And most of the time, it’s boring.
Many times it feels far better to just do nothing. Sometimes you feel like relaxing in the backyard but you have a business meeting you really have to attend. So you get up and go.
Other times you feel like watching that game on the couch, but you promised yourself you’re going to run 5km today. So you get up and go.
You don’t enjoy it, but you finish it. You go to that meeting. You do your 5km run. And then the next one. And the next one.
And at some point when you really look back and try to understand how you did all the stuff that you did. You look at how you achieved all that you achieved.
Then you realize that — statistically — the boring periods in your life were far longer and persistent than the joyful, motivating and enthusiastic ones.
It’s true. Just look back and see for yourself. Have you really been all that high for your entire life? Were you enthusiastic all the time? Exhilarated? Pumped up? Adrenalized?
But you got out and did your stuff. You somehow managed to cope with the boring moments and fill them with things you wanted to do.
The Beauty And The Boredom
As human beings we are wired to follow pleasure and reject pain. Many daily activities are centered around this pattern. We do what we enjoy and repel or postpone what we don’t. I did it myself for quite a while:
“As of today, I’m gonna do only what I like to do.”
Guess what? After I went like this for a while I wanted to measure my output. Surprise, surprise: turned out that by doing only what I liked, my throughput (in terms of tasks, goals achievement and so on) was lower than expected. As a matter of fact…it was way, way lower.
Did I feel well during that time in which I actually indulged in pleasurable tasks? No doubt about that.
Did I do more? Nope. Absolutely not.
So, that was the moment when I learned how to do the motivation trick. Every time I wasn’t at my best, I started to use some motivational stuff. A quote. A quick and easy exercise. A personal mantra. Or a blog post (I even made a list out of them — and it turned out to be quite a popular list). And for a few years, this motivation trick did the job.
But then something even worse happened.
I realized that by pumping myself up each time with outside stimuli, I was actually lying to myself. I was no better than a dog in a Pavlovian experiment. I was feeding myself sugar bars, trying to replicate the natural and honest exhilaration responses I would sometimes get. A fast and easy sugar rush to the brain and — boom — my task was done.
But as with every sugar rush, there’s a huge downturn. After the sugar has left, you end up feeling miserable again. Which will, in turn, trigger another sugar rush reaction just to get rid of that miserable state again.
Sound familiar? I bet it does, we’ve all done this…
So, there was a moment when I had no option but to accept boredom in my life. To reshape my entire vision about beauty and pleasure.
Because if you really look at it, seldom is beauty built in sudden bursts of exhilaration — in those huge and powerful adrenaline-empowered jumps. More often than not, real beauty is built with small chunks…with small steps…with small (but constantly fulfilled) promises.
The Boredom Manifesto
So that was the moment I came up with what I call The Boredom Manifesto. A few sentences that are making me accept and make use of boredom instead of sugar-coating it using motivation tricks. It’s not motivational, as it doesn’t try to embellish the reality or even to make it look different.
Boredom is boredom. It’s part of life. All of our lives.
So we’d better make use of it instead of rejecting it.
For every tiny task I finish when I really don’t want to, I know there will be a reward somewhere. I don’t need it right now, I just know it will be there when I’ll need it.
For every boring activity I bring to an end, knowing that it’s part of a bigger plan, I’ll have a better picture of my life.
For every pushing through, there will be more muscles.
For every unpleasant, yet necessary stuff I finish now, there will be less striving tomorrow.
I decide to accept and embrace boredom as part of my life, for it’s in its dull, flat and grey moments that all the greatness I’m capable of is built, grey second by grey second, flat minute after flat minute, dull hour after dull hour.
As long as I keep pushing forward.
Embrace the boredom…don’t fight it. It’s in those moments of boredom that you’ll find some of the brilliance you’ve been looking for in your life.
(Photo credit: Bunch of Sad People with Happy Man via Shutterstock)