If you perused my list of top hates, “follow your passion” would be close to the top.
This advice always seems to emanate from trust-fund-mom-and-dad-pay-my-rent types. But that’s not the reason it pisses me off. It’s simply useless advice.
“Follow your passion” has the immediate assumption that we all have a passion to begin with, which in most cases is simply not true. Think of how many people you know who always knew that they wanted to be a firefighter, a doctor or a teacher? Perhaps it’s only a handful of people you know? It’s flawed to assume that we all have a passion before we have truly engaged in any one career path.
What does “passion” even mean in a work setting? Is it not enough to simply like what we do because it is challenging and engaging? Having to be passionate in our careers puts this superfluous pressure on us when things are not all dandy, such is life, be grateful for what you have and make the most of it.
“Follow your passion” also presupposes that if you really like something and you match that to your job you will have a long-term, engaging and satisfying career. This has proven again and again not to be true, look at all the passionate amateur photographers, bakers and writers who end up miserable doing what they love.
Maybe it’s not how you get started that matters but what you do once you get going. In other words, you should end up being passionate about what you do, you shouldn’t always do something because you are passionate about it.
Get good at something and in doing so become passionate about it. When you are really good at something you can pick and choose the projects that you want to work on, isn’t that what we really want? The choice not to have to do the mundane parts of the job? You can’t expect a really good working life, unless you are really good at what you do.
So let’s stop telling everyone to “follow your passion” and get to work!
If you want to get anything done you need to cultivate discipline and not wait for motivation.
Motivation assumes that a particular mental or emotional state is necessary to complete a task. Discipline, by contrast, separates the task to complete from your mental or emotional state and thereby actually circumvents any such obstruction preventing you from completing your desired task.
You feel good after the completion of tasks that are leading you towards your desired outcome. This creates a positive feedback loop and develops discipline. Motivation is the other way around. You think that you need to feel good in order to complete a task. Do it regardless of feeling. This requires discipline.
Discipline is cultivated by building habits.
Contrary to popular belief, there is no scientific evidence of a magic number of days, often quoted as 21 days, in order to perform a certain task before it becomes a habit. In a recent study the number of days to achieve automaticity for a particular task ranged from 18 to 254 days. But thinking in terms of a certain number of days to achieve a habit is already missing the point. The goal is to improve your life and a task should therefore be thought of as a permanent change to your day-to-day life from that point forward.
By formulating good habits we are trying to achieve a goal. Goals should be the big picture of the state that you wish to be in at a future point in time. The process to get there is the daily habits that we need to form to make that goal a reality. My recommendation would be to start small and achieve something every single day. If you want to lose weight, cultivate the discipline of exercising daily. Start with 10 Star Jumps every morning, who doesn’t have time for 10 Star Jumps? Neuroscience tells us that the more we practice something, the stronger those neural pathways in the brain become and the easier it is to sustain the task.
Let’s look at some of the ways to formulate good, sustainable habits:
- Make it a routine – a task needs to be practiced consistently in order to develop a habit in our brains
- Get rewarded – perceived rewards are one of the most significant factors in predicting dedication and satisfaction toward work
- Get peer pressure – find a friend who is going to kick your ass and get you to the gym no matter what (just remember that you need to return the favour)
- Make it painful not to do – pay for a gym membership. Pay for a trainer. Get someone to hold you accountable. gofuckingdoit.com is a site that was built on this concept
Go out and foster good habits and practice some discipline, you will quickly find the reward in the discipline rather than the feeling of motivation or the end result.
I have never done new year’s resolutions. But this is a new year. Before I lay them out I would highly recommend reading why your resolutions are going to fail, likely by next week. I have recently applied the investing mindset as well as the discipline-over-motivation principle and it has changed my life.
With that in mind, here is my list for 2016:
#1. New job + mentor – this is the year that I work to learn instead of work to earn
#2. Travel – tickets to Thailand purchased for June! – first time overseas
#3. Read more – 1 x fiction + 1 x non-fiction book per month (~20 pages per day)
#4. Write more – daily journal + start a personal blog (check!)
#5. Save more – increase investments
#6. Buy less – spend money investing in myself rather than on material objects – you can’t take them with you!
#7. Keep up my current exercise routine – 5 x per week
#8. Meditate everyday – even if it’s 5mins (aim for 20 mins a day) – use an app such as calm or headspace
#9. Run more – 2 x per week + complete half marathon
#10. Yoga – 2 x per week – read 15 reasons dudes should never do yoga
#11. Get outside into nature more
#12. Cut my alcohol consumption by 50%
#13. Cook more – save money + eat healthy
#14. Be more social – contact someone different each week
#15. Drink more water – use Aquaalert to get into the habit
15 resolutions might seem like a lot to achieve but most of these are already part of my routine. My goal is to continue to develop good habits and routines while eliminating bad ones.
I am currently using Coach.me to track my goals, set reminders and give myself a high five when I am on a winning streak.
Feel free to leave a comment and let me know some of your resolutions or get in contact @BrettLivesHere on twitter.