Rule #1

What would the world look like, if we all didn’t do stuff we didn’t want to do? Let’s say you’re a college student and you don’t feel like going to classes today and you simply stay home or do something else. Or let’s say you don’t want to go to work today and instead stay home and play with your kids? What would that do to society in general?

Common wisdom has it that nothing would get done, or at least only the stuff that everybody likes to do. We’d be knee-deep in garbage because nobody wants to be a garbage man, and we’d all have to walk or drive ourselves cause nobody would want to drive the busses.

In short, society would collapse according to common wisdom. Once again, common wisdom is dead wrong.

If we all do more stuff we enjoy, we’ll end up liking more things. Going back to the college student who doesn’t want to go to classes today, let’s say he forces himself and goes anyway. He might have a great time, but odds are that he doesn’t. This probably also means that he feels even less like going the next day and the next. If he’d given himself a day off, his desire to go would return faster than if he forces himself.

Doing stuff you like to do increases your energy and makes you more open to new experiences. “Pulling yourself together” to force yourself to do something you hate saps your strength and makes you less willing to try new experiences. So if we all avoided doing stuff we don’t want to, we’d all want to do more different things. Of course, the enthusiasm you put into a job you really want to do, and the resulting quality of your work is usually much higher – giving you even more energy.

There are a few things to consider: First of all lots of people have a hard time knowing what they want to do. They’ve become used to doing things whether or not they like them that they’ve lost the sense of what they enjoy. This sense probably returns with a little practice. Secondly, we’ve all been raised with the idea, that when faced with an unenjoyable task, the right and honorable thing to do is to clench your teeth, put your nose to the grindstone, pull yourself together and get it done. The idea that “if it’s not enjoyable, don’t do it”, can cause some guilt. Obviously feeling guilty is not enjoyable either, which ruins the whole point. This probably takes some practice also.

Furthermore, some things need to get done, and if I don’t do them who will? This requires organizations to build up diversity to such a level that almost any task will find a person somewhere in the organization who will actually enjoy doing it. Or at least not totally loathe it.

Remember, every time you force yourself to take on a task that you really hate, you’re stealing that task away from another person who would enjoy it – and who would consequently do a much better job of it. Remember, there are people who enjoy collecting garbage and driving busses. If you have any doubt that almost any job can be enjoyed by someone, read this article.

Notice also, that I’m not saying that people should do whatever they want. I’m simply saying:
Rule #1: “Don’t do stuff you don’t like doing”.

Once in a while it’s good to challenge yourself, so as an addendum to the above rule, I’d add:
Rule #2: “Once in a while, do something you don’t know if you’ll like. If you don’t like it, see rule #1”

Just imagine the kind of world that would build!

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