Find purpose in even the most boring activities by keeping your goals in mind

  • You’re more likely to see value in something and enjoy it if you can find a way it will help you
  • Examining what you learned from your high and low moments can help you in the future
Dannie Aildasani |

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Life is a series of peaks and valleys - once you find out what you learned from them, you can apply those lessons to your future experiences.

You’re sitting in class, listening to the teacher drone on and on about your least favourite subject. You don’t really understand what they’re saying, and you can’t wait for the lesson to be over, but the clock is ticking so slowly that you’re sure it’s going backwards. You’ve never had any interest in this subject; you’re just taking it because your school forces you to.

But don’t worry: your next class is your favourite one! It has the coolest teacher who always assigns super fun and creative assignments. It’s a subject you’ve always been passionate about, and you hope to study it further in university.

Does this mean the dull class is totally useless? Not at all! Even if something is boring or uninteresting, you can still take away something important from it – it just takes a little bit of work.

How to look at the positive side of life

You’re more likely to find value in something and enjoy it if you can find purpose in it. While it may seem like there’s no purpose to a boring lesson, think about all the skills it can teach you. Maybe your vocabulary has improved, because of the difficult words the teacher uses that you have had to look up, or your notes have become much nicer looking because you’re taking a lot of time to write them down. And hey, it’s good that your handwriting has improved, because you want to be a doctor one day, and it’s important for people to be able to read what you write, so you did learn something useful after all.

When it comes to finding purpose in dull or frustrating activities, it can help to first identify your strengths, talents, and what’s most important to you. This will allow you to examine the situation and try to find ways it can be helpful for you.

What to do when you’re feeling burned out

To get you started, try this activity created by Dr Alex Pattakos and Elaine Dundon in their book, Prisoners of Our Own Thoughts (which you can also find in Chinese): take a pen and paper and draw a mountain range. This represents your life. It has the peaks – which represent the positives – and the valleys, which are the lows. What events and people in your life have influenced you the most? Write these on the peaks. What has made you feel the most hurt, upset or disrespected? Write these in the valleys.

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Now, see if you can find patterns in the names or events on the mountain peaks. Are there any themes or recurring values? How did you learn from and incorporate these ideas into your life? Then do the same for the valleys and ask yourself, what did you gain from these experiences or people? Even the most difficult experience can teach you something.

When you’re in a situation you don’t enjoy – such as a boring class – look back to the exercise with your peaks and valleys. Think about which values or goals are most important to you, and try to find ways that your current situation can help you achieve those goals. Examining your highs and lows, and seeing what you learned from them, can help you when you face similar conflicts in the future.

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