The other day a friend of mine was lamenting about how bored he’s been lately. He said he couldn’t bring himself to work on even the most mundane tasks, because he felt everything he did was tedious.
My experience has convinced me that this problem becomes worse for most people with the passage of time. Why? Because as you get older, the number of “firsts” in your life decreases each year, and firsts are usually among the most exciting times a person experiences.
Remember how excited you were the first time you fell in love? Or the first time you moved into your own apartment? Or the first time you went on a vacation without your parents? By definition, firsts are one-time events, so once they occur, they’ve occurred.
But once the majority of firsts are behind you, the reality is that life can, indeed, become boring — i.e., if you just sit back and wait for it to come to you. But the fact is that life is already in you. It’s a gift from God, so there’s nothing to wait for.
And along with possessing the gift of life, you also possess free will as part of the deal. Which means you can make choices, and those choices don’t have to be boring.
Another way of saying it is that even though you were given the gift of life, free of charge, it’s your job to learn how to use it. Life is not always fun and games. Life is about putting one foot in front of the other — calmly and consistently. The alternative is inertia, which is a killer — literally. He who hesitates is not lost; he’s dead.
That’s why it’s a mistake to always be looking for the big deal … the big event … or the big payoff. Better to focus on hitting singles and doubles every day of your life, and the homeruns will come along in due time.
The reality is that if you aren’t getting anywhere on that one big project at the top of your list, you should not allow inertia to set in by staring at a blank computer screen for hours. Instead, do something small. Small isn’t as good as big, but it’s better than inertia.
Small stirs your brain cells and pushes them toward working on more important projects. It’s also a huge mistake to wait around for the perfect time to take action. Better to discipline yourself to get up out of your chair and do something, even if it’s just taking care of details that are slowing down the more important work in your life.
I’ve written and spoken a lot over the years about something I refer to as the Peck-Away Theory. Life is about pecking away at things — endless projects … your health … your financial foundation … in essence, all aspects of your life.
So when your mind freezes up and refuses to work on the most important project that needs your attention, let go of it temporarily, do something of lesser importance, then come back to it later. And remember that all-important anti-inertia rule: Don’t try to do everything; just do something.
A meaningful life is built one day at a time … one hour at a time … one minute at a time. I think it’s a bad idea to have a rah-rah attitude about anything in life. I’m the most positive person I know, but I’ve found that I get far better, and far more consistent, results by playing it down the middle — not too fast, not too slow. The key is consistency. Be consistent and keep moving forward.
Exercise is another good example of how this works. You’re never going to be a championship weight lifter, so lift weights modestly. Ditto with walking or jogging. Whether on a treadmill or outdoors, moderation really is the best policy. The more gung-ho you are, the more likely you are to quit altogether.
The reality is that life is not fun all the time. Life can, indeed, seem boring (getting up in the morning, brushing your teeth, eating breakfast, going to work, etc.), but the boredom is more a self-imposed state of mind than reality. It’s all in how you react to the daily cares of life.
Always focus on the big picture of how everything you do is clearing the way for positive results down the road rather than focusing on boredom. Remember, you are the product of your thoughts. If you dwell on how bored you are, boredom is what you’re likely to get.
One final example that perhaps makes my point best of all: compound interest. The late Richard Russell once wrote a fascinating article explaining how important it is for a person to start early and be consistent when it comes to saving and taking advantage of compound interest.
Russell printed a chart that compares the results of two people who start saving at a young age, one at 19 and the other at 26. For seven consecutive years, the 19-year-old adds $2,000 to his IRA account at an average growth rate of 10 percent (7 percent interest plus growth). After seven years, he stops making additional contributions and just lets compound interest work its wonders.
The second person doesn’t start saving until age 26 (the exact age when the first person stops making additional contributions to his IRA), then continues to contribute $2,000 every year until he’s 65 (at the same theoretical 10 percent growth rate).
The end results are astounding. At age of 65, the first person has accumulated $930,641 —or 66 times his total investment amount of $14,000 (seven x $2,0000) — even though he made contributions for only seven years. The second investor ends up with less ($893,704 — which is 11 times his investment amount of $80,000) — even though he makes contributions to his account for 40 years!
It’s no wonder Albert Einstein called “the power of compound interest the most powerful force in the universe.”
So whether it’s compound interest, health, or dealing with life in general, life is about taking action, being patient, and being relentlessly consistent. If you can get really good at these three things, you’ll find life to be exhilarating rather than boring.