Finding a Way to Do the Things You Hate


If you’ve given up on self-discipline, this post is for you. You probably have a lot of things you don’t enjoy doing.  Worse, you might have a lot of things you simply don’t do because they suck.

It becomes a game of self-discipline versus just doing what you enjoy.

You try willing yourself into it, or beating yourself up, or you just plain giving up.  That is, unless you know the secret.

The secret of self-discipline is to change the WHY or change the HOW.

Let’s see how …

Change the Why

To change the WHY, you can find a way to connect to your values. For example, let’s say you don’t enjoy doing your chores. What if you knew it made somebody happy? Or, maybe you value order, and this creates order in your life. Or, if you’re a social person, you might connect it to a more enjoyable experience when you have people over. Find a why. When you find the right why, you’ll find the energy. Keep in mind, you may not necessarily enjoy it. Mastery, for example, can be a compelling why.

Change the How

To change your how, you have a lot of options.  One of my favorite sayings is, it’s not what’s on your plate, but how you eat it.  Growing up, I hated mash potatoes so I turned them into little castles and moats and attacked them with my peas.  When I find something I know I should do, but don’t enjoy it, I try to turn it into a game or pair up.

It’s Not What You Do

When I went through an exercise to find my Golden Circle (i.e. why you do what you do), the ah-ha was that it’s not what you do.  It’s why and how you do it.  You can bring your game wherever you go or whatever you do, by living your why and how.  This puts you in control and really increases your options in any scenario.

Connecting the Dots

To connect the dots, using what you now know, you can even change the why and how of self-discipline.  Why practice self-discipline?  Because research shows more success is connected to self-discipline.

If you want to ignore the research, then just think about it like this … do you know anybody who is successful who doesn’t have to do anything they don’t like?  How to practice self-discipline … change the WHY or change the HOW.

That’s your recipe for real results.

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Photo by Randy Son of Robert.


  1. Interesting point about changing the way. In my experience it is the easier and most effective way to be motivated to do something.


  2. Staying disciplined and finding motivation has always been one of my biggest challenges. I keep blaming my lack of discipline for not staying in school and getting any kind of education (I’ve tried several times), and though I think there are some underlying issues that I need to address, discipline has played a huge part. I keep giving up on basically anything and everything that requires a little effort- even if it’s something that I actually enjoy. Thanks for the fresh insight on this!

  3. Changing the why is the key for me in this. It seems that everything else my mind can pick apart and give me a reason not to do something. Through this process it always comes down to the why.

    I like your example. If we change the why of an action so that it makes someone happy, or benefits someone, as the primary motivation then it becomes so much easier.

  4. A nice post! I enjoyed your breakdown of tackling the self-discipline issue. What helps me is focusing on my end goal and the big picture, which is the ‘why’ that speak of. Also, another thing that helps is finding support from other people in a similar boat, but be sure that these people are committed to the idea of bolstering each other up, not down. Sometimes misery loves company, and they can sink the boat.

  5. I always tell my kids that there are just some things that need to be done, even though they may find them a drag. Self discipline is definitely something I think is important. We need to live responsibly.

  6. Very interesting way of putting it. Changing the Why is one reason I finally became a consistent blogger. Went from trying to create a business model, to simply trying to get my own thoughts together and organized. It was very freeing creatively and motivationally.

  7. Hi J.D.,

    I was thinking of this very topic today so it was perfect to come upon your post.

    You are right about how our perception regarding something is the key. There is always a silver lining to be found. At least, that is how I choose to see things.

    For example, my day job is not something I would say that I love as much as I love writing. However, I love the blessings that come with this job. I have the means to have a wonderful apartment, pay my bills, buy books and little things I like, and most importantly it provides me with the ability to run my blog. Not to mention, I find LOADS of material to write about just by being here. So in some ways, I really do love my job. 🙂

  8. Great post on a topic that is something EVERYONE has to deal with. Unless you are someone who can get out of doing every single thing you don’t want to do, we all have to deal with things that are less-than-fun. You’ve highlighted some great points about how to handle doing things we don’t want to do and I’m definitely going to save this post for the next time I’m faced with an unpleasant task. Great, great, GREAT stuff! So useful!

  9. I usually don’t have a problem motivating myself to do things I dislike, but I’ll always do them in order of most-least favorite. So I may hate laundry AND vacuuming, but I’ll do almost everything I can before folding the laundry…including going to run errands until it’s too late to fold.

  10. I’m a highly self-disciplined person. I never found it hard to do things I don’t enjoy doing. I always saw it as a deal – you do what must be done, then you get to have fun. Kind of like “do your homework before going out to play with your friends.”

    I did find your perspective fresh and interesting.

  11. Hi J.D.,
    I think self – discipline is something we learn.I am better in some areas then others.I think changing your routine is always a good method to practice self – discipline.
    Great article and subject.

  12. @ Oscar

    I agree. It’s great when the will is already there, but sometimes where there’s a way, there’s a will 🙂

    @ Adrenalynn

    It can be tough to stick with anything if you aren’t getting the results or it doesn’t feel like it’s worth it, even if you enjoy it. You’re not alone, though, and it can be anything from fleeting passions to really just finding what works for you. Discipline is a skill though and now you know how to make the most of it. I would recommend the book, The Dip, by Seth Godin if you haven’t read it. It’s a quick read and a beautiful mental model for knowing when to stick with things and knowing when to quit.

    @ Sean

    I really like how it’s so immediate. So many times I’ll catch myself simply trying to get something done fast and it’s not compelling. If I can anchor it to my values or find a more compelling why, it’s like a fresh can of whoop arse.

    @ Vi

    Thank you. You make a really great point on paying attention to who you hang with. It can make all the difference. Sure you can succeed despite the odds, but I find it better to stack the deck in your favor. Find the folks that catalyze you.

    @ Evelyn

    It’s sort of like the cost of doing business. It sounds like you’re teaching them key skills early on and that’s a good thing.

    I’ve been able to delay gratification for a lot of things. I’ve also found that some habits wax and wane depending on whether I can link them to good feelings. Changing the why and how goes a long way toward sustainable results.

    @ Fred

    You’ve definitely connected to your why and that’s the key to your results. The beauty of focusing on putting your thoughts together changes both the why and the how. It’s a chance to master your mind and unleash your best. The business will follow … your creative mind will connect the dots (and success is often serrendipitous.)

    @ Nadia

    It sounds like you found a really good balance where your job funds your life styles, while your blog provides your channel and fans the flames. Way to go!

    @ Positively Present

    Right on. The more I see successful people in action, the more I realize life is not a bowl of cherries for anyone … some people are just better at eating around the pits. When you do get stuck with the pits, and your skills are tested, knowing that you can change your why and how really comes in handy.

    @ MLDina

    I know a lot of people would be envious of your motivation. Interestingly, I flip it around. I use a pattern I call “worst things first.” I get my worst thing out of the way while I have most of my energy. Then as I get to things I enjoy, it rebuilds my energy. I think this got reenforced by having to eat my vegetables before desert 🙂

    @ Vered

    I like your deal analogy. It sounds like you had good structure in your life where you got to feel the rewards of your labors. That’s a good thing. You’ve learned to make the investment for benefits down the line. Not everybody is so good with delayed gratification, so you’re sitting in a very good spot, and success will favor you.

    @ Bunnygotblog

    Thank you. The beauty is that we get so much flexibility and creativity when we decide to change how we do things. In fact, one of the worst scenarios to avoid is when you have somebody that dictates how things should be done. Great managers set the goals and success criteria then cut people loose so they can find their best way to accomplish the results. People like autonomy.

  13. Well, luckily I’ve never “given up” on self discipline, as I’ve never had it in the first place. (Kidding, of course.) (Kind of.) 🙂

    You know, my motto (not that I follow it,) is get the hardest stuff out of the way and the rest is gravy. But seriously, I like your “social person.” I’d like to have people over to help me do my dishes. And dusting.

  14. @ Jannie

    That’s a catchy motto actually.

    I think there are some examples you can use to get folks to help out with dishes and dusting. Huckleberry Finn got folks to paint the fence by making it look fun. Mr. Miyagi got Danielson to wax his car and paint his fence.

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