Embracing the Boredom: A Road To Success

I was listening to James Clear’s book Atomic Habits this afternoon. In this book, he introduces the idea that the athletes who succeed are those “who can handle the boredom of training every day, doing the same lifts over and over and over.

It is true: those who can withstand the boredom of completing something to the end are the successful people. Often in a project, or even everyday work, people will get bored when they see the end in sight. Another project or opportunity will come along. The new work will seem more exciting, and the old work is left behind. The enthusiasm for a new task is the reason why projects never wholly are completed. In business-speak, people say that ‘other priorities’ got in the way of finishing. In our hearts, we can often feel that the new work is more exciting than finishing the old job. We convince ourselves that the new work is more important because it is different. That makes it appealing to us.

My own experience has taught me that powering through the last bit of work and completing a project is extremely valuable. A while ago, I started to recognize my ability to focus on a single piece of work for longer than most people is valuable and unusual. I called this persistence. There are many times when this persistence looked like insanity: repeating almost the same action over and over, and expecting a different result. The difference is a focus on making small changes that matter and carrying the project out until the end.

It doesn’t matter someone goes to the gym for 36 or 365 days. Elite athletes spend years honing their craft, and they spend hours fighting through the boredom. Their actions may look insane: the same activity repeated forever with the smallest of improvements. It is the focus that brings them to the starting line, and the training that brings them to the finish line. And when you are elite, it is conquering the boredom that gets you through the training.

Embrace the boredom in your projects. Conquering boredom and finishing projects are unique and valuable skills that will set you apart from most others.