Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Actually Doing Stuff, Part 2

I don't think people ever do things they really don't like, at least not for more than short periods of time. But, you say, I do it all the time! Work, maybe, or school. But you must like something about it, at least the results, enough to keep you going. Or maybe you, unlike me, have that mystical thing called "willpower." Although I think Scott Adams was right in saying that people don't really have willpower; it's that people need a certain base level of happiness, up to which they'll work very hard to get, but after which they don't care much. So, that actualized starlet may really have a much easier time than you turning down the ice cream; for her, it's extra, but for you, may be the only good thing in your day. (I'll find the link to that post soon....)

I think I may be particularly bad, though, at making myself do things I don't like. Maybe this is due to some combination of liking most things I've tried for most of my life, and not having anybody around telling me that I should do things I don't like. I'm tempted to call it a moral failing and berate myself mercilessly for it, but that has a bad way of making me dangerously miserable, so I've decided not to try that approach anymore. It seems far more productive (not to mention safer) to just get to like more things. Sure, some things are harder to like than others, but once you get into liking something, it's much easier to get into a positive feedback cycle of doing something more, getting better at it, and liking it more. So that seems like pretty good motivation for attempting to get things done this way.

I try to do this with exercise, for instance. It is deliberate that I'm not biking to work right now: I wouldn't enjoy it, and it's extremely important to me to preserve my love of biking. If I still love it, it's easy enough to pick up riding to work again when the weather gets better, and I still go on rides for fun on sunny weekends (like this past one), which is at least some exercise. It's the same reason I'm not super hardcore about hills: don't like them; don't want to build up unpleasant associations. I find I take on more hills as I get more into it anyway, and then I don't mind, so I'm not very motivated to force myself into it when I don't feel like it; I'll get further faster if I just focus on enjoying it and doing it the way I enjoy it.

Hobbies and exercise seem to be the best examples of this, or at least the most obvious (I could list many more specifics - dance, massage, photography), but I think it applies just as much and probably more at work. I like my job, and I don't think I'd be very good at if I didn't. If I'm feeling unfocused, I can usually get myself back on track by going back to the root of why I like programming: it's all puzzle-solving. Even stupid annoying bugs are just another set of clues to unravel, the process of which can be fun, even if the end result seems kind of pointless.

Wow, blogging before I go to work... I am getting up earlier. It did only take me about 20 minutes to write this, though....

Now, off to solve puzzles.



Blogger Piaw Na said...

It's a cliche, but the best people I know do things not just because they like them, they do things they don't like to do (like writing unit tests) even though they don't like them very much because they've managed to convince themselves that it's more important to do the right thing.

For me, I've talked myself into riding even in winter and in poor weather by convincing myself that it's the right thing to do for global warming.

Of course, it helps that I've managed to also convince myself to live somewhere with nice weather.

1/24/2007 10:31 PM  

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