR WHY? Why did you set this goal in the first place? Why did you identify these habits at the means to get you to the goal?
When you first started driving you probably did a very conscious check of your doors, seatbelt etc – now, do you even think about it? NO because it became a habit, through repetition. At first it was new and uncomfortable, now it’s 2nd nature – any habits you’re currently working on can be the same.
Remember when you were a kid and fought (or even faked) brushing your teeth (no, just me? Why did I do that, clean teeth are great!… anyhow) – at some point regular teeth brushing was a new habit, a new routine, now it’s probably something you do without much thought or effort, because it’s a habit. Taking your vitamins, walking, drinking water, whatever habit you’re working on CAN become as much as an ingrained habit as brushing your teeth or putting on your seatbelt.