The Self-Improvement Chronicles: Hate as a Motivator

Everybody should do at least two things each day that he hates to do, just for practice. — William James

The Jolly Librarian just finished reading a biography of William James and found him quite inspirational in his outlook on life. One of his ideas is that action can cause emotion, although we spend much of our time not doing things because of the way we feel. James said, “I don’t sing because I’m happy. I’m happy because I sing.” It makes a lot of sense. For those of you who would like to read a bit more of William James, click here.

So, according to James’s philosophy, the actual doing of a hated task would improve our view of it. Of course, James never worked with the Self Improvers.  Here are our reports

Colette: It is important for me to note that I don’t hate doing very many things…it was a challenge just to find two things each day without meeting with my financial advisor, getting a pap smear, listening to One Direction and going to the Green Hills Mall every day last week. It was even harder trying to keep track, so I’m simply including a list of some of the less than desirable things I did. I woke up to the sound of my alarm (I’ve never been able to relate to a snooze alarm enthusiast – why put yourself through that 2-3 times every morning?) I picked up dog poop after it rained. I read most of the technical manual for my new phone before I lapsed into a coma. I took my dog to the dog park. He came home happy; I came home muddy.  I swept the garage.  I watched a misguided political YouTube (forwarded to me by my mother) and I folded several loads of laundry.

Emily: I’m not a person of extremes – there aren’t many things that truly get me excited  or that I really hate. MFJ’s likely rolling her eyes right now, as I’m definitely the Daria (or, Eeyore, if you prefer) of the library. However,  I like to look at my negativity as an ability to critically assess any situation; cynical idealism, I like to call it not ‘”hatin”. But, I digress, back to hating things. I truly did have a hard time thinking of things I hate (aside from sending in these reports  j/k…).

Vacuuming has always been one of my least favorite chores, but as I was vacuuming the other day I wouldn’t say I hated it. There’s a certain satisfaction in seeing how full I can get the canister. And, even if I do hate vacuuming, do I really need to practice it? I already vacuum on a regular basis. This tasks assumes that I hate doing things that are good for me and I, therefore, need to get in the habit of doing: brushing my teeth, wearing shoes to work, eating my greens.  Or that I just hate doing nice things in general: helping little old ladies cross the street, holding doors open, saying “Please.” I hate none of these things. The things I do hate don’t require practice: traffic jams, extreme temperatures, the lack of consistency in beverage container sizes across restaurant chains (have you seen the medium at Wendy’s? Come on! I want to hold my drink with one hand). I suppose there are the things I hate that I love (you know the whole “If loving you is wrong, I don’t want to be right things”): caffeine, baked goods, television. And I excelled at loving to hate all those things this week, so I get an ‘A’, right?

Jolly Librarian: Unlike my colleagues, I have a whole list of things that I really don’t like doing: ironing, vacuuming, cleaning the kitchen, getting up on time, lifting weights, talking on the phone, listening to complaints (especially when they’re about me), etc. So it wasn’t too hard to come up with two things each day. And James was right. Today, I reluctantly shut off my alarm and went down to breakfast at a reasonable hour. I discovered that within ten minutes, my horrible mood at being awake and out of bed softened into mere discontent, and a few minutes after that, I was fine. I also had time to go out for a walk and make lunch. Now I need to work on another one of James’s principles: When trying to make a new habit, don’t allow for any exceptions. Because I know, despite my victory today, that snooze button will be all seductive and enticing again tomorrow morning.

Pam: I started out with a bang. Easily identifying things I hate (well, sort of), I went right to exercising. Leg crunches! Squats…anything to do with strengthening my legs is usually dreadful, so that has been my main emphasis. Other activities included doing dishes, walking when I’d rather sit (the highlight of my day as I picked a pretty bouquet of wild flowers), and making myself work on business things on the computer on my happy Sunday home with the cats. As for this week…making myself get up and go to work every morning AND making myself get back up to take meds. There!


Our grades for the week:

Colette:    A

Emily:      A (Mostly for her comment earlier today: “People really view negativity negatively.”)

Pam:  B (for turning her assignment in late)

Jolly Librarian: C (for my lack of confidence in tomorrow)



1 thought on “The Self-Improvement Chronicles: Hate as a Motivator

  1. Two things to do a day I dont like. There are many things I do a day I dislike but am forced to conform to because of the life I was born into(drama queen). But the snooze button is quit hilorious.I know it is a bad idea to use it. And even from reading articles about it, how it actually makes you more tired then rested. I still use it thinking I am tricking myself into more sleep. But the two tasks I have been trying to work on for two years is waking up early, working 1st shift even if I dont have to and trying to be clutter free. Something I continue to force my self to work on. And with my consistency I am surely getting better at those two things. 🙂

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