How To Stop Doing Things You Don’t Enjoy – Part 1

Wednesday, March 16th, 2011

I wrote a post in January about choosing quality over quantity in three areas of your life: your relationships, your stuff, and your time. In that post, I said:

Choosing quality over quantity does not mean getting a lot done.

What it does mean is spending as much of your time as possible doing what makes you happy. There are two ways to accomplish this.

  1. Be more efficient. By more quickly completing tasks you don’t love, you’ll have more time left to spend doing things you truly enjoy.
  2. Doing less of the things you don’t love. While this is the path less traveled, I think it’s the most rewarding.

Poppy left a comment on that post that pointed out the fact that “doing less of the things you don’t love” isn’t necessarily something everyone already knows how to implement. I mean, sure, maybe in theory we all know what “stop doing this” means – but what does that look like in real life?

How do you stop doing things you don’t enjoy and still get to call yourself a grown up?

Because that’s what we tell ourselves, isn’t it? That we don’t get to just walk away from our obligations because we are responsible. It must be nice for some people to take off and travel the world, or quit their jobs to become poets, or just do whatever the hell they want – but we are adults. We have kids. We have bills. We have a house to keep and a job to do and people who are counting on us to do a lot of things we don’t want to do.

We spend our lives doing what we don’t want because we are good, selfless, responsible people.

I am no longer concerned with being a “good grown up.” I’m more concerned with being happy and well equipped to love the crap out of the people around me. I can’t do that if I’m spending all of my time being miserable. So, how, exactly, do I spend more of my time doing what I love?

How do you “do less of the things you don’t love?”

Step 1: Reconsider whether the thing you don’t enjoy really needs to be done.

No, you do not have to drive your children around to dozens of extra-curricular activities all over town. No, you do not have to keep your house company clean. Neither do you have to work extra shifts, mow your lawn, call back that person that drives you crazy, make an appearance, join the PTA, or get your dog groomed.

None of those things are inherently bad or destined to cause misery, they’re just examples of things that have been erroneously touted as “things I have to do.”

The list of things you have to do is actually very, very short.

Eat, sleep, hydrate yourself, find shelter from the elements. Have to. If you’re a parent, you have to provide love, food, and shelter for your children. Have to. That’s about it.

Of course, most of us require more than food and shelter to be happy. So next we add the sacrifices we willingly make because we really, really want the desired outcome – the things we have to do in order to have the life we want. I can’t tell you what exactly is on that list for – that’s a matter of your own values, priorities and preferences. But I can say with a fair amount of confidence that, even with these additions, your “have to” list is still probably much shorter than you realize.

Most of us are currently doing more than we need to under the guise of obligation.

If you want to free up some of your time and rid your life of some resentment, be brutally honest with yourself about whether or not a task or “responsibility” is really necessary in order for you to live your version of a happy life.

If it’s not necessary – if it doesn’t contribute to you living your ideal life – just don’t do it.

It really is that simple.

What about things that you don’t like that really do have to get done? We’ll talk about how to handle those obligations in Part 2.

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  1. annettek says:

    Yes, this, exactly! It all falls along the same line I’ve been telling myself about learning how to say no. Especially regarding volunteer obligations that I always used to get sucked into. I love this path you’re taking, it helps me with mine so very much.

  2. the muskrat says:

    I’ve been thinking about this stuff lately b/c of re-reading the “4 Hour Workweek.” There’s a lot of shit I need to cut out or batch to make time for blogging, exercising, talking to my old friends on the phone (saw one last weekend who was in from Nashville), etc.

  3. Mandi Bone says:

    I fall into the pressures of you must to xyz for your children to achieve more in life. It is stuff that doesn’t make me or them happy. I know my kids are going to be awesome no matter what.

  4. martymankins says:

    There are many things I do in my life that I do not like doing, but have to for two major reasons: paycheck and being responsible. Or as you mentioned above, obligation. I have found that doing these things has affected those things that I want to do. Which in talking with many others, seems normal and common. But I’d like to change that about me because as each year passes, I really want to see me doing more what I like than what I don’t like.

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  6. Lisa says:

    I’m trying to wrap my head around what it is I don’t want to do and what I do, but first I think I need to pay more attention to what I’m actually spending my time on. I tend to go about in automatic mode getting the things done that need to be, so I’m not paying attention to whether I actually want to do them. Hmmm. Now I have homework.

  7. that poppy is pretty smart.
    so are you.

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