August 25, 2019

Doing What You Don’t Want to Do

I’ve done many things I didn’t want to do.

  • •Worked late when I wanted to be home reading a book.
  • •Went to a social event when I wanted to be home reading a book.
  • •Went on a date with a guy who didn’t interest me. (He looked like the Man from Glad with dark hair.)
  • •Accepted a pervert boss puting his hand on my knee. (He was later fired because it turned out he also liked to comment on – and touch – women’s breasts among other things.)
  • •Did yet another favour for an ungrateful person.

You get my drift.

Last weekend, I gave myself sixty seconds to come up with reasons why I’ve done things I didn’t want to do. Here’s what I came up with.

  • •be liked
  • •be accepted
  • •keep something I had
  • •get something I didn’t have
  • •be agreeable
  • •avoid conflict
  • •avoid hurting someone’s feelings
  • •be helpful
  • •get ahead
  • •feel secure
  • •be seen as conscientious and dependable
  • •earn a pay cheque

I’m sure there are many more reasons, but sixty seconds isn’t a lot of time. What became glaringly obvious is that my list was a compilation of end results that I desired. Let’s look at a fictional example of how this wanting a certain end result plays out.

Imagine your partner wants you to go on a six-week hike of the Camino de Santiago. You’d rather have a root canal or at most, watch The Way while sipping wine. But you say yes.


Because you start imagining negative consequences. Maybe your partner will:

  • •go without you
  • •meet someone on the pilgrimage and fall in love
  • •say that you have nothing in common and question your relationship
  • •leave you
  • •etc.

What’s the end result you desire? Could be any number of things, but I’m going to suggest the (imagined) security of a relationship.

So off you go to the Camino de Santiago. You even rationalize your decision – I’ll enjoy the scenery, I’ll meet new people, I’ll get fit, I’ll find myself – when at your deepest level, you know you’ve just sold your soul.

No judgement here. I’ve made a number of soul-selling decisions in my life. But there’s danger in doing too much of what you don’t want. Here are just a few consequences:

  • •physical and mental health issues
  • •resentment
  • •anger
  • •bitterness
  • •irritability
  • •apathy
  • •sadness
  • •and more…

The internet is full of advice on how to do things you don’t want to do: “Ten Ways to Do What You Don’t Want to Do,” “This Is How to Do Things You Don’t Want to Do,” “How to Make Yourself Do It When You Just Don’t Want To.” This is sad.

Sure, there will always be things you’ll have to do that you’d prefer not to, and in those cases, maybe those sorts of articles will help. However, for the most part, you need to get better at NOT doing things you don’t want to.

I need to better apply this principle in my own life so rather than turn to articles and books, I stretched out in the sun (I was on vacation) and thought about it. It was then I had the proverbial light bulb moment.


What if I were to practice doing this? There’s no doubt I’d be giving myself the freedom to do less of what I don’t want and more of what I do. Now THAT’S exciting and empowering.

Let’s revisit that Camino de Santiago pilgrimage and re-examine those conseqeuences I conjured up.

Maybe your partner will:

  • Go without you  – There’s a strong possibility this could happen. Chances are you’ll survive.
  • Meet someone on the pilgrimage and fall in love – If your partner falls in love with someone else in six weeks, then you should have been in counselling long before the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage.
  • Say that you have nothing in common and question your relationship – See #2.
  • Leave you – Again, see #2.

Chances are that by removing your attachment to the end result – the (imagined) security of a relationship – your partner will go on the pilgrimage and life will go on as usual. If not, there were deeper issues anyway.

What I challenge you to do (and I’ll be working on this myself) is to take a hard look at something you’re currently doing or might do in the future that you really don’t want to do. It could be related to your job, relationship, living arrangements, anything at all.

  • What are the consequences you fear? Remember that the majority of our fears never come true.
  • Are there compromises you can make? Camino de Santiago pilgrimage again: Perhaps you could meet your partner at the end of the pilgrimage in Santiago de Compostela and enjoy a week of sightseeing and revelry.
  • What end result are you attached to? Comfort, security, an affluent lifestyle, feeling loved? Drill down. You’ll figure it out.
  • Can you remove your attachment to the end result? Let’s say you’re afraid your partner will leave you and then you’ll have to survive on just your income. The end result you desire is financial security. Can you let go of that attachment? Which is worse: Having more money and being low-grade miserable or having less but feeling happier and better about yourself? This is for you to decide but own your decision. (Keep in mind there are ways to have more money without relying on someone else.)

It’s a fine line between forcing yourself to do things you don’t want to and pushing yourself past your comfort zone. The former is soul-sucking; the latter, soul-expanding. And don’t kid yourself as to which it is. You know the difference.

Remember, most things you do, even the things you don’t want to do, are a choice you make. You live with the consequences, good or bad. Own up to your decisions, though. Don’t make the mistake of complaining, because most of the time, you have the freedom to do what you want. If you give that freedom away, the only one responsible is the one looking back at you in the mirror.