Creatures of Habit

Effective advice for lasting habit change

Just Because You’re Good At Something Doesn’t Mean that You Enjoy Doing It (or That You Should Do It!)

Should you do things simply because you're good at them?

There are things that I'm good at (lecturing, pushing paper, talking about Doctor Who, cleaning bathrooms), and things that I'm not good at (drawing, playing the piano, speaking French, ballroom dancing).

There is another way to categorize, and this other way is often confused with the "good at/bad at" method, but it is importantly different: There are things that I like to do and things that I do not like to do.

There are many things that I like to do (lecturing, talking about Doctor Who, playing the piano, speaking French). Thankfully, I'm fairly decent at enough of them to keep me happy. There are, of course, many things that I'm not great at that I like to do. That's too bad, but that's life.

Also, there are things that I don't like to do (pushing paper, cleaning bathrooms, drawing, ballroom dancing). Some of them are things that I'm not that great at anyways. And one suspects that one doesn't like to do them because one isn't so hot at them.

And then there is that strange category: things that I don't like to do but that I'm good at.

Why I would I do such things? Sometimes it's because I have to. Paper needs to be pushed and bathrooms don't clean themselves. There is another reason, though, and it can cause problems.

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When you're good at something that you don't enjoy doing, chances are other folks don't enjoy doing it either. But they see that you're good at it. They praise you for being so gosh-durn excellent at it, and you do it some more. And some more... Pretty soon you're doing it a lot.

Yuck.

Whether or not you continue to do that icky thing more often than others is up to you. But, remember, you're making the choice to do it for certain reasons. And enjoyment isn't one of the reasons. Trust me, others might start to infer your enjoyment from your display of amazing skills. Just because you are good at doing something, doesn't mean that you enjoy doing it. And it certainly doesn't mean that you should continue doing it!

Maybe remind your admirers of this fact from time to time. You're doing your bit of bathroom cleaning. The fact that you're awesome at it is a bonus for all concerned. Nothing more.

For more from yours truly, visit me at My Bad Habits. I am also on Twitter.

Ian Newby-Clark is a psychologist at the University of Guelph who gives research-based advice for lasting habit change.

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