I love starting new projects. I might start writing a new story, enroll in a course on conversational Italian, or order a slow cooker cookbook. The first 20 minutes of any endeavor is incredible. My imagination runs wild with endless possibilities.
But my imagination is where the trouble begins. In my mind, there are no obstacles to overcome. Projects have no boring parts. I simply think of an outcome, and BOOM, it’s there. I picture myself conversing in Italian with new friends in a café in Rome. I see my short story published in a prestigious literary magazine. And I enjoy amazing slow cooker recipes, never want to eat out again, and as a result, lose 20 pounds.
Imagining fantastic outcomes is exciting and requires zero effort. In contrast, achieving just one goal requires prolonged effort. Learning Italian takes hundreds of hours of tedious memorizing, listening, and practicing. Writing a new story includes many periods of tedium and feeling stuck.
Consequently, people who actually achieve long-term goals are the ones who tolerate boredom. They see tedium as something to push through instead of a reason to give up. And they resist the temptation to drop their current project, which lost its luster and start something brand new.
James Clear wrote about this idea in “Atomic Habits.” He’d asked a weightlifting coach what separated the best athletes from everyone else. Here’s what the coach said, “At some point it comes down to who can handle the boredom of training every day, doing the same lifts over and over and over.”
And that’s my problem: I crave novelty and have a low tolerance for boredom. I frequently start new projects and create new goals.
But in my old age, I learned something important: any long-term goal will require hundreds or thousands of hours of work. It’ll be filled with drudgery and monotony. And the secret to success is finding a way to be OK with this.
I want to end this blog post with a quote from “Atomic Habits”
People talk about getting “amped up” to work on their goals. Whether it’s business or sports or art, you hear people say things like, “It all comes down to passion.” Or, “You have to really want it.” As a result, many of us get depressed when we lose focus or motivation because we think that successful people have some bottomless reserve of passion. But this coach was saying that really successful people feel the same lack of motivation as everyone else. The difference is that they still find a way to show up despite the feelings of boredom.