When we don’t feel like it anymore, what keeps us going?
The honeymoon period
At the beginning of everything, we are excited and adventurous. We are open to new experiences and learning. Passion is burning as fuel to launch the rocket (whatever that may be — new work, new project, or a new relationship). Everything is good, fresh, and wonderful in this honeymoon period. Between 6 months to a year, you are able to hold onto your goal and consistently work as you have planned with the least resistance.
The temptation of new distraction
After a year or so, the passion fades and the feeling of excitement wears off over time. The rush you’ve got before disappeared and everything seems plain. Boredom set in as you are used to doing what you were doing which causes doubt about whether you should continue or simply give up. This is the phase where many drop off and get distracted by the next new, fresh adventure. Many fail to reap the benefit of their efforts simply because they give up too early and all the hard work so far is wasted.
Shiny object syndrome
I’ve been there. Although my passion has stayed the same, I got distracted by the next shiny object. I found that this is a common disease among entrepreneurs or people working for themselves. The train of thoughts are so fast sometimes it gets jumpy. And we are easily distracted and tempted to chase two (or more than two) rabbits at the same time.
Let’s be real, focusing for a short period of time is manageable.
Dedicating and committing for long term requires more than passion to keep us going.
Why Passion won’t work?
Passion may have got us started and helped us overcome the fear and procrastination, but it won’t take us too far.
Passion is a feeling. And feelings are fleeting. It wouldn’t maintain the same level of heat unless with consistent conscious effort.
If one relies on feeling to fuel their work or relationship, it won’t last for long. This is because passion is a high energy state of mind. Our natural tendency is to relax and save energy. So, we won’t be able to keep feeling passionate throughout the year and more.
What keeps us going?
Remember when we fell in love, after the freshness and passion fades, what kept you going?
When you don’t feel like working, when the weather is cold and it is raining, and everyone else is having fun, what keeps you going?
Introducing a powerful word (perhaps more powerful than passion): Habit.
How habits get us going?
You get used to having that person beside you. You get used to caring for that person. You get used to taking care of that person (or vice versa). You get used to love that person as a family. That is more than passion, that becomes love.
When you get used to something, it is because you have established habits.
Like every morning when you wake up, you wash your face and have breakfast like a robot. You don’t even have to think about it. It happens automatically — habits.
You know you have deadlines to meet which you may have set them yourself and they are changeable but you are used to working at a particular time. You don’t feel sorry for yourself because you are used to working at this hour of time every day consistently. This has become part of your life. This is an activity like cleaning your face. It happens automatically — habits.
Involving the subconscious mind too
Feelings, “why”, passion — those can change any moment. Yet, habit is built over time so it is harder to wear off and change.
And the major reason why habit can keep us going is that we do not have to think about whether we are going to do it or not. We do not think about whether we are going to wash our faces after we wake up every morning. We do not have to think about whether we breathe the next moment or not. It happens automatically — habits.
As mentioned, our natural tendency is to save energy. Our brain has an energy-saving function that is like a programmed function for habit — it happens (almost like) automatically.
We are better off when we do not have to think before acting. We don’t need to come up with excuses. We save energy on what is really important. And we are able to dedicate and commit for a longer period of time (long enough to go through the give-up phrase to the end fruit).
Don’t think, just do.
Passion may get us started, but the habit will take us to the promised land.