How to Do the Hard Stuff When You Can’t See Instant Results

Because some things are *really* worth it.

I’ve love learning new things and improving my skills. Personal development, writing, entrepreneurship, photography, physics — everything goes. This is why I like to identify as a polymath.

However, there were many things where I just kept dabbling, testing the waters, avoiding the hard stuff. I was always reluctant to give anything my all. ‘But it looks boring! What if it’s not as good as I assumed? What if it’s too tough, and I just can’t keep up?’

I’d also noticed that doing the hard stuff usually pays. Whenever I was forced to cross my breaking point, I usually emerged much more knowledgeable or adept at doing something.

Let’s take the example of blogging. I’d get irregular with my blog whenever it got a little less exciting. I’d avoid using a well known strategy, just because it seemed too hard.

But when I did got around to using it, I found that it greatly accelerated my blogging success, and felt stupid for not having used it sooner.

I am always pleasantly surprised when such things happen. But that also fills me with some dread — does this mean that I could have achieved a lot more, if only I hadn’t quit prematurely?!

I’ve found that the chief reason for my giving up was that I didn’t get instant feedback — either enjoyment, success, or failure — for my efforts.

But sometimes, rewards don’t come until you try the hardest things. It gets extremely frustrating right before it actually gets fun.

I think that’s why they say:

Go the extra mile, it’s never crowded.

In spite of all these revelations, by default, I still avoid going all in. If you are anything like me, you also struggle with this.

You want to do great things, and you know that for that to happen you’ll need to work harder than anyone else.

But you can’t convince yourself to keep going if something keeps getting harder and harder; or if you are unable to see any results for your efforts.

Well, don’t despair, because there’s a possibility where we can give something our all, and yet keep an escape hatch open!

How’s that possible? By following this principle:

Go All In and Have a Deadline.

Here’s what this involves:

  1. You’ll take up something that you want to or need to do, but usually don’t, because it’s too hard or boring, and you are unsure how it will go.
  2. Then, you’ll set a timeline to try it all. I think 30 days is an optimal time; it’s long enough that you’ll begin to see some results, yet short enough to not feel downright impossible.
  3. Until you hit your deadline, you won’t worry about not seeing any rewards, or it not being fun to do. You’ll keep going regardless of the feedback.
  4. Finally, when you hit the deadline, you’ll see how it worked out, and decide if it’s worth it. There’s another benefit here, in that you’ll know if it’s enjoyable in the long run. You see, anything can be exciting for a week or two. But if something isn’t exciting after a month, you’re unlikely to keep doing it for life.
  5. What next? You might continue on the same path if it reaped the results you wanted. You’ll tweak your strategy if you think you can make it better. You’ll launch a second deadline, with the same or different goals, if it’s going really great. But if you feel extremely burnt out and exhausted, you’ll quit it, and this time you know that it’s the right decision, and not something premature.

In fact, I have started a personal project where I do everything I have wanted to, but could never muster the time or energy for doing.

To calm my fidgeting, worrying brain, I keep a deadline. It’s like, I’ll do everything I am supposed to for, say, a month, and if it doesn’t work out at the end of that period, no problemo: I’ll just move on to the next thing on my list.

The first thing I began with this new idea was a 30 day blogging challenge.

I used to be like, blogging daily? ME?! Impossible!

Except that it’s now possible because I am only doing it for a month. In this one month, it doesn’t matter how things suck, or how often I am denied instant gratification.

For 30 days, all that matters is to hit ‘Publish’ on every weekday. And if I don’t like it? Of course, I’m doing something else in October!

Guess what, things are working out like this. I have stuck with this challenge for 3 weeks now. Although I haven’t got a mind blowing level of success (not that I should expect it), I’ve already been featured in Medium’s handpicked topics (twice!).

I’ve also submitted more posts for publications in two weeks that I would have submitted in a whole month.

Essentially, I have done more things in three weeks than I had done in the previous two months, or to some extent, even whatever I’d done in a whole year of blogging.

I knew I needed to do these things, and do them faster, but I avoided them because they seemed too much effort, without any clear rewards in the near future.

This time though, doing them for a month long challenge made it much more easier. I did things at a pace that was probably 10X faster than my usual capacity. I gained a year’s worth of insights in less than a month. And I’m still going, too!

Lastly, I also discovered that 30 day challenges are really a thing, and not just in blogging or fitness. I’m gonna search for them, and see what more ideas I can get!

Takeaway: Things DO get hard sometimes. Not everything that you’ll come to love will be enjoyable from the very start. Not everything will give you instant feedback. Yet it sometimes pays to stick around a little longer. The success you think is never coming is often just around the corner, if only you’d keep going.
Going all in while having a deadline in place gives you an in-between approach; where you are neither working like crazy without seeing results, nor are you quitting prematurely.
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