Positive and negative boredom
What’s the difference between a successful athlete, businessperson, or the friend who lost those final few pounds, and the rest of us?
They grew to accept and love boredom.
Stay with me here. In Chapter 9 of Atomic Habits (highly recommend) James Clear asks a similar question to a professional baseball coach. And that was more or less his response.
At a certain point, the ones who succeed are the ones that can handle the boredom.
the ones who succeed are the ones that can handle the boredom
Whether you struggle to stick to a healthy diet, a workout routine, the business plan you keep writing then setting aside, going to bed at a certain time, etc. The only thing that separates the successful from the unsuccessful are those that not only accept boredom, but work harder in spite of it.
Those that wait for the sparks of ‘motivation’ before beginning, will always be just that. Waiting. And then beginning. Again. And again.
Those that do not rely on ‘motivation’ but discipline are the ones that will show up and put in the work day in and day out and achieve the results they are after.
Think about a time you hit that perfect flow state. Maybe it was during a long run, a walk, working on a project or presentation, or creating something. You had a big and long task ahead of you, you began, you hit that flow, and you kept going. The reps doing themselves, the miles logging in one right after the other, the words flowing out on the page. And of course things like music and setting can help you maintain that flow, but they don’t cause you to go into it. Only you have the power to do that.
If you can, think about the moments leading up to finding that flow state.
I bet they were boring. I bet you were bored. In your third mile of the six you told yourself you were going to run, did you ever want to call it a day? The early mornings you woke up to finally get to that 6am workout, did you ever want to keep sleeping and start again tomorrow?
But then you got up, got in what you said you would, and felt better because of it.
Flow and boredom are two sides of the same coin.
It’s an unfortunate truth. But flow and boredom have something in common. They appear when you do one thing for an extended period of time.
(Like yogging.. I believe it’s a soft ‘j’. But apparently you just run, for an extended period of time).
For those that don’t understand the Ron Burgundy reference, my apologies.
Back to boredom. You will not always achieve that perfect flow state. But to go back to how this post began, the successful show up in spite of that. Whether they feel great or feel terrible, find that flow or don’t, they show up anyway. Rinse and repeat.
Those wanting to lose weight will eat the same things at the same times day in and day out. Those that want to get stronger will get in all five sets rather than stopping at three. They will walk all the way around the block instead of cutting through the side streets to get home faster. They will not listen to the stupid voice in their head that is telling them whatever BS they want to hear to justify not doing something. No. Just because you ate well last week does not mean you should eat like an idiot this weekend.
We love variety. We crave it. And we are spoiled by having too much of it. We tire of the same old same way too quickly, knowing there is something else out there. We drown in the amount of workouts, diets, snacks, etc.
Think about the grocery story. There is a reason why meat, produce, and dairy will always be just that, but the snacks and cereals inside the aisles of a grocery store are ever changing and come in all shapes sizes and colors. The food industry plays on our senses that are programmed into our brain to crave this type of variety. And cause us to eat like complete idiots.
I live and breathe a healthy lifestyle. Whatever I need to do to create the strongest mental and physical version of myself, I will do. It is where I thrive. And ya know what? Holy hell does it get boring. I don’t love every workout I do. I hate a lot of them. I want to quit often. But I don’t. And I’m not just saying that. I really don’t. That’s not an option for me. I keep going and I finish what I had planned that day. And I don’t reward myself with a pizza just for sticking to it.
Want to know how to pack on muscle or lean out? You have to be consistent. Mastering something requires practice. And the more you practice the more boring it will become. And you have to be okay with that.
Mastering something requires practice. And the more we practice, the more boring it becomes.
When we start to seek out variety and something new and exciting because the week or two we put into our current routine is getting boring, we derail any hope of achieving results.
No you did not lose weight because the program sucked. You did not lose weight because you sucked and you gave the program a week, then you got bored, lost ‘motivation’, and sought out something else.
You unknowingly take yourself out of the game before you have a chance to win or lose.
And by doing so, you lost.
Failure is not the downfall of success. Boredom is.
How bored have you been lately? Has it been positive boredom? Or has it been the boredom of sitting on the couch, scrolling through social media and snacking on everything in the house?
I wrote about adaptability the other day and how we have all had to adapt to our current situation under quarantine. And as we have adapted (whether poorly or positively), we have established different routines that have probably left us quite bored at times. Here are ways to combat that:
Your environment. Your home. If you are alone, great, keep all crappy food out of the house. If you are not alone and have a family to think about, establish an off limits area of food. Set boundaries. Set up an area that is your workout area. Write down every hour of every day out and stick to it. Your bored hours do not have to be boring. Move, read, better yourself, talk to your loved ones.
Successful people do not have some secret reserve of motivation allowing them to be any better than the rest of us.
Successful people are bored. And yet they keep going. They move through, not around. They choose to do rather than say.
And they understand the long game. They don’t play for the short term reward. They play for the lifelong results.