When was the last time you were passionate about something, anything really? Maybe you’re living your passion right now and that would be amazing but lets be honest, most of us have to look back a few years to find a time that we had a true passion project, if we can find one at all. This is absolutely not true of kids, there is passion in every single thing they do. Their intensity for anything from trucks, to babies, to make believe games of lava on the floor, and empty paper towel rolls runs the fine line of inspiring and annoying. You could literally have a 6 month old Tootsie Roll and a two year old would have a want and a why big enough to drive them from a sweet “pwees Mommy” to the ends of their problem solving (and chair pushing, cupboard climbing) skills and straight into despair (pictured as a tantrum on the floor) for not having said Tootsie Roll. And they don’t even really like Tootsie Rolls! The reason they are still there 6 months later is because all of the good candy was eaten first. I am quite certain there is not a single goal that I have that I care as much about as my kids care about Tootsie Rolls; the old, hard, subpar, stick in your teeth candy that they don’t even like.
What would happen if we did though? What if we cared about the great passions of our life like they care about, literally everything. What if we cared about the mundane boring parts of life, that we left for last as we devoured the parts we actually liked, like they do? I am in no way suggesting that we all lay down the law by screaming and kicking our feet when we don’t get the promotion we feel we deserve or no one emptied the dishwasher. I am saying, what if we manufactured enough drive to escalate ourselves through all of our bag of tricks and problem solving skills to work toward something? Did you know you can do that? You can manufacture drive? (I know, it was news to me too.) You can make yourself want to refill the paper in the printer, or complete the report, or answer the email, or schedule the oil change, or fold the laundry, or whatever your version of the old, hard, subpar, stick in your teeth candy is. You just need to do two things too. One is psychological, knowing your why, and the other is physiological, getting yourself hyped about the why and the thing.
Knowing your why
Why are you doing the thing in the first place? For me, finding your why is at least 50% of the battle because it is a reminder that I am choosing to do the thing. We choose every single action we take. Let’s take for example laundry. I don’t need to do that. Most of the time my family could care less if their clothes are clean let alone neatly folded and put in their drawers. So why am I doing that? I want the mornings to be smooth with as little stress as possible. Without the frazzled family searching for (and giving a sniff test to) different options. I don’t want them, or others, distracted by the state of their attire once they get where they are going. It culminates into a why of, making them comfortable and confident as they leave the house. I want to do the laundry because it is a means of accomplishing that why.
Let’s try a professional example, answering email. Anyone that I have ever met who works in an office, no matter the position or status, has complained about getting too many emails. You’re choosing to open, read, respond, and complete work based on the emails you’re getting. Based on the original comment you’re doing much more of it than you want to too. I am right there with you too! Why are we doing this? It is the best way to communicate one message to many people especially when the people aren’t in close proximity to each other. I want to get everyone on the same page and allow for thoughtful (because there isn’t the dreaded 3 seconds of dead air that there would be in a meeting) collaboration from all parties. So why am I responding and acting on them? I want to be part of the solution. I want to have my voice heard in decision making. I want to be an active participant in the direction we’re moving in. I’m not handling email because I have to answer email. I want to do it because I want to advance the team and the company in our mission.
Hyping yourself up (make sure you’re alone for this part, it can get a little intense)
You might think that those lofty ‘why’s’ were hyped enough but consider that those were just a head space change. A change in framing and mindset. Hyping yourself up is the feeling you get in your chest listening as a crowd cheers for an encore and you hear the opening bars of your favorite song. You may not feel it quite so strongly in respect to emptying the dishwasher but you can make yourself feel it, here’s how. Read out loud your list of why’s and read it with intention. Imagine yourself listing them off to a locker room of football players before they go out for the second half. Move your body as you say them with more intensity as you get to the biggest of the culmination of why. Then, bigger yet, throw a fist in the air, start jumping back and forth, as you start talking about what the ‘why’ might do for you, or the people you’re doing it for. To take it back to my laundry example, if my kids are comfortable and confident they’re going to have better grades, make more friends, be empowered to try new things, be more resilient when they get knocked down!
Can you feel it yet? Your heart is racing or mind is focused or excitement level is through the roof, all over, laundry. That, is hyping yourself up. You are classically conditioning your body to react this way to the thought of something that is incredibly mundane. Like a dog salivating when a bell signals a treat is on the way, you’re training your body to have a physiological response. It takes time though. Keep up the practice though and those things you’ve been pushing off your list will not only get done but with vigor and intentionality.
This is one of those simple but not easy things. It is not a difficult concept and is certainly something that everyone can do but it isn’t as if you try it one day and it “just works.” The question could then be, why bother? Why do I need to be passionate about laundry and email; isn’t it enough that it just gets done eventually? Yeah, that would work and is honestly how most people are doing it. It isn’t really about the one thing you’re trying to improve. You’re not putting in the work exclusively to make mundane things fun. You’re putting in the work to get excited about advancing your why, in any form that takes. Some times it’s easy to see the relationship of the little things to the greater mission but most of the time the connection is muddled. Clarifying what your why is allows clarity and getting excited about even the smallest impactors to it will help you advance that ball.
Things I’m reminding myself of
I will not come at everything with the intensity of a two year old. (This is both a reminder of grace and a mantra to pull myself back.) I have neither the energy nor the desire to do that. It again comes down, as most things do, to intentional priorities. I have a specific career why that manufacturing drive to get up at 4 am will propel me forward in. Awesome, I’ll focus there. If I have a specific health why that manufacturing drive to make consistently adventurous, cancer fighting, plant focused meals will move me toward. Cool, I’ll add that. I plan to still allow my dishes air dry, my mail to go unopened, and my office to go undecorated for years. Maybe those will make the top 5 list another day.
Once you figure out how to do this, and it does take time, it is easier and easier to apply it to things in the short term. For example, maybe you’ve chosen answering emails quickly, thoroughly, and concisely as your priority. You’ve determined your why of supporting your team and boss and you’ve successfully been able to get yourself excited to do it. Now there is a request that you complete a report for your boss. This clearly falls into the why, and is dare I say a step toward a bigger why based on the success you’ve had in your email writing, but I digress. You can employ the same tools in the short term to hype yourself up to write the report and it will very likely come much more easily as a) you already know how to do it and b) you can connect it to a why you already have.