Does getting bored by your goals mean that your goals are worthless? Sometimes it feels that way.
It might look like this: You start off with a tremendous amount of passion and motivation. You do everything right — visualizing success and making a plan. Inspiration shines on you, and you do the hard work with a smile on your face.
But the “big break” doesn’t happen. It takes longer than you anticipated to reach any milestone indicating success. You don’t see results quickly enough. A feeling of boredom sets in. Suddenly, it becomes hard to focus. It’s a challenge to even feel motivated enough to do anything related to the goal.
It must mean you’ve lost the passion and the dream isn’t worth following, right
Sure, you should listen to your gut a lot of the time. But sometimes your gut has a false picture of what success is supposed to look like.
We assume that successful people started with a dream and quickly got validated, achieving milestone after milestone — perhaps with a steady upward progression or maybe even a sharp skyrocketing tally of “wins.” We assume they had regular indications along the way that they were doing the right thing, that perhaps they did hard work, but they also knew they were on the right path.
However, that’s almost never the case. The difference is that those successful people simply knew how to ride out the boredom. When they hit a slump (as most of us inevitably do at some point), they kept going. They found a way to continue on when the motivation waned.
It’s easy to hear these facts, and think, “Yes, they persevered and beat the odds! How inspiring!”
But when it becomes our own personal experience, we give up quickly we get bored.
Motivation as a choice
When we start off on a journey, inspired and full of hope, motivation is something that feels external. It feels like it’s happening to us. A message from the universe that we’re on the right path. A gentle (or maybe even forceful) push from an invisible hand.
“I’m feeling motivated today!” Like it’s a gift given to us by someone else.
When we wake up feeling hopeless or down, we instead feel unmotivated. And we also categorize that as someone else’s doing. In this sense, we’ve given away our control over ourselves. We shrug our shoulders and heave a sigh, “Oh well! Motivation has left me. I guess I have no choice but to pursue something else.”
When viewed in this manner, you may as well say goodbye to any chance of success. Instead, you must choose motivation. You essentially must take back the power into your own hands. Those people who defied odds didn’t necessarily have a universal power backing them. THEY were the power. They simply did the work when it lost the shiny appearance of newness.
Fulfilment in the journey
And let’s step back a little further even. Because part of the problem is that our expectations are such that we see an end goal. Literally, the END is the GOAL.
That’s problematic for a lot of reasons. One is that it’s a single experience that happens, success is reached, and then it’s gone. That can’t possibly be fulfilling.
Another is that everything along the way is attached to that single outcome. If it’s not reached, then the rest is felt as failure. We are setting up a system that is rigged to lead us to that failure. And it’s all in how we are setting up our expectations.
“Once we pay off our mortgage, I’ll finally feel settled.”
“Once I climb to the top of my career ladder, I’ll be able to relax and take that Europe trip I’ve always wanted to take.”
“When I lose 50 pounds, then I’ll be happy.”
Again, we are giving our power away to something separate from ourselves. We are failing to take ownership for our own fulfilment.
Rather than expect to experience a single event and suddenly be transformed into a “success,” we have to learn to love the journey. We have to enjoy the process.
From the examples above:
We have to change our perspective on what home should feel like and re-evaluate what “feeling settled” actually means.
We have to like what we do in our jobs (or else make a change) and enjoy the process of learning.
We have to embrace a healthy lifestyle and find exercise that we enjoy doing because of the benefits it allows — not base happiness on a number on a scale.
How to love the mundane
So, how do we put it into practice? How do we actually choose motivation and be fulfilled by the process? Because if it were that easy, we’d all be millionaires and movie stars.
Here are some helpful tips to make it easier.
- Set deadlines at the start — when the motivation is still strong. Let’s say you set a big goal. (And no, I’m not against setting goals; I’m just against delaying our happiness until we reach said goal.)
When you’re excited about it and feel the power of the motivation, think about how much time you expect to devote to it. Realistically. If you assign your plan a year, make sure that’s clear so that when you’re three months into it and feeling bored, you can remember that you committed to a full twelve months. And if it’s a big one, be sure to set smaller milestone goals along the way so that you can progress being made, even if it’s small.
- Identify the WHY behind the motivation. As we said before, motivation doesn’t come from outer space. It’s got to be within you. So dig down to the deeper WHY.
If your goal is to lose weight, what is the real reason? “Because my doctor said I should” isn’t very motivating. It also puts the power in someone else’s hands. But “Because I want to be able to chase my three-year-old granddaughter around the yard to have fun with her” is a much more powerful motivator. And when you feel the boredom kick in, you can look at her photo and be reminded of the true purpose for the goal.
- Tweak the process. If the journey is boring you to death and you aren’t seeing results or getting validation, where can you make subtle shifts? Is it your environment — can you go somewhere else to do the work or change the space? (Whether it’s sitting outdoors inside of at your desk, or exercising in the park instead of at home, or redecorating a space to your liking.)
Or is there a change you can make to the actions you are taking? Be sure to identify what exactly is boring you about the process so that you can come up with a solution to address that problem.
- Redefine happiness. Happiness isn’t an external force. Sometimes there is hard work that needs to be done on ourselves (unrelated to the goal in mind). You might be reading this looking for a “quick fix.”
A list you can make or a hack you can try. But changing your mindset to be fulfilled by the process might mean you have to make peace with some other things in your life. Do a reassessment of what truly brings you joy in life. Are those needs being met? Is your goal the right goal for you?
Learning how to focus on the present moment is a great skill to have so try some simple meditation or mindfulness practices that help hone this skill.
- Create a daily ritual that you enjoy. And here I give you permission to think outside the box! Perhaps you start every work session with a dance party to your favorite song.
Maybe you start the day with a walk around the block or 10 minutes of yoga. Maybe every time you do a workout, you treat yourself with your favorite mint-infused water.
What are you missing in your life that would boost your mood? It shouldn’t be complicated, and it shouldn’t take more than 10 or 15 minutes. Even a 5-minute ritual that you incorporate into your day (preferably around the same time when you are working on your goal) is beneficial.
Success isn't magic
The details of the journey are different for everyone. But we all experience ups and downs, highs and lows, pits and peaks. Remember that what you typically see in others is their high points. You see the success — not the struggle. That doesn’t mean it’s not there.
Every time you set a new goal for yourself, simply acknowledge at the start that it’s likely you’ll encounter resistance of some sort along the way — from yourself or from others. Be prepared for that to happen and know what you’ll do when challenges arise. When you are realistic about the path but you’re true to the goal, you’ll be able to handle the obstacles (boredom included) with much more ease.