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10 Ways to Do What You Don’t Want to Do

Life would be grand if we only did what our fleeting hearts wanted to do, each moment of the day.

Unfortunately, the laundry, taxes and difficult conversations would never get done. The best books would never be written. All the achievements of humankind would be imagined, not realized.

So what should we do if we’re facing a task we don’t want to do? Well, we can run, and find distraction. That usually works, until it causes problems. Or we can find a way to get crap done.

Here’s how to get crap done.

  1. Meditate on why you need to do this. Instead of giving in to distraction, sit there for a minute. Why do you need to do this task you don’t want to do? Sure, because it’s on your todo list, or because someone else wants you to do it. Or you’re getting paid for it, or someone’s got to do it. But why? What will this task help accomplish? Who is it helping? Dig deeper and find the good that you’re creating in the world. If you’re a dishwasher, you might not think getting dirty dishes clean matters, but those dishes are required to serve food, and the food nourishes people and it can make them happy and then they can go out and do something good in the world with a smile on their face. So connect the dishes to the good.
  2. Meditate on your fear. The thing that’s stopping you from doing the task, or wanting to do it, is fear. You fear failure or looking bad, you fear the discomfort or confusion of the task. So take a moment to look inward and see this fear. Feel it. Accept it as part of you, instead of running from it.
  3. Let go of your ideal. If this fear were gone, you could just do the task easily. So what is causing the fear? Some ideal you have, some fantasy about life being free of discomfort, confusion, embarrassment, imperfection. That’s not reality, just fantasy, and it’s getting in your way by causing fear. So let go of the fantasy, the ideal, the expectation. And just embrace reality: this task before you, nothing else.
  4. Intention, not results. You are caught up with the results of the task — what will happen if you do it, what failure might result. So forget about the result — you can’t know what it will be anyway. That’s in the future. For now, focus on your intention: why are you doing it? If it’s to make the life of a loved one better, then that’s your intention. That intention is true no matter what the result is. Focus on this, not what bad things might or might not happen.
  5. Embrace the suck. Doing something hard sucks. It’s not easy, and often you’re confused about how to do it because you haven’t done it much before. So what? Hard things suck, but life isn’t always peaches with roses on top (and a sprinkle of cinnamon). It sucks sometimes, and that’s perfectly fine. Embrace all of life, thorns and pits and all. Life would be boring without the suck. So smile, embrace the suck, and get moving.
  6. Give yourself constraints. We tend to rebel against restraints: “I don’t want to do this! I want freedom!” Well, unfortunately, having unlimited freedom means unlimited choices, unlimited distractions, and nothing gets done. Simplify by putting restraints on yourself: do only one task at a time. Do just this one task for now. Do it for 10 minutes. Forbid yourself from going to any other websites or checking anything on your phone or doing anything else that you like to do for distraction, until you do those 10 minutes. Ask a friend to hold you accountable — another restraint that often helps.
  7. Do a little, then get up. If you have to write something, just write a sentence. Then get up, get some water, stretch. Pat yourself on the back for getting started! Now do a little more: write a few more sentences. Get up, take a mental break (don’t go to another website), do a few pushups. Go back, do a bit more. Pretty soon, you’re in the flow of it.
  8. Don’t let your mind run. Your mind will want to run. That’s OK, that’s the nature of minds. They are scared, and they will rationalize going to distraction, going to what’s easy. Watch this happen, don’t try to stop the phenomena, but don’t give it anywhere to run to. Watch the mind want to run, but don’t act. Just watch. It will eventually calm down.
  9. Find gratitude. This task might seem hard or sucky, but actually there are a lot of great things about it. For example, if you’re doing it for work, hey, you have a job! You have money to buy food and shelter! You have eyes and ears and a mind to do this task! Imagine life without all these things, and then try feeling sorry for yourself for having to do something so hard. Or, instead, try being grateful for the opportunity to do some good in the world, to learn from this task, to get better, to be mindful as you do it.
  10. Learn and grow. By meditating on your intentions and fear, by letting go of ideals and embracing the suck, by giving yourself constraints and finding gratitude … you’re learning about yourself. This task, as mundane or scary as it might seem, is teaching you about your mind. That’s a wonderful thing. So this task is a huge learning opportunity. What a wonderful way to spend your time!

Zen Habits

Leo Babuata
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Neither Averting Nor Craving in Each Moment
How Taking Care of My Finances Changed My Life
Tips for Traveling with Kids
My Grand Travel Experiment
The Parent I Aspire to Be
The Best & Less-than-Best Motivations for Learning
The Miracle of Suspending Mis-Belief
7 Strategies for Dealing with Toxic People
Finding Motivation on Important But Non-Urgent Tasks
Learning Tips for the Top 8 Learning Challenges
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The Place Where You Are
Feeling Determined to Change
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Hold Your Own Feet to the Fire
Don’t Waste Your Opportunity
How to Beat Procrastination with Daily Training
The Time When We’ll Be Present & Content
A Simple, Powerful Self-Compassion Method
When Others Frustrate You
Your Internet Habits Create Your Reality
The Case for Replacing Exercise with Play
Leave Yourself Wanting More
Fail Faster at Habits
The Anti-Bucket List
Getting Started with the Discipline Habit
The Case for Caring About Your Work
Questions of Priority
The Futility of Always Pushing Myself to Be More
Pare Down with the Declutter Habit
You’re Not Doing Life Wrong
Getting Lost in Just Doing
An Addict’s Guide to Overcoming the Distraction Habit
The Source of Contentment
Savor Discipline: Merge the Interests of Your Future & Present Selves
What You Can Say Instead of “I Don’t Feel Like It”
The Things That Get in the Way of Doing
The Girl Who Saw Through the Illusions
A Gradual Approach to Healthy Eating
Unconditional Acceptance of Yourself
My Typical Day: How I Get People to Think I’m Productive
The Contentment Habit
The Delightfully Short Guide to Reading More Books
In Praise of Limits
The Art of Being My Dad
5 Ideas to Create an Amazing 2015
Essential Zen Habits of 2014
Karate Chop
Practicing Slowness & Being Present
Overwhelmed by All the Changes You Want to Make
My 2014 Successes and Failures
Finding the Motivation to Change Your Entire Life
When You’re Lonely
The Brain’s Fast Mode
5 Questions to Simplify Your Life During the Holidays
The Zen Habits Holiday Gift Guide
The Four Hidden Habit Skills
The Power of Delay
Overwhelmed & Rushed? Do a Stress Assess
Writer as Coder: The Iterative Way to Write a Book
Please Support the Zen Habits Book
Are You a Lift or Drag Force?
When Resistance Smacks You in the Face
When Your Plate is Too Full
The Quickstart Guide to Quitting a Bad Habit
The Zen Habits Book is Almost Done
A Quick Guide to Gaining Confidence When You Socialize
The Empty Container
The Realization
A Guide to Changing Self-Destructive Behaviors
Pushing Past the Terrifying Dip in Motivation
It’s Not Too Late to Change Bad Habits
The Smart Way to Stick to Habits
My Most Effective Learning Tools
What I Do When I Fail
How to Put Your Writing in Public
The Productive Sprint
The Biggest Reasons You Haven’t Changed Your Habits
Seized by the Thunderhold of Fear
What to Eat for Fat Loss
The Heartbreaking Cruelty of Comparing Yourself to Others
A Brief Guide to Overcoming Instant Gratification
How to Get Motivated After a Vacation
7 Strategies for Facing Your Internet/TV Addiction
How to Breathe
7 Discipline-Mastering Practices
7 Rules That Keep My Life Simple
An Education in the Majestic Sierra Nevada
The Lies Your Mind Tells You to Prevent Life Changes
How to Believe in Yourself
Don’t Waste a Moment
How to Find Your Life Purpose: An Unconventional Approach
How to Be Great
Making Yourself Work
Inhabit the Moment
How to Master the Art of Living
The Delusional Fantasies We Live With Each Day
Living the Simple Life
How to Be Prepared for Anything
Turn Toward the Problem
The End of the Day Philosophy
The Painful Beauty of Impermanence
How to Change Other People
Pursuing Happiness When It’s Already Within You
The Quickstart Guide to a Decluttered Home
Parental Zen: How to Keep Your Cool as a Parent
Looking for Love
How to Stop Your Habit Changes From Getting Derailed
Why We Have Regret
The Essence of Fatherhood: 6 Simple Lessons
A Call for Revolt: Advertising is the Anti-Minimalism
The Frustratingly Slow Pace of Making Changes
My Struggles with Eating Boring Food
The No Procrastination Challenge
Creating a Lovely Morning
A Father’s Manifesto: Raising Young Men Who Respect Women
Turn Inspiration Into Action
Coming Back From a Setback
The Gift
A Guide for Young People: What to Do With Your Life
No Excuses: Minimalism with Kids
How to Make a Marriage Work
Love Notes
Flavorless: My Month of Food Boringness
The Letting Go Ebook, Free
The Miracle of the Self-Compassion Habit
How I Tackle a Big Writing Project
The Habit Action List
The Reality of This Moment
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10 Ways to Do What You Don’t Want to Do
On Making It Through Tough Journeys
The Hard Stuff Often Matters Most
What to Think About During Exercise
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The Most Important Two Minutes of Your Life
A Call for Compassion for the Defenseless
The Cure for Your Distraction Syndrome
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Being Mindful of Your Stress
What if You Didn’t Have to Worry About Yourself?
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Becoming Emotionally Self-Reliant
How I Cleaned House & Simplified My Work Life
The Busy Person’s Guide to Reducing Stress
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The 3 Do-What-You-Love Conundrums
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The Habits of Five Amazing Founders
The Incredible Importance of Sleep for Habits & Motivation
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I Tried to Quit & It’s Too Hard!
Unwired: A Month With Limited Internet, & Now No Cell Phone
Procrastination is a Mindfulness Problem
Letting Go of Judging People
Don’t Scratch the Itch
Become Happy in the Face of Physical Misery
How Repetition Can Kickstart a Habit
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The Child That Holds Us Back
Stateless Mindset
My Month of (Almost) No Internet
12 Changes for 2014
Essential Zen Habits of 2013
The Fear of Being Alone
The Calm Approach
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16 Surprising Lessons from My First 50-Mile Ultramarathon
The Simple Fitness Habit Holiday Challenge
Struggles with My Morning Internet Fast
Surrender, Mindfulness & Entrepreneurship
How I Learned to Stop Procrastinating, & Love Letting Go
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When You Run Out of Ideas
The Necessary Art of Subtraction
Jealousy & Suffering
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A Month Without Sugar
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My Most Minimal Travel Setup Yet
The Exquisite Habits of the Founder of Blue Bottle Coffee
3 Little Tricks to Deal With People Who Offend You
My Healthiest Travel Routine Yet
Startup Founder Megan Casey’s Habits of Priorities
My Pursuit of the Art of Living
A Month Without TV or Video
The Way of No Debt
Letting Go: How to Live With the Loss of a Loved One
The Way to Be
Ramit Sethi’s Entrepreneurial Habits
The Time to Shut Down
The Pain & Beauty of Life Changes
8 Creativity Lessons from a Pixar Animator
Zen Mountain: Leave It All Behind
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Finding Quiet and Mindfulness Through Food
My Failed Month of ‘No Sitting’
The Thinking Habit That Changed My Life
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Unschoolery: My New Blog on Unschooling
My Advice for Starting a Business
Creating Your Habit Environment
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The Fear of Being Found a Fraud
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A Month Without Coffee
The Healthful Vegan Diet
Living the Quiet Life
The Art of Tasting Chocolate Mindfully
Why Fear of Discomfort Might Be Ruining Your Life
The Habits of Happiness
How to Keep Habits Going During Travel
A Year of Living Without
The Key Habits of Organization
I Failed
Vegan Guide to San Francisco
The Futility of Comparing Yourself to Others
A Secret to Dad Greatness
Habits: A Simple Change in Mindset Changes Everything
The Worry That You’re Doing the Wrong Thing Right Now
6 Steps To Being More Creative
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Working with the Obstacles in Your Path
9 Rules for a Simpler Day
The Little Book of Contentment
The Obstacle is the Path
5 Lessons in Contentment from Billionaires Warren Buffett & Charlie Munger
Smile in Each Moment
A Guide to Practical Compassion
6 Steps To Healing Yourself
The 7-Day Vegan Challenge
Why You Should Write Daily
Achieving Without Goals
Flowing with the Stresses of Kids (or anyone else)
Habit Mastery: Creating the New Normal
Defeat Distraction: Refocusing with Purpose
Expanding the Envelope: A Method for Beating Anger
A Guide to Practical Contentment
The Practice of Work Mind & Vacation Mind, Simultaneously
How to Eat Real Food Without Spending Hours in the Kitchen
Quitting Your Habits
The 38 Best Methods of Successful Exercisers
How To Make It Impossible To Fail
The Not Knowing Path of Being an Entrepreneur
How to Change Your Life: A User’s Guide
Getting Your Family On Board with Life Changes
How to Stick to a Habit When Life Falls Apart
Zen Mind in the Middle of Chaos & Stress
Create a Sacred Space in Your Heart
Meditation: The Most Fundamental Habit
Creating the Genuine Connections We Long For
Tremors of Psychitude: One Little Trick to Find Purpose and Motivation
Create the Habits of Being Lean, in 7 Years
Walled-in: Life Without Facebook
The 7 Habits of Calmness
The Four Habits that Form Habits
Advice to My Kids
My 10 Essential Email Habits
The Daily Checklist
Sticking to a Habit: The Definitive Guide
The Meditation Diet: How I Lost 60+ lbs. by Savoring
The Power of Habit Investments
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The Most Successful Techniques for Rising Early
Do Less: A Short Guide
How to Savor Life
What We Lack in a Hyperconnected World
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12 Rules to Live By
The New Rules of Fitness for 2013
52 Changes for 2013
The Unprocrastination Month, and the Relaunch of the Sea Change Program
Essential Zen Habits of 2012
The Other Person is Never the Problem
The Do Plan, or Why We Know But Don’t Do
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The Clutter-free Holiday Guide
The Little Trick to Make Any Moment Better
Tim Ferriss vs. Leo Babauta Showdown: On Whether Goals Suck
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Challenge: Buy Nothing Until 2013
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15 Great Excuses Not to Form the Fitness Habit
How to Make Health Insurance a Bad Bet
Why the Fitness Habit is More Important Than the Plan
The Willingness to Think Differently
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A Vegan Tour of NYC