If there's one piece of advice gurus often pass on to the people they mentor, it's to be passionate. By definition, that means not just that you love something a lot, but that you're willing to suffer for it.
Here's why you should toss that concept out the window, at least as it's usually stated all by itself.
It's natural for focus and motivation to wane, for there to be times when you wake up, look at work and just feel...meh. But if you listen to the gurus, that experience can prompt ridiculous amounts of guilt. You'd be successful, the logic goes, but apparently you just don't want it badly enough. You'd be at the top, except you don't have as much passion as the other people.
What really makes a difference isn't the passion. You probably do have that. What really separates the people who make it from those who don't is the ability to handle boredom.
Think about it. We might have to spend weeks or months on specific projects, and sometimes it can take years to gather the information or skills we need to move to the next step. Now, science suggests that, on one level, one of the best ways to learn is to stick to one topic for a few months. But the brain also loves novelty and is distracted by it. So you have to find a way to either make what you're doing seem super interesting again, which can be challenging even for the best of us, or find a way to keep showing up despite the feelings of meh.
Ok, so how do you do keep showing up?
A few strategies save you here.
1. Just remember that what you're feeling isn't permanent. Depression and anxiety can happen because, in the boredom, we fear that we're stuck, that that's all there is and that we'll never be happy or excited again. You will.
2. Reevaluate your routine. There's a good scientific argument for using the anticipation of reward to make routines bearable. Looking forward to some ice cream or a movie at the end of the day, for example, can stimulate dopamine production so you feel better and can get through the mundane stuff. And heading to some kind of hobby after work can give your brain a much needed break and opportunity for creativity, too. But in an article for LinkedIn, Dr. Deepak Chopra, founder of the Chopra Foundation, argues that this just splits your life in half. Instead, he recommends learning to minimize whatever downsides the routine has and maximize the benefits or best aspects of it. These are elements in the routine that help make the day still fresh and inspiring. Put another way, don't tolerate life--improve it.
3. Focus on the task, not the clock. The idea here is to reward yourself for effort, not minutes worked. As biopsychologist and author Dr. Nigel Barber asserts in his article for Psychology Today, the biggest cause of boredom and the resulting meh is the fact we measure work in units of time, not in terms of production or accomplishment. He writes that, "when people focus on the task they are doing, they forget about time and there is no sense of the hours crawling slowly by." So even if you're flitting from job to job for a big goal, stay present in the moment, rather than looking at your watch every three seconds to see if 5:00 p.m. has arrived yet. This is one time when scheduling a slightly challenging amount or being able to creatively coming up with more relevant activities is going to help you. As you complete tasks well, take pride in what you're doing!
Passion is important. But successful people haven't drunk from some magic well of it while the rest of us stay parched. Trust that the fire is there, and don't let periods of boredom convince you that you're somehow less than. After all, the chill of the night doesn't mean that the sun isn't shining and sending warmth. We just have to put on a mental sweater until we can feel that heat at sunrise again.