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How to make anything enjoyable - here's how to achieve your New Year Goals

How to make anything enjoyable - here's how to achieve your New Year Goals
By Elizabeth Filips • Issue #37 • View online
If you have New Year Goals you’re planning on working on, here is something that might help. My thought process is as follows: what makes us more likely to do something is either:
1. A fear of a hugely negative consequence for not doing it
2. A great pleasure in the work itself
3. A great pleasure in the result of the work. 
While we can tempt ourselves to work under the threat of punishment or by waiting for intermittent dopamine rewards after we’ve completed a task, neither of these methods are likely to lead to a happy or sustainable state of affairs, and especially not to good lifelong habits. 
So my goal tends to be to make habits as enjoyable as possible, so that I can stick to them longer. 
One of the most fun states of being for me is flow: the feeling of being utterly absorbed in my task, unconscious almost, unaware of time and space. A state so amazing, I don’t even realise I’m in it until it’s over. 
The more I can reach this point in my work, the more I enjoy the work. The more I want to do it again, the stronger the habit. 
So, I wanted to share the 9 elements that make things enjoyable (or define flow). Resource: study by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi PhD
You might be able to either adjust a few of them in the habits you want to form, or optimise for activities that create some of these conditions naturally. The point is, the more an activity is characterised by these elements, the more enjoyable it will be. 
The 9 elements that make things enjoyable:
  1. Having clear goals along the way 
  2. Having immediate feedback to our actions 
  3. Having a balance between challenge and skills (so that are are focused, neither bored nor anxious
  4. Our action and awareness merge (so we concentrate on what we are doing
  5. Distractions are excluded from our focus
  6. There is no fear of failure
  7. Self consciousness disappears 
  8. We forget time is passing 
  9. The activity becomes autotelic - we are enjoying it for the experience itself 
I find the easiest ones to change are:
  1. I try to set clear outcome goals and know what the next steps are for me in many of the tasks I do, or ask others to set these out for me 
  2. I constantly try to make the things I do either much more challenging (if I’m procrastinating because I find them boring), or break them down into easier steps (if I’m avoiding them because I’m anxious I’ll fail)
  3. I do quite a bit of self-esteem CBT to try to minimise my negative self-talk and self-consciousness (this helps in SO many other ways in life too!) 
The others I find much more challenging to change! Those are the ones that at present, I just wait to see if they come up by themselves, and that’s how I know I’ve stumbled upon a task that is right for me! 
Hoping this helps your New Year Resolutions and wishing you an absolutely incredible one! 
Elizabeth xx 

🪄 Quote of the week
When a writer explains the failures of his characters, in a way, he forgives himself too.
— Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi PhD with Readwise
🖤 My Favourite Things This Week
Books: I’ve read quite a bit this week, here are the summaries of some of the books if you’re interested.
🌍 A New Earth: Create a Better Life: A must-read! It’s an antidote to modern life and its miseries. It’s what “the Courage to be Disliked” tries to be, but written better, less extreme, and more considerate of the realities of navigating the world. I absolutely loved it. Here’s the full summary.
❤️ Attached: How Science Can Help You Find and Keep Love: Another must-read! I would absolutely recommend this book to anyone and their potential/current partners as a framework for approaching your conversations and behaviours. If you’ve ever been in a relationship and have any sort of confusion over what happened - please read this. Here’s the full summary.
My Painting: I finally finished my painting! And therefore the first season of my podcast. The joy of finishing the work lasted about 3 minutes before I was overcome by a huge anxiety of what to paint next, which is still the state I’m currently in. Seriously, it’s all about the journey, the destination doesn’t even last that long. She’s currently drying, and I’m very impatiently waiting for some good lighting tomorrow to be able to photograph it!
The semi-finished painting
The semi-finished painting
🎙 Podcast this week:
How to be good at anything, the Theory of Flow
How to be good at anything, the Theory of Flow
Did you enjoy this issue?
Elizabeth Filips

Heya, I'm Elizabeth, a medical student and painter in London. Some Sundays I write about exploring meaning, productivity, little pleasures and just navigating life. And some of my favourite things that week.

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