If you don't love it...
you won't do it.
“If you don’t love it… you won’t do it” is a thought that is echoing in my mind in recent weeks. I see it in my own behavior and elsewhere too.
It’s not a big secret. In fact, it’s obvious.
All people (including you!) tend to do the things they enjoy, and avoid what they don’t. On a long enough timeline, if you don’t love doing something, you’ll stop doing it.
Obviously there are things you don’t enjoy doing and you have to do anyway. I get that. But, there are a mountain of things people don’t enjoy doing that are OPTIONAL!!!
Why would anyone voluntarily do a bunch of things they don’t enjoy and they don’t actually have to do?
Great question! Most of the time I think we do things we are told to do or are “supposed” to do. It’s a guilt problem.
Somewhere along the line an authority figure who had some prestige or power told you that you “need” to do this or you are “supposed” to do that. And on and on.
Since that person had prestige or power, you complied with their demands, often without considering the wisdom of said action in the first place. That might be enough to get you started, but it’s not enough to keep you going.
That last bit about “enough to keep you going” is a key point.
If you took the metaphorical carrot or stick away from some activity, would you still do it? A classic example of this might be, “if you won the lottery would you show up to your day job anymore?” or “if your job stopped paying you, would you keep doing it?”
If the answer is NO, then you are being driven by a belief in a reward or a punishment. That’s fine, but it is good to be aware that absent those rewards and punishments, that activity makes no sense.
Yet, the truly strange thing that happens is people can get so trained into our behavior that they keep pushing forward after any any sense of reward or punishment exists. As in, some people will stay in dead end jobs, failed businesses, toxic relationships, or activities that bring no intrinsic joy simply out of habit or laziness.
One way to combat this is a simple question I’m going to crib from Marie Kondo…
Does it bring you joy?
That’s another way of discovering if you love what you are doing or having or being. Does it bring you joy?
In her book Marie Kondo talks about decluttering and organizing your stuff according to whether or not it brings you joy. I would go so far as to say that many parts of life can be simplified this way.
For example, there are a million different exercise routines and fitness plans out there. The entire fitness industry believes in largely opposite viewpoints as if they are 100% true. Some say you have to lift heavy weights to get fit, others do yoga, and others do CrossFit, others calisthenics, others run, etc.
So what’s the best one? Who is right? Does it matter if you 10 reps vs 2 reps vs running for an hour vs 10 minutes of yoga? What about daily vs a few times a day? Is there a right answer?
The best exercise is the one that brings you joy. If you in-joy it, that means you are doing it with joy. You are inside of joy… hence in-joy… err enjoy. (words are funny like that…)
Doing what doesn’t bring you joy isn’t going to last. This is why most New Year’s resolutions don’t work. If you resolve to do something you don’t like doing, you’ll eventually stop doing it. And most people stop doing what they resolved to do.
A better approach is to find some exercise or activity that you enjoy doing and do that. Even better would be to do it in the way that you enjoy doing! Avoid someone else’s plans or structured programs that are designed to get you an extrinsically motivated result (a reward). Focus on the intrinsic motivation that you already have (joy).
For example, I’ve found that I enjoy riding an exercise bike while playing JRPG video games like Xenoblade Chronicles 2 or Final Fantasy VII. I can ride at low intensity for long durations doing that. Or sometimes I enjoy going for a random bike ride outside on a nice day. Those are great too!
What I don’t enjoy is trying to follow a specific exercise routine or cycling plan. I can do it for a while, but at some point I don’t enjoy it enough to continue. The juice ain’t worth the squeeze as they say. I’ve started and quit many exercise plans. Something about them doesn’t bring me joy.
But I enjoy going on a bike ride! So I do that, as long as it stays fun.
I have no desire to be a competitive cyclist, triathlete, or anything like that. Riding my bike is fun, and that’s enough for me. It brings me joy every time I ride.
On a long enough timeline, it seems the optimal path is the one you follow long enough to get somewhere.
It has to bring joy, otherwise you won’t follow the path long enough to get anywhere.
Pay enough attention to “what suits you” as an individual. I bet it’s oddly specific to YOU and nobody else. Lean into those things and methodically remove things that don’t fit you.
Or don’t if you don’t want to. That’s the entire point!
The things that you love, the things that bring you joy… those are the things you will stick to without anyone telling you to do them. The intrinsic motivation is more powerful and lasts longer than any other kind.
Over time, the rest will fall to the wayside anyway because…
If you don’t love it… you won’t do it.