How can I force myself to love something I naturally do not?
June 28, 2010 5:37 AM   Subscribe

How can I force myself to love something I naturally do not?

I realize "learn" is a probably a better word than "force".

There are many things in life I wish I could enjoy -- (certain) people, sports, dancing, university classes, foods, etc, but for whatever reason, I do not. I love computer programming, my friend loves working out. And there's no middle ground between these two.

I recently posted a question on how to write stories. I received fantastic responses, However, as I thought of the question, I realized that part of my problem/frustration was this -- I don't like to write.

"What?, friends may ask. "But you write such fantastic prose, such moving stories, such motivating speeches!"

Yes, I love the RESULTS of what comes from writing, but as for the actual process itself, I find it very difficult and unenjoyable. Computer programming, on the other hand, is different -- I very much enjoy the process and the results (and frustratingly, this 'like' is suffocating other areas in my life I want to do and like).

Often, the solution is to either avoid these things or just breathe-deeply-and-count-to-three to tolerate them. I believe in the the power of thought, choice, and will, and believe that we can enjoy things that we previously did not, but I don't know specifically how.

I spent a couple years living on islands in the South Pacific. When I arrived, I knew I was in for a drastic diet change that involved (very) raw fish. I never liked fish. I wanted to really know and understand these Polynesian people, and I knew that enjoying the food would be a big part in connecting with them. As such, I developed a love for fish that continues to this day. But how did I do this? Just by "wanting" and then having no other option?

The World Cup. I have never enjoyed watching soccer, but with all the excitement and frenzy the world gets in over it, I wanted to be a part of it this time. I printed off a bracket and watched games every morning, and now suddenly I really enjoy it -- yes, even the dives :)

I've tried the Jerry Seinfeld calendar method. It worked great to at least "forcibly" get me to do the thing I don't like, even if it's under a false pretense (don't break the chain). However, if and when a chain was broken, the motivation to start again is completely sapped.

I've wondered about the likes of Tony Robbins/Steven Covey and the power of positive thinking and attitude, but I don't know much on the subject and if it has any research or empirical studies backing it. Anyone tried or know about this?

In answering, please be as specific as possible to methods of application you know or have come across. General advice is welcome, i.e., "be positive", but doesn't give actual steps on how to apply.

How can I learn to love things that I'm not naturally inclined to?
posted by coldblackice to Education (16 answers total) 30 users marked this as a favorite
Approach these activities / experiences as opportunities to learn. You don't need to force or train yourself to like things; rather, you need to set aside your preconceptions and open yourself to the enjoyable aspects of them that you don't know about or understand. Remind yourself that there are many, many people who like activity X. They are not all insane. They see something you don't see. Learn what they see.
posted by jon1270 at 5:59 AM on June 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

Yes, I love the RESULTS of what comes from writing, but as for the actual process itself, I find it very difficult and unenjoyable.

This is not an uncommon feeling when creating anything. I've heard many writers say they write not because they like it, but because they can't not write. They are compelled to write, but do not enjoy the writing process so much.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:01 AM on June 28, 2010 [2 favorites]

Well, liking "things" like fish and the World Cup is a little different than forcing yourself to do a particular activity, like exercising or writing. In regards to the latter, one thing I've found that helps is to just get started. I mean, set a very small goal for yourself that's almost ridiculous to put off. For example, tell yourself that you will write for five minutes each day. Set a timer. I've noticed that something tends to happen after five minutes -- you get into it and you don't want to stop. But even if you do want to stop, then five minutes is better than nothing. If you feel this goal is too low for you, you can sprinkle more of these mini blocks of time throughout the day -- because you can it for five minutes, right?
posted by unannihilated at 6:03 AM on June 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

Read about cool things other people do with their writing. I find when I’ve already had my big inspiration-y moment, the slog of making it happen starts to drag, so having some experimental stuff in mind to try that I’ve read or heard about, re-excites me and gets me into work mode. If there’s a small thing I’m excited to fiddle with, it’s easier to bite off chunks of the more sloggy type work. Also just reading about people who are better at this then me gives me an extremely long range goal (be as good as them) and helps push the process forward.
posted by edbles at 6:11 AM on June 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

I notice three things about your examples.
- community
- immersion
- time limited

((#3 might be less of an issue with the Polynesian diet, but unless you thought you might live there forever, it still counts as a contributing factor.))

Community - you want to connect with people. The want for that is bigger than your dislike for X, so you ignore the dislike and focus on how it will bring you closer to others. Find how to see your other activities through this lens, and pay attention to it. This may be a specific group of people, like a writers' group, or it may be an abstract one that you're just trying to share headspace with.

Immersion - similar to community, you couldn't get away from the food in the South Pacific or screens playing soccer in the world cup. You had to adapt or be miserable. Find ways to fake the immersion.

Time Limited - This, I think, is key. Living in the South Pacific had an end. Enduring World Cup frenzy had an end. In contrast, The Seinfeld Method has no end. The things you want to learn have no "end". This brings all kinds of psychological trickery into play. There's greater risk because, if you fail, you have to start all over, and you're not willing to give up. Because there's no deadline, you think "sooner I start, the better", but also "what does it matter if I put it off?"

My suggestion: Give yourself permission to not pursue something you're interested in. Spend a limited period of time "forcing" yourself to enjoy/appreciate something you want to like. If by the end of that time period, say, 90 days, you don't enjoy the person/activity, spend the next 180 days accepting that you don't enjoy it. Then try again... or not!

One final thing to try: find articulate people who like the thing you're trying to love, and talk with them about their passion for the subject. I find enthusiasm incredibly contagious, and it's normally fun to catch.
posted by itesser at 6:32 AM on June 28, 2010 [4 favorites]

Funny this should come up this morning. I'm reading AskMefi because I'm procrastinating on my own writing project. FWIW, I write every morning for about an hour or two, and every day starts with me thinking, "I really don't want to write today. Maybe I'll sleep in, play video games, anything other than write." What helps for me is to have a specific routine: get up, check e-mail and friends' blogs, read news, look at MeFi for a while. By then, my brain is awake enough to start mulling over what comes next on my current project and to start feeling guilty about procrastinating any longer. Then I usually make a deal with myself: "I only need to write five pages today," "I only need to get through the next scene," "I just need to figure out the next plot point." With that goal in mind, the stakes are lowered for getting started ("I don't need to write Citizen Kane today, I just need to meet my goal") and I almost always end up exceeding my writing goal for the day.

Personally, I don't think writing is like learning to like raw fish or enjoy soccer. Once you understand what's to like about those things, they have their own consistent rewards and the activity of enjoying them is fairly low impact / low effort. Writing is always going to be work on some level, full of self-doubt, and brain taxing as well. The only times I've had success at writing is when I had a specific ritual like the one above and stuck to it mercilessly.

One last thought: if being overly self-critical is an issue for you like it is for me, it helps to work in clear stages. The first for me is always just to get words on paper. I don't allow myself to edit at all during the first draft, I just write as fast as I can and ignore my internal "you suck at this" editor. I can agonize over each word in the second and third and fourth passes.
posted by ga$money at 6:37 AM on June 28, 2010

"Yes, I love the RESULTS of what comes from writing, but as for the actual process itself, I find it very difficult and unenjoyable."

I have long thought that more would-be writers should spend some time as beat reporters and doing other sorts of journalistic scut work (work that, sadly, seems to be disappearing as the media changes). When you've spent six hours as the world's most boring meeting and you've got to come up with 10 inches on it within the next half-hour, and then some soul-killing editor destroys your story, you learn a few things about writing -- first, that sometimes you've just got to put words on paper regardless of whether you feel the muse or not; second, that if you're emotionally attached to your writing, you are going to literally die from this business; third, most writing is terrifically ephemeral so if it isn't great, don't worry, it'll be mostly-gone before long (24 hours for newspapers); and fourth, writing is an art, but it is also a craft, and anyone of normal intelligence can learn to write reasonably well and crank out copious quantities of readable writing in a short time frame when they understand writing as a craft and a tool of communication.

In fact, I think one of the biggest BARRIERS to may people writing is the idea that writing is an art, and that there's a muse, and that art HAPPENS. Sometimes it does, but if you sit there waiting for it I don't think you'll get far.

I think writing journals and things are meant to promote some of the same things -- just putting words on paper, getting lots of practice, etc. But somehow that doesn't have the same boot camp quality of writing on deadline about incredibly boring shit day after day after day when you're the low man on the beat-reporting totem pole and then having your writing routinely savaged by editors and then put out to a reading population in the thousands, some of whom are insane and are going to call you to complain about something bizarre.

If you can think of a way to replicate this, I think you'll get past your process problem. Or maybe just if you can try to think of writing as a craft and a tool. You're telling people things. Just tell them. Or does the process of talking to people make you sit, staring blankly at someone, unable to come up with words? (Well, from time to time, I suppose most of us experience that. But you're just COMMUNICATING. Don't overthink it!)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:42 AM on June 28, 2010 [4 favorites]

Stick with it, and don't feel guilty about the fact that you hate it. In fact, try to "get into" hating it if you can -- you know how sometimes you just "love to hate" something? The first step is hatred, second step is loving to hate, and the third step is love, albeit justified to yourself as "ironic love". But ironic love is still love on the inside. But for any of this to work out, you gotta stick with the thing you hate!

Basic example: All of the people I know from high school who work out these days (years later) are the ones who despised it in high school (we had a rather intense PE curriculum) and swore they'd never do it again. Same here. In fact, I often still claim I hate running, but I do it on a regular basis.

Not everyone subscribes to the pseudo-Yoda-gone-wrong "hatred leads to ironic love" mantra... but hey, do or do not, it's up to you.
posted by mokudekiru at 6:47 AM on June 28, 2010

Writing is WORK. (Heck, I'm a songwriter, and it's work. But I do love the results.)

You don't have to LOVE everything you do while you are doing it.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 7:24 AM on June 28, 2010

Yes, I love the RESULTS of what comes from writing, but as for the actual process itself, I find it very difficult and unenjoyable.

This is not an uncommon feeling when creating anything. I've heard many writers say they write not because they like it, but because they can't not write. They are compelled to write, but do not enjoy the writing process so much.

Yeah, this. Even writers I know who generally enjoy writing sometimes find it excruciating. On the whole, I love it--but there are days when it's boring, or even painful.

But then there are days when you write and write and your characters seem to walk right off the page and you read back what you've written and it's not terrible. The thing about writing is, you never get to the good days unless you tolerate the bad. So I keep writing with that in mind.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:29 AM on June 28, 2010

I can't force myself to love anything. I have no ability to control my emotions and my talents and natural proclivities are part of how I am made.

But with enough appreciative inquiry, attention, and exposure, I can appreciate anybody and anything.
posted by cross_impact at 7:46 AM on June 28, 2010

Below are examples of things that I grew to like/love/appreciate, and I did not initially enjoy some of these things. I’m also detailing some of the things that I did and I think they apply to you, too, OP, from your description:

• Exercise (biking looong distances or running) – first, I integrated a social group or person into this regimen. Example: Running is not fun, but running while talking to a buddy can become tolerable. Biking 40 miles is fun, but can become really enjoyable with a friend. The friend or social group may also be competitive so it helps build/improve what you are doing. Also, I integrated challenges into these regimens. For example, the goal is to ride 100 miles, back to back, and a small vacation is part of this goal. Or, running a 5 mile run, with a vacation to a new place built in.

• Goal buddy for any activity – I had a “writing buddy” that I would meet once a week, and I would tap away at my crazy story while my friend wrote a science article. Just having someone there provided support. We set goals (publish or submit whatever you wrote), and that helped us stick to it, too. But I enjoyed aiming towards that goal, being with that friend, which translated into enjoying that activity more.

• Different types of music – a few things really helped me open myself to new types of music and enjoy experiencing and listening to it. First, don’t just passively listen to it but approach it from different angles. So instead of just listening to what sounds like a simple piano piece, try to play it. After pounding away at that piece 20 times, you will hear nuances. You will realize that parts are very challenging or appreciate some phrase of the music. Another way to approach the music is to read about it (whether it be the CD insert, or learning about the life of the musician). For example, Muggorsky (if the spelling is wrong, please ignore, that isn’t the point) had music that integrated stories and descriptions of events…the piece became more powerful. You can search out other things that can give you that perspective/story aspect …NPR’s podcasts on music/musicians….or talk to a friend who loves the topic and knows a lot about it. (My point here is that I just didn't listen to the pieces 20 times and hope that I learned to appreciate it ... I came at the music from different angles)

• (Nthing itesser’s “find articulate, passionate people”) Sure, learning about the civil war could be dry and boring…OR….listen to a friend who loves the topic and talks about and shares all the stuff he read about it. Go to a historic place with him and experience the place through his eyes. The topic becomes alive. (So listen to your friends – what are they into – would they share their perspectives? OR find friends/group/individual who also likes to do the thing that you want to develop a stronger interest in)
posted by Wolfster at 7:57 AM on June 28, 2010

George R.R. Martin, a renowned fantasy author, has said "Some writers enjoy writing, I am told. Not me. I enjoy having written."

So you're not alone in being a good writer that doesn't actually like writing.
posted by 6550 at 8:40 AM on June 28, 2010

I'm working my thinking around to making all unpleasant tasks into rituals. When you perform a ritual you are focused, in the moment, and not at all concerned with "feeling good." It becomes a mechanical action that can be very liberating, since you are no longer seeking entertainment but are committed to a task for its own sake.
posted by Dmenet at 10:13 AM on June 28, 2010

Let me offer a different answer from those above.

I think a program of forced exposure is enough to get you to really like, say, a record, or a style of architecture. Maybe a food. But not writing. Writing, for most people -- even people who are skilled at it, and have been doing it for a long time -- is difficult, unpleasant, tedious work.

You are lucky enough to have two very worthwhile pursuits -- writing and programming -- that you're good at. You like one of them and you don't like the other. I think you should do the one you like.
posted by escabeche at 10:46 AM on June 28, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks heaps for the input guys, lots of great notes. I look forward to the hard part now -- application!

All the best
posted by coldblackice at 11:21 PM on July 28, 2010

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