Avoid Boredom. Challenge Yourself!
Why do people quit? There’s a wide variety of reasons, of course, but in my experience, boredom is one of the biggest culprits! Imagine that. Many people, particularly top achievers, don’t end up quitting because it’s too hard; rather, they quit because it is too easy or too monotonous!
Most of the highest achieving people in my inner circle have illustrated this point to me time and time again, unknowingly. I’d see them move from activity to activity, from challenge to challenge, relatively quickly. When I’d ask them why, they’d tell me it was too hard, or simply, “I’ve found something more interesting to do”.
In my research for the book 10 Steps to Greatness: The Super-achievers’ Little Handbook, which will be published shortly, I have interviewed dozens of top achievers, many internationally known, in a wide variety of fields, from sports, to music, nuclear physics, Special Forces, “big business,” and entrepreneurship. One of the questions I always ask is regarding the biggest challenges the interviewee has faced in reaching the pinnacle of their field. You guessed it: “boredom” has come up more frequently than any other answer.
Remarkable isn’t it? People who’ve arrived at the pinnacle of their profession often state that boredom is one of the biggest challenges they’ve faced. How can that be? With all the work they’ve had to put in to reach that level of accomplishment, it seems like boredom would be last on their list of major challenges, if it made the list at all! However, as it turns out, the mind of even top achievers can quite easily become distracted and suffer from what I call “Shiny Object Syndrome“. They are, after all, almost always extremely motivated people, so I guess it’s not surprising that they’re constantly seeking “new challenges”.
Here’s what differentiates the “greats” from the also-rans and the “mere mortals” in any particular field of endeavor: rather than quitting or moving on to something else when they become bored in their chosen field, the “greats” are able to find “new challenges” in their own field. Like most all super-achievers, they need relatively constant stimulation and new challenges undoubtedly provide such stimulation. The difference is where the greats go to seek something new.
What I’ve found with the most accomplished people in my client and research base and in my circle of friends, is that they become very good at finding the “new,” in what for many would be “old”. How do they do this? They do it by becoming true students of their endeavor. They study and are fascinated by every nuance of what they do. If they’re a chessmaster, they’re constantly studying new board positions and combinations. If they’re a CEO, they’re constantly observing, learning and setting new goals that push them to achieve more and stay focused. If they are athletes, they’re always working to figure out how they can become faster, stronger, more focused and skilled in their sport. They do all this passionately and often times, they develop such a love for their field of endeavor, that while they savior the victories, the trophies and/or the financial rewards, they realize that they’d do it all just for the fun of it. The accolades and rewards are great, but they learn to truly love what they’re doing.
Once you truly develop a love for what you are doing, the sky is the limit. You will find yourself accomplishing things you may never have thought possible. You’ll find yourself reveling in the nuances, in the little details that to the untrained and unimpassioned eye, seem trivial or uninteresting. You also will have greatly enhanced the likelihood that you will become a true “expert” in your field. It is now relatively widely accepted that you need 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to reach “expert” level in most any reasonably complex task or field. That usually equates to between five and ten years, sometimes more, depending on the amount of time you are investing on average on a daily basis. How could you ever expect to put in that kind of focused, deliberate effort on a sustained basis if you have not learned to love what you do? You could force yourself, or be forced by someone else, I guess, but it sure would be a lot easier if you developed a passion for your field of endeavor and learned to find “new challenges” and nuances in that same field, rather than jumping from one domain to another.
Another key point is that it is OK to cross-train, whether it’s your mind or your body that you’re training and challenging, as long as you keep your primary focus on your chosen field. I have found that it’s very important to complement a steady diet of business, entrepreneurial and intellectual challenges, for example, with tough physical challenges. It helps greatly to keep one’s body healthy and to feel like you are regularly challenged physically. In my case and those of many of my clients and the “greats” I have studied and worked with, overcoming physical challenges often greatly enhances the ability to perform even better on the business and intellectual tasks.
My latest big challenge is the “Tough Mudder” race. You can check it out at www.ToughMudder.com. It’s a ten to twelve mile run through a course with about 25 military-style obstacles. It’s designed by British Special Forces and includes such fun obstacles as The Braveheart Challenge, Devil’s Beard, and Cliffhanger. It is these types of challenges that get me fired up and get my blood flowing, which I find carries over to enhanced performance in all other aspects of my life. What fires you up? What will help you remain focused and impassioned, so you can avoid quitting and succumbing to boredom? If you’re not sure, start looking, start trying to find “new challenges” and I’m confident that you’ll be amazed at the positive collateral effect it has on everything else you do.
I look forward to your thoughts and comments.