Showing Up Even When You’re Not Feeling It

Our meaningful work is made more rewarding by the challenges it takes to complete
August 10, 2020 Updated: August 10, 2020

Some days, you’re just not feeling it. It’s not that you’re exhausted, it’s that you’re not in the mood to do the important task that’s in front of you.

You want to just go to distractions all day long, do anything but this thing you’re resisting.

I get it. I have these days, too. And sometimes, the answer is just rest.

Other times, it’s useful to find a way to do the work anyway, because if we only do our important work when we feel like it, we might not ever get it done.

It’s useful to learn to do it even when we’re not feeling it.

But how do we do that?

The Mistaken Belief

Most of us have an expectation that we should feel in the mood to do something. We should be excited, rested, focused. And when we do it, it should be easy, comfortable, fun, pleasurable. Something like that.

That results, predictably, in running from the things that feel hard, overwhelming, uncomfortable. It means that when we’re not feeling it, we are going to run to distractions and comforts. Nothing wrong with this, but it usually creates a life we’re not happy with.

When we do the thing we don’t want to do, it is often uncomfortable or difficult. We feel like we’re forcing ourselves to do something we really don’t want to do, which can feel coercive.

No wonder we avoid it. Who wants to feel coerced?

But that comes from our belief that we should only do things when we’re feeling in the mood, and that things should be easy, comfortable, and fun. That means we can never do anything hard.

What if we could open to doing hard things, and maybe even loving them?

Doing Hard Things When I’m Not Feeling It

So for me, I try to notice when I have an expectation that I be in the mood, or that the thing be easy, fun, or comfortable. Just noticing the expectation allows me to choose.

Once I’m in a place where I can choose, I can decide that actually, it’s not just “fine” that I do things that are uncomfortable when I’m not in the mood, it’s an experience I choose to practice with.

I choose to open myself to this work.

I choose to move into something challenging, difficult, uncertain, uncomfortable. Just like I choose to do a workout or go for a run, even when they’re hard.

And further, I can actually love the experience. Sure, it might not seem like it but can you love a child when they’re being difficult? You might not love the way they’re being, but you can love them. You can love any of your friends or family when they’re difficult—the way their being might not be your favorite, but you love them anyway.

I can love writing this article, even if I’m not quite in the mood for it. I can change my experience, by being grateful that I get to write it. That I’m even alive right now. That I have so much love in my life that people want to read this.

And I can see that some tasks are a brick in the larger building that I’m putting together. One brick at a time, I’m creating a meaningful future. I can wait to be happy when the building is done—or I can love every brick. I choose to love the brick, and the laying of that brick.

Many of our most meaningful experiences are difficult. Running a marathon, giving birth to a child, creating anything important or meaningful. These are not easy experiences, and yet, they’re more meaningful because they’re not easy. Would we rob ourselves of these meaningful experiences by shying away from their difficulty?

So the training is to 1) notice the expectation that has me shying away from the work, and 2) open myself up to the meaningful experience of that work, despite its difficulty, despite my not “feeling it.”

There’s something beautiful that happens when you do something even when you’re not feeling it.

Leo Babauta is the author of six books, the writer of  Zen Habits,” a blog with more than 2 million subscribers, and the creator of several online programs to help you master your habits. Visit ZenHabits.net