The Myth of Passion and Motivation: How to Stay Focused When You Get Bored Working Toward Your Goals

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tiger huntingWe all have goals and dreams, but it can be difficult to stick with them.

Each week, I hear from people who say things like, “I start with good intentions, but I can’t seem to maintain my consistency for a long period of time.”

Or, they will say, “I struggle with mental endurance. I get started but I can’t seem to follow through and stay focused for very long.”

Don’t worry. I’m just as guilty of this as anyone else.

For example, I’ll start one project, work on it for a little bit, then lose focus and try something else. And then I’ll lose focus on my new goal and try something else. And on and on. When everything is said and done, I’ve stopped and started so many times that I never really made much progress.

Maybe you have felt this way too.

This problem reminds me of a lesson I learned while working out one day…

The Myth of Passion and Motivation

On this particular day in the gym, there was a coach visiting who had worked with thousands of athletes over his long career, including some nationally-ranked athletes and Olympians.

I had just finished my workout when I asked him, “What’s the difference between the best athletes and everyone else. What do the really successful people do that most people don’t?”

He briefly mentioned the things that you might expect. Genetics. Luck. Talent.

But then he said something I wasn’t expecting.

“At some point,” he said, “it comes down to who can handle the boredom of training every day and doing the same lifts over and over and over again.”

That piece of advice surprised me because it’s a different way of thinking about work ethic.

Most of the time people talk about getting motivated and “amped up” to work on their goals. Whether it’s business or sports or art, you will commonly hear people say things like, “it all comes down to having enough passion.”

As a result, I think many people get depressed when they lose focus or motivation because they think that successful people have some unstoppable passion and willpower that they seem to be missing. But that’s exactly the opposite of what this coach was saying.

Instead, he was saying that really successful people feel the same boredom and the same lack of motivation that everyone else feels. They don’t have some magic pill that makes them feel ready and inspired every day. But the difference is that the people who stick with their goals don’t let their emotions determine their actions. Top performers still find a way to show up, to work through the boredom, and to embrace the daily practice that is required to achieve their goals.

According to him, it’s this ability to do the work when it’s not easy that separates the top performers from everyone else. That’s the difference between professionals and amateurs.

Working When Work Isn’t Easy

Anyone can work hard when they feel motivated.

When I was an athlete, I loved going to practice the week after a big win. Who wouldn’t? Your coach is happy, your teammates are pumped up, and you feel like you can beat anyone. As an entrepreneur, I love working when customers are rolling in and things are going well. Getting results has a way of propelling you forward.

But what about when you’re bored? What about when the work isn’t easy? What about when it feels like nobody is paying attention or you’re not getting the results you want?

Are you willing to work through 10 years of silence?

It’s the ability to work when work isn’t easy that makes the difference.

It’s Not the Event, It’s the Process

All too often, we think our goals are all about the result. We see success as an event that can be achieved and completed.

Here are some common examples…

  • Many people see health as an event: “If I just lose 20 pounds, then I’ll be in shape.”
  • Many people see entrepreneurship as an event: “If we could get our business featured in the New York Times, then we’d be set.”
  • Many people see art as an event: “If I could just get my work featured in a bigger gallery, then I’d have the credibility I need.”

Those are just a few of the many ways that we categorize success as a single event.

But if you look at the people who are consistently achieving their goals, you start to realize that it’s not the events or the results that make them different. It’s their commitment to the process. They fall in love with the daily practice, not the individual event.

What’s funny, of course, is that this focus on the process is what will allow you to enjoy the results anyway…

If you want to be a great writer, then having a best-selling book is wonderful. But the only way to reach that result is to fall in love with the process of writing.

If you want the world to know about your business, then it would be great to be featured in Forbes magazine. But the only way to reach that result is to fall in love with the process of marketing.

If you want to be in the best shape of your life, then losing 20 pounds might be necessary. But the only way to reach that result is to fall in love with the process of eating healthy and exercising consistently. In fact, that just might make you happier as a person overall.

If you want to become significantly better at anything, you have to fall in love with the process of doing it. You have to fall in love with building the identity of someone who does the work, rather than merely dreaming about the results that you want.

In other words…

Fall in love with boredom. Fall in love with repetition and practice. Fall in love with the process of what you do and let the results take care of themselves.

This post originally appeared on JamesClear.com

  • http://selfstairway.com/about/ Vincent Nguyen

    Couldn’t agree more. I found a piece of my passion and it’s not all glamour and 100% excitement. There are periods where I ask myself if I want to keep going. Then I start doubting myself if I’m meant to do something forever.

    Suddenly I feel the excitement again but the dread comes back. I remind myself during the periods of downtime that there will be moments of boredom. Just remember that it’s going to feel good again. There are others struggling with the same thing you are now. Keep on going!

  • tack wei chen

    The illustration of the coach is unforgettable. Passion good friend including boring repetition. Thanks James Clear

  • Adventure Videos

    Great article, and so true. If you have passion for what you do, the boring bits are much easier to overcome though. Still in the end its consistency and perseverance, coupled with an open mind to adjust where needed, that will get you results.

  • Denise Rolland

    That was AWESOME James, thank you so much for sharing this as it is so very true! Successful people do what unsuccessful people won’t do – period. I know from the unsuccessful side as my habits were not in alignment with what I wanted. That statement along with the coaching I am getting has helped me to replace bad habits with good habits. It has also helped me to learn that repetition is important and that we need to see the end before we start. Start with the End in Mind then make goals in steps to get you there…take action everyday. Thank you again!!

  • blaalz

    Very good read.

  • Brian Dunn

    James, this is a very good piece! The insight into what it takes to be successful is important. I found it particularly interesting to consider your question “are you willing to work through 10 years of silence “. That’s a deep concept because that might be exactly what it takes to reach the big breakthrough.

  • http://www.scurrytails.com/ Jeffrey M. Bishop

    Inspiring … I’ve struggled with this at work a lot, but somehow, with my own blogging, have managed to intuitively work through it (probably because the product has NEVER YET been “successful” in the traditional sense — no passion-boredom dichotomy yet; it’s all day-by-day still : )

  • Abhishek Pariyar

    As always, your writing is thought provoking, James. I’m preparing for an exam and the work right now has become monotonous and cumbersome, this post has given me a fresh point of view. Thank you.

  • Asya

    Isn’t the whole point of falling in love with process that you are not actually bored?

    • Paul Taylor

      No matter how much you love something you will always eventually get bored, if you ate you’re favorite meal everyday you would eventually get bored of it.

  • Nick Prudent

    Great post & so true! Twice in my career, I have spent several years writing software alone & releasing only when ready. I see daily perseverance as my core competitive advantage. Also, I work on software that makes me happy even when there’s nobody to encourage me or give me feedback.

    One danger tho: if you are in love with the process, it becomes very hard to put the break and stop once you’ve reached your goal. In my case, it means being in development longer than needed because I love making the product better and polishing things. I guess I love it when people cannot believe that such a polished product was written by one guy.

  • Andrea Francis

    Simply genius! It gets me every time when someone writes about something so obvious that I hadn’t noticed before. I figured I did what out I did out of pure stubbornness, not actually love. But that’s what it developed into. +Nick Prudent is right though – it can be hard to step off the wagon once the rhythm is going.

  • Noé

    I love articles that bring to my conscious mind something that I knew deep inside, without having a word to put on it. BOREDOM is my new magical word!
    Boredom in the work process is finally a good thing when you realize its relation to success… Overcoming boredom simply sets you apart from your competitors. This is how business work, having the guts to do what everybody else is avoiding.

  • Arpita Chakraborty

    As always and as believed by the “Doers” – its the journey that matters – we need to fall in love with the journey to the goal post. Catch here – let the destination be. Live up the flow – is that the spirit!?

  • gumaflux

    Great post James!

    I think it’s engraved in the back of our heads that progress is based on big leaps of efforts or eureka-type enlightenment, whereas it surely seems to be the daily grind and grit that makes the difference.

    One book that comes to mind reading this is Dan Pink: Drive, the surprising truth behind what motivates us. He talks about mastery as one of three pillars of intrinsic motivation, and with that he is talking about the asymptotic daily grind that makes the difference. Not expecting big result just putting one foot in front of other.

    Pretty much what you summarized in an excellent way!

    Cheers!

  • Takia

    Just what I needed to hear. Applied it along time ago but forgot the ms gic of the process. Thanks

  • Jack Richards

    This is a great great post. So insightful. ‘Passion’ – we hear it every day, but you’re right – it’s not the differentiator. It’s the constant grind. It’s the ability to train day after day in horrible weather. It’s the ability to practice night after night whilst all others are out socialising. Yes, it’s ‘boring’ – but isn’t boring just great!

  • Paula Marie Young

    I shared this with my law students and with my Gold mastermind colleagues. I also like the notion that you need to have an identity tied to the process. So, for me these days, I am the type of person who goes to the gym four times a week.

  • Rachel

    this is a good reminder… getting our dreams achieved takes hard work. And that takes passion in wrestling to do the necessary to achieve that!

  • baharudinwahid

    oh my God.. its very best article about this theme.

  • http://writespeaksell.com jeannettepaladino

    An inspiring post. It’s a tough slog to keep at it day after day even if you have passion for your work. But I would wager most people don’t have a strong passion for what they do. Somehow they fell into the work because they had a marketable skill or studied the wrong subject at college. So the idea that everyone is filled with passion for their work simply isn’t reality. Ask yourself: how can I make what I’m doing more interesting and meaningful so that I stick with improving day after day? How can I find something to do outside of work that I’m passionate about (golfing anyone?) so that I have the energy and fortitude to “fall in love with boredom.” We all need to approach achieving excellence in our own way.

  • http://www.phelpsfamilyhistory.com/ Brian Phelps

    I’ve heard success described as maintaining your commitment to your vision after the emotion that led to your vision has passed. And you’ve gone one step better: describing HOW to sustain the vision. Well said.

  • Micha

    Ha I said it Million times esp when it comes to the gym and people talking about loosing weight (Usually loosing not adding). Do whatever, as long as you do something, you HAVE TO enjoy to process the end goal never works as motivation only. Enjoy the process

  • Tembrooke

    Interesting! I’ve been feeling very frustrated lately because I haven’t felt motivated by my work. I was debating whether I needed to change jobs or pursue a new career, but it all seems to come back to mindset. (I’m working on that, too, but it’s slow going. Clearly, there are no quick and easy answers.)

  • http://billionsuccess.com/ Herby Fabius

    Awesome read Jame. Just followed u for more of these golden nuggets.

  • http://www.SelfEmployedKing.com/ Mike Kawula

    Absolute Gold I tell Ya :)

    This is me and I actually speak about this in my About Us page. I’ve had (had being key word) great Success Building Businesses…but then the so called passion fizzles and timber….down they come.

    The takeaway I’m getting from this is fall in love with the process, the grind and avoid focusing on that destination. I hit my destinations and was never loving / appreciating the daily tasks that were getting me there. Food for thought for me. Great post :)

  • thomasbecker

    In the old days, they used to call that self-discipline. “Falling in love with boredom” is clearly a gentler and more appealing way of putting it, but it probably all boils down to the same thing.

  • blueblood

    best advice i have ever read. and what’s more, i feel like i knew it all along but somewhere forgot…

  • http://actionplanr.com/ Brenda Horton

    Well done. Not so sure I agree with “fall in love with boredom.” Falling in love with practice, practice, practice seems to resonate with me more.

  • Newborn Awakening

    i love this

  • Anonymous

    Falling in love with boredom is not psychologically healthy or desirable. People in solitary confinement and sensory deprivation tanks eventually loose their marbles without new sensory input.
    And I seriously doubt the decades of boredom are worth 30 seconds or so of possibility to score for a medal that won’t matter for the rest of your life. A lot of Olympic athletes (and pro athletes in general) run a severe risk of stunting themselves as human beings for a what truly doesn’t matter in life. Michael Jordan can’t do anything except play basketball, including what is required to hold a marriage together. Same with Tiger Woods and golf.

    • Maria

      True, but for some people that medal or goal means more than marriage. I have 80+ years on this planet. I don’t care if I never get married or have kids, but I would feel as though I had wasted my time if I hadn’t finished a book or film by the time I reach my death bed. It depends entirely on your priorities in life.

  • tinu

    You are just awsmn man actually u told the “Real secret of success” that none has a certain kind of inspiration or motivation hidden in their pocket everyone just have to go through the boredemn of their work and then everyone is successful!
    thnx a lot JAMES…………..

  • Beatriz Abbott

    Thank you for writing this. I’m doing my best to get through an electrical engineering degree and had been feeling horrified at this feeling I couldn’t describe as anything other than “motivated-yet-not-motivated-” and it really scared me because I knew I had the necessary drive, but I still wasn’t getting satisfactory results. Thank you for easing my nerves and reassuring me that it’s all normal and very common, as well as providing the mentality to overcome it. I wish someone had told me all of this when I was younger and I hope things like this are taught in school someday to avoid more confused, frustrated young people.

  • Roy

    How to fall in love with boredom? you can say all those nice words but it doesn’t make a difference.
    I wish i had the discipline of a successful hard working enthrepeneur :(

  • Sudeep

    Don’t U think falling in love is like some pills . you just can’t fall in love with boredom .I don’t understand the post.

  • nm

    You’re saying two different things here:

    “Top performers still find a way to show up, to work through the boredom,
    and to embrace the daily practice that is required to achieve their
    goals.”

    “All too often, we think our goals are all about the result. But if you look at the people who are consistently achieving their
    goals, you start to realize that it’s not the events or the results that
    make them different. It’s their commitment to the process.”

    So are top performers trying to achieve goals even if the process is boring/tedious, or do they love the process and not care about reaching some endpoint?

  • cheiyenne

    This perspective is killer I honestly thought something was wrong with me

  • Roy

    Disagree entirely. Successful people had a kid key drive-passion. When things get challenging the only thing that keeps you forward would be your love for doing it. Cheers.

    • Tom McBride

      My college student son used to think the same thing. I used to think the same thing until I was doing what I loved as a job. If you have to do something you love as work, you quickly lose your passion for it. It becomes WORK. The key is to be able to make it through the grind and take satisfaction in achievement and excellence.

  • London

    Very very true! Find work that you can enjoy even when you are in a terrible mood and can’t be bothered to do anything else. I love writing and painting (any art). I can do it when I’m in the worst state of depression and can’t face getting out of bed! I would love to be published and earn money from my babies, but I will keep working regardless. I love the process itself. I like the smell of paint and the texture of brushes against canvas or graphite against paper. I can stare at colours all day long like a complete psycho! I collect words. I have a folder full of names and interesting sentences. I will wake up at 3am with a paragraph of conversation in my head that I have to write down and keep. I imagine characters and stories all day long while I should be doing other things. Fame and money would be amazing, but it’s the process I’m madly in love with. In all probability, I will be published one day simply because I write and paint so much that at least one project will be of a good enough standard for someone to throw money at. Being published will be a side effect rather than an end goal.

  • Mila

    This was very well written and insightful. so glad I found this, thanks!

  • Cammy D

    For people criticizing the wording ‘falling in love with boredom’ : I think you are missing the point. The idea is to embrace the emotion and idea of boredom instead of CONSTANTLY trying to push it away as many people, such as myself, tend to do. At work once I have decided on the correct course of action in order to reach my goal, actually carrying it out becomes tedious and nearly trivial. I already DID the interesting and exciting part of figuring out what is next and I can see how it leads to my goal. Actually following through the entire process, especially when unexpected and tedious challenges arise, is the hard part which I am constantly trying to escape. I beleive the author is trying to give us a new perspective. Maybe instead of my mind trying to search out a constantly thrilling experience in success, I need to embrace and accept the process more consciously. Stop putting myself in the future and fixating on the end goal. Embrace the present and move minute-by-minute through the work. Really ‘feel’ what I am doing at each step…. It is a hard idea to convey in words I suppose

    • Cammy D

      I believe this will undoubted lead to greater success than originally intended. Only when we are really in the present moment can we make the most of the future, right? Instead of trying to skip the boring parts, maybe there are opportunities there

  • Tom McBride

    This is #%$ing brilliant! I once heard a man make another lightbulb statement that totally makes it clear why some succeed and others stagnate. “Success is not in our nature, it’s in our habits.” Doesn’t matter who you are or what your background is. Becoming a success at most any endeavor is becoming increasingly tough in today’s world. People that wait around like Forrest Gump, waiting to stumble into success will only find misfortune. No one is going to make your life for you. You can only achieve great success by having a plan to acheive your goals, step-by-step…..and working the plan, taking action and not giving up.

  • Brandon

    ahh yes let me just fall into boredom and repitition and practice that sounds great great job james you have won the most terrible least motivating article of the year award -_-

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  • Peter Szalay

    Great article!You are all the way down to the point.That is right!

  • Melrose

    thank you for this article. im really trying to fight my boredom in my work because i cant see the immediate impact of what we are doing for our clients.

  • turnercr

    This is a brilliant article. Thanks for the good read! I kind of needed this to be honest.

  • BynariDistress

    This is an amazing post – this is definitely an issue with myself and countless others that have allowed boredom to govern our abilities and throttle our dreams.

  • Yasmin

    OH MY GOD! I just needed this article so bad! I was currently asking myself what do i want in life, what is my passion. I loved singing so bad but currently lost my passion to sing in front of people. I thought something was wrong with me because i always wanted to be a singer and i stopped when people started noticing me, because of the stress…

    Thank you for sharing this, falling in love with boredom will be hard, but it’s better than thinking you should stop singing because it’s stressing you out.

  • accessheating

    Thanks for the article! Really helpful content.