Focusing is hard when you hate what you do

Why it is better to pick goals optimized for the actual work versus the outcome we think we want.

It is said that with focus, you can achieve anything.

One problem, though: focusing is really hard when you freaking hate what you do.

It goes like this: you want to achieve a certain goal. You build up desire and delight in the thought of the accomplishment. You feel proud and, at last, fulfilled.

The feeling is so good. It's better than any real feeling of achievement you've ever experienced. It's 100% satisfactionā€”no pain or memories of the sacrifices inevitably required to achieve anything meaningful.

Because it's not real.

But it feels real enough to fool you into getting started (which is often a good thing!)

The positive feeling gives you the energy to take the next step: making a plan.

You take your mental axe and chop the big goal into smaller milestones and actions.

Wow, that's more work than you imagined while dreaming about the outcome. It also involves taking many, many, many steps that you'd rather not take. Absolutely necessary tasks that you absolutely don't want to do.

Luckily, you're still buzzing from the big vision and have decided to start next week.

Monday comes, and it's time to deliver on your promise to yourself to start putting your plan in motion. However, as you begin working on one of the dreaded tasks, you find yourself compelled to check social media, browse the web, work on something else, or do anything but work.

This tension you experience between the desire to achieve your goal and the seeming impossibility of getting yourself to do the work is a potent source of stress. Neglected over a long period, it will lead anyone to burn out.

Why, oh why, can't you focus and do the work you must do?

Well, because focusing is hard when you hate what you do.

But is there a way to avoid this?

No matter the project, there are always tasks we don't like yet have to do. These are the tasks we should delegate in priority because they are energy vampires. They'll suck the joy out of you until you finally give up on your goal.

But there's another approach: we can discriminate our goals based on the number of tasks we hate.

We can pursue goals more suited to who we are and what we want to do because of the work they involve. And leave out the ones that only sound great in the end.

Life happens on the way to achieving our goals; let's maximize our chances of having a good time throughout the journey.