Stop Trying to Live "an Exciting Life"
Boring is the new cool.
Today (Monday) was a routine day for me.
I woke up, did some Jiu-Jitsu, did some work, did some more Jiu-Jitsu, lifted some weights, did some more work, taught a kids class, and then wrote a bit. I just did the same things that I do every single day.
I didn’t go on an adventure. I didn’t eat my body weight in churros. I didn’t go to a pool party with swimsuit models.
I did the same stuff I do every day.
There was nothing special about today, but yet, I feel very happy with today.
I feel happy because my life has a routine that I have chosen. I have unstable and unpredictable careers (writing and martial arts), but I have chosen to do them. No one forces me to work on the things I work on. I work on them because I like them. I get to do all this crazy stuff every day. I have a crazy routine, and that’s awesome.
People often demonize the word “routine” because we associate routines with being boring, but routine is the secret to the most incredible aspects of human potential. Routine is the secret to happiness.
The key to success is not what you do, but how you do it. The key to happiness is not how you do something, but what you do. The optimal human life lies at the intersection between these 2 concepts.
How to become the “GOAT”
Have you ever heard of Michael Phelps?
If you’ve been living under a rock, Michael Phelps is the most decorated male Olympian of all time, and by all modern definitions of the word, his life has been pretty boring. Apart from having an obnoxiously wide wingspan, eating a bajillion calories per day, and developing an incredibly strong mind, what really separated Michael Phelps from his competition during his career was his training routine.
However, his training routine will probably put you to sleep.
Here’s an article I found that details this routine pretty well, but as I said, it’s not an exciting routine. All Phelps ever really did was eat, sleep, and train.
Literally, that’s all he did.
He didn’t go on adventures with his friends every day. He didn’t have 4 girlfriends in 4 different cities. He didn’t have a new hobby every week.
By every definition of the word, he had a very “boring” life in preparation for his swim races.
However, after he won 28 Olympic medals, competed in 5 Olympics, and set 39 world records, most people think of Phelps as someone who has lived a very, very exciting life.
The problem with routine isn’t that routines are boring, the problem is the way that we think about our routines in modern culture.
How to Build a Beautifully Boring Routine
The key to avoiding boredom is not to have no routine, the key is to develop a routine that is as closely connected to your passions as possible. The key is to find something that you love to do and to do it so much that you don’t mind doing it even when it sucks.
Even when you’re tired.
Even when you’re a little burnt out.
Even when you’re not making any progress.
A good routine is your greatest ally, while a bad routine will easily ruin your life. These are the stakes, I’m sorry they’re so intense. They’re intense because this is your real freakin’ life. There are no do-overs.
That’s why I try to keep a routine no matter what I do, where I go, or who I’m with.
Last week, I took a weekend trip to Texas with some friends to do Jiu-Jitsu and get away from snowy Chicago for a weekend. I broke my normal daily routine of working and training every day, but I did not sit on my butt and not do anything all day.
In fact, it was the opposite.
I changed my scenery, but I hardly broke my routine. I was on a trip, but I still trained Jiu-Jitsu every day I was gone. I still wrote in my journal after I woke up each morning. I still published an answer on Quora every day.
I was “on vacation”, but I still made time for the things in my life that are part of my craft because the single most important aspect of skill development is consistent, daily every sustained effort over extended periods of time.
I know that the idea of customizing your routine will be met with resistance, because people believe that not everyone has this right, but the fundamental fact is that choice is at the essence of happiness. When you remove choice from your life, it becomes very difficult to be happy.
It’s not impossible for all of us to have choice in our lives, but that’s a subject for another day. Today, I’m giving you the bare bones. Routine is the key to skill development, and the key to happiness is developing a routine that doesn’t suck.
The truth is that at times, life is going to be boring no matter what you do.
Honestly, it kind of feels like you can’t win. I get it. If you do the same things every day, you will become better at them, but your life will seem boring to people because it’s repetitive.
Contrarily, if you do different things every day, your life will seem boring because you won’t become particularly good at anything. You’ll never advance past level 1, but you’ll get to taste many different flavors of life.
Both lifestyles have benefits and drawbacks.
Choose your boring. Maybe for you, it looks like a mixture between the two.
“Ultimately, man should not ask what the meaning of his life is, but rather must recognize that it is he who is asked. In a word, each man is questioned by life; and he can only answer to life by answering for his own life; to life he can only respond by being responsible.” — Viktor E. Frankl
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