Jeremy Côté

Liking Without Doing

When I find an activity that I enjoy, I have a tendency to think I should immediately do it. After all, how can I claim to like something if I don’t do it? Even if I have a lot on my plate, I feel like the only way to say I like an activity is to do it.

But that’s not the only possibility. Instead of feeling the need to do everything that looks interesting, it’s worth pausing for a moment and asking yourself what really matters in your life. Does this new activity deserve a place in your life, or is it simply an interest that doesn’t need to be acted upon?

We also find ourselves stuck in the inverse situation. That is, we say we want to do a bunch of things, and never do. However, this other way of thinking can be harmful too. That’s because we end up feeling guilty for not practicing that sport we say is interesting, or writing a book on a topic that we like, or taking up a hobby that we enjoy talking about.

The reality though is that we can only do so many things in our life. After a certain number of activities, the quality of any one of them goes down, and this just degrades our quality of life. Even if we enjoy all of these activities, the mere act of stacking them on top of each other creates a situation where none of them seem appealing.

We don’t need to pursue every interest. That would be ideal, but it’s not realistic. Those who think they can do it will likely burn themselves out from spreading their energy too thinly. If we want to do an activity at a high level, tradeoffs need to be made.

This isn’t fun. Nobody gets excited about doing less. However, we do get excited when we see the fruits of our labour after putting in months of work. This wouldn’t be possible if we tried to do everything. It’s because we choose to stay focused that substantive work gets done.

I’d like to be an amazing runner, a great teacher, a master of words, and a hilarious cartoonist. These all sound like fantastic pursuits. Not only that, but I like each of them. Give me several lifetimes, and I would enjoy doing all of them. However, the fact that we don’t have that time means I have to focus on only a subset of them. Maybe I will eventually get a chance to do them all, but trying to do them all at once is a losing strategy. It ends in frustration when you realize that you can’t do it all.

Be okay with liking something. This doesn’t mean you have to do it forever, or even at all. You can enjoy reading without becoming a writer. You can like learning without becoming a teacher. It’s easy to feel like you should do these things, but there’s value in knowing where and when to spend your energy.