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You don’t have to like it; you just have to do it.

This is a phrase that I have most definitely said to my kids.

And I’m pretty sure that my parents said it to me!

kids chores

There is something in children that makes them think that doing things they don’t want to do is some kind of great injustice.

Or that not wanting to do something is reason enough to just not do it.

But it is not limited to just children.

Adults can struggle with this same kind of thinking as well, particularly if they haven’t been taught to persevere in the face of the, “I don’t feel like doing this!” feelings.

Why not avoid pain?

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with trying to design a life with fewer pain points.

And there’s nothing wrong with outsourcing things you really hate.

But no matter how much life-optimization we implement, there are just going to be things we have to do even if we don’t feel like it.

The pain is in the moment

As I was pondering this, I realized that when we face things we don’t want to do, most of the time our two choices are NOT:

  • pain
  • no pain

Rather, we’re looking at a choice between pain now or pain later.

For instance, you can put off paying your bills because you don’t feel like it. That’ll feel good now, but it certainly will not feel good in 30 days.

You can get takeout instead of cooking, and it’ll feel good now, but not when you see your takeout total at the end of the month.

You can procrastinate on car maintenance and your bank balance will feel great now, but not when your car breaks down.

You can ignore your laundry/cleaning tasks and relax at the moment, but if you keep doing that consistently, you’ll have no clean clothes and your house will be a disaster. To me, that is not exactly joy-inducing.

You can make sedentary lifestyle choices, which are fun in the moment. But having a body in poor shape for activity is not ultimately enjoyable.

It’s true for kids too.

If anything, I think the distance between pain now and pain later is further for kids. A lot of the painful things they do as kids pay dividends in their adult lives, not now.

Kids don’t feel like doing math now, but growing to adulthood with no math skills is not pleasant.

They don’t feel like doing chores now, but being an adult with no cleaning skills or work ethic is not a recipe for happiness.

They don’t feel like learning to be kind, but grownups who aren’t kind are not happy people.

How to get over the “I don’t feel like it!” hump

I don’t think there’s a magical way to make yourself feel like doing things you hate. But there are a few things that help me.

Remember you are choosing future pain over current pain.

You’re not avoiding pain; you are just delaying it.

And usually, the future pain is worse than the current pain.

That’s motivating to me!

Think about the positives of doing The Dreaded Thing now.

Focus on how great you’ll feel after tackling The Dreaded Thing.  Dreaded Things always look better in the rearview mirror!

Or think about the positive end goal you have (if I keep cooking at home, I can save money for a trip/get out of debt/develop an emergency fund).

Remember it’s ok to dislike a task.

Disliking a task doesn’t necessarily mean there’s something wrong with you and it’s not necessarily something that you need to fix. Disliking a necessary task is a pretty common human experience. 🙂

Accept it, acknowledge it, and don’t worry too much about changing your feelings. There’s no need to shame yourself for disliking something.

For instance, you do not have to love cooking in order to put something on the table at night, and there’s some freedom in acknowledging that.

When my kids say, “But I don’t want to do X!!”, I often respond with, “That’s ok. That’s understandable, and it’s all right to not feel like it.”

And I think it’s good to say that to ourselves too.

How do you get yourself over the “I don’t feel like it!” hump? Help us all out by sharing in the comments!

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Friday 10th of March 2023

You are so right! This thinking relates to so many things. Impulse spending, not delaying instant gratification, delaying maintenance (car, home, appliances, hygiene, pets, kids) Does anyone else think self-discipline is no longer learned?)


Tuesday 5th of November 2019

Are you familiar with the Pair o' Ducks (Paradox) of Emotions? Yay Duck and Yuck Duck both float in the same pond. Yuck Duck sees the hard/yucky side of things and Yay Duck sees the good side of things. We recently learned about this concept and it's helped my kids be able to verbalize that a project/transition/event can be both good AND hard and both feelings are understandable and valid. Even my three year old has understood the concept and it's been useful in conflicts and in household chores! :)

Jenny Young

Tuesday 5th of November 2019

After some major illnesses over the past decade I'm appreciating the mundane, boring or painful job I used to procrastinate about. When you literally cannot do them they become much more appealing even if they are painful!

So now when I face that feeling of not wanting to get something done I try to change my perspective. I remind myself how I felt when I couldn't do it. And instead of telling myself I have to do it...I change it to I 'get' to do it. So many people don't get the opportunity to work hard, cook, clean, maintain a nice home. It needs to be considered a privilege, not a chore.


Monday 4th of November 2019

This is so timely for me - I got up today & thought 'that's it, I'm getting 'it' done!' then I log on later & read this, so many good comments & suggestions, thanks - I especially love the timer idea - I do this with tasks sometimes 'I'll see how much I can get done in 15min' then before I know it it's 2hrs later & I feel so good at what I've achieved :)

Jem Horwood

Monday 4th of November 2019

Wow, some great ideas here! This whole concept is one I need to keep telling myself. I keep forgetting!

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