How Not to Be Miserable in Achieving Your Goals

Last week I talked about the hustle culture. I listed 10 reasons why it’s not practical to be in a hustle mode. And if you pride yourself on being a hustler, that episode is very helpful. However, I find that people who don’t necessarily associate themselves with the hustle culture still have the idea of misery engraved in them. The popular belief is that you have to be miserable all the time in order to get to your goal. 

In this post I want to share some examples that illustrate why being miserable is actually counterproductive when it comes to achieving your personal and professional goals. 

miserable

The need to be miserable is a lie.

Have you noticed that people who delay their happiness till ‘one day when’ end up never experiencing it? You’ve probably met those people. You ask them ‘What do you really want?‘ and their response is ‘I don’t know anymore.‘ As if their zest for life is gone. 

After I started paying attention to my own behaviour and the behaviour of others, I realized that the necessity of misery in achieving personal goals is one of the biggest productivity lies out there.

I realized that the most harmful behaviours are caused by misery. Don’t get me wrong, there are definitely some life events that can cause you misery. But promoting it as the only way to personal success is pure evil, in my opinion. It brings nothing other than harmful addictions and mental health issues.

If you do something from the place of self-hate and misery, your psyche will always find the way to compensate.

It is called the pain-pleasure principle (or pleasure principle). It was developed by Freud. It says we are wired to seek pleasure and avoid pain. It’s human nature. 

Examples

Now let me share some examples we all can relate to that will illustrate why misery is counterproductive to achieving your personal goals. 

We’ve all experienced it in the past. It’s the first of January, we sign up for the hardest fitness class in our local gym. We kill ourselves during the workout. We hate every single second of it. But we force ourselves to go there daily for the first week. Sounds familiar? I worked in the fitness industry straight out of university and I can assure you, the first two weeks of January are the busiest weeks in any gym. 

But what happens after these intense, super difficult workouts? Have you ever noticed? We find a way to compensate for this misery we just experienced. Food is the quickest way to get the happy hormones flowing. After an army-like, no pain-no gain class, we almost always end up eating too much sugar or fat. It is not because we burned too many calories. It’s because we’ve experienced so much misery over that one hour and our emotional thermostat needs to find an equal amount of pleasure to offset the misery. And it needs to find it quickly. Food, cigarettes, recreational drugs, online shopping and social media scrolling are very popular choices these days. Why? Because they are the easiest and quickest way to get our dopamine levels increased.  

Let’s look at another example. Working at a job you hate. What do you do when your misery for the day is finally over and you come home? Again. Most likely, we have a great combo of cigarettes, sugar, fat, internet shopping, social media or tv consumption. 

When I realized that chronic episodes of misery result in harmful behaviour or even addictions, I became extremely cautious about engaging in activities that cause me misery. I now know that my brain will want to compensate for this misery. Every single time. 


pleasure principle

The real reason why people do something

on a consistent basis.

Once I realized that exercising from a place of misery and hate brings more harm than good, I decided to observe people who exercise on a regular basis. I recommend you do the same. Find people you know who’ve been consistently doing the thing you want to do. Just ask them why they do it. I’ve talked about this exercise before. I call it the Nothing is hidden’ philosophy. This idea comes from Zen Buddhism. They believe that nothing in this world is hidden. All you need to do is just sit and observe. Ask questions and listen. Without any personal agenda. Without wanting to hear a certain answer. Just be an observer. You will find a lot of wisdom that way. 

When I talked to the people I know who’ve been working out on a consistent basis for at least one year, I found that it is always about some sort of pleasure or emotional benefit they get from the exercise. Yes, they like seeing how toned their body gets as a result of their exercise but it is not the main reason for their consistent effort. 

One friend of mine works out 4-5 times a week because it is a clear break between her work and home life. Without her gym session, she would be thinking about her work all night long. Exercise gives her calm and the ability to forget about work. When she comes home she can be present with her family. Otherwise, she would be distracted. She would be thinking about work emails and how to respond to them all night long. 

Another friend of mine has been consistent in her workout routine for the past 7 years because she found out that she loves team sports. She spends all day working on a computer alone. And her extroverted personality doesn’t get enough socializing. Team sports allow her to meet new people, build new friendships much quicker and spend quality time with her friends. 

I know some parents with small children who use their running time as the only opportunity to be alone with their thoughts. It’s their me-time. 

Why “no pain, no gain” advice doesn’t work.

I hope you can see the pattern here. The best way to be consistent in an activity is to do it from a positive emotional place. Again, remember the pain-pleasure principle developed by Freud. He believed that people make choices to avoid or decrease pain or make choices that create or increase pleasure. The pain-pleasure principle is the core of all the decisions we make. And I found it is true. You can trick yourself into engaging in a painful activity once or twice. But you can’t do it on a long-term basis. 

This is why the advice “no pain, no gain” doesn’t work. If something is very painful, you will eventually stop doing this activity.

As we know, the number one prerequisite for success in any area of our lives is consistency. Pain and consistency don’t go together. We need to find another way. 


monthly method coaching

How these principles are applied in the Monthly Method.

That’s why there is a daily mindset work under the Monthly Method where you look for the thoughts that make you act on your tasks from the positive emotional state. I call it “thinking on purpose”. Oftentimes, we think by default. But we need to learn to think on purpose. We need to complete our tasks not from the place of “I have to”, but from the place of “I want to”.  If you practice this for some time, you realize that you feel a lot less tired by the end of the day. Every single “I have to” steals from your energy reserve and you feel depleted much quicker. 

This is also why there is a big emphasis on celebration and making yourself proud every single day. The more positive emotions you experience, the more energy you have to do the right things. It is extremely hard to do something if you think you are broken and not good enough. 

And the entire Monthly Method is based on the idea of intentional living, committing to a small number of tasks that are truly important to you (not someone else) and move your life forward in all areas. 

If you want to try this method for yourself, check out a free pdf guide that will help you plan your next week according to the Monthly Method principles. 

Conclusion

I believe personal growth should come from the place of self-care, curiosity, desire, interest, and adventure. Only in that case, it will be sustainable and not cause harm. And I hope I have convinced you, even a little bit, that it’s just not practical to be miserable in achieving your personal goals. It will bring you more harm than good. 

Try the Monthly Method for Yourself

If you prefer an audio format, please consider subscribing to the Monthly Method Podcast.


Read Next:

Hustle culture. Why it doesn’t work.

Unconventional Productivity Tips from Reddit [February 2021 edition]

Sprint Planning for Personal Productivity



 

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