Can you work hard at something you don’t really want?

It is only natural to have lofty goals, it is only fair that there will be barriers, and it is only you that can overcome the challenges and only you that can taste the sweetness of your success.

Unfortunately, life is not that simple and challenges are called challenges because they’re, well, challenging. I had always wondered why working hard and long sometimes didn’t result in the success I had anticipated. All my life I have blamed my lack of motivation or determination for my failures because it is obvious that hard work always brings success and that success is attained through perseverance—or so I thought.

For me, my biggest opponent was always present. She was the person who instilled the high standards I’ve always held myself accountable for and the same person who forced me to work hard and long to achieve those standards. She was my greatest motivator but also my greatest enemy. She was always there to pick me back up after I’ve fallen down, but also the one who pushed me in the first place. She was the one to wipe my tears, the one to make me cry, and the one who stared back at me in the mirror.

I was my biggest obstacle.

Let me explain: I worked hard for my aspirations. I worked hard, and I worked long. My hard work paid off most of the time, but sometimes, it didn’t. I was always the child who was quick to blame my abilities for my failures. If I did not do well on a test, it was because I was bad at that subject. If I was not accepted into an organization, I just wasn’t good enough. If I fell down, I should give up altogether. This mindset ultimately would elongate my list of rejections one by one, with failures both big and small. I would shrug, accept the fact that I was not destined for whatever it was I wanted so desperately and worked so hard for just moments ago, and move on pursuing some random unknown.

Fortunately, with the help of friends, family, and a string of inspirational teachers (and a lot of sad music and reality TV), I somehow learned from the mistakes of myself and others and woke from my trance to finally accept and reject my past. Finally, I threw away my childhood method in a moment that could only be described as a sensational release—a release of a life so obviously lined with faults, the faults I tried so hard to ignore before.

Over the years, what I’ve discovered through comparing personal successes and failures is that motivation isn’t what is missing but rather the right type of motivation. I had been brainwashed by society that hard work leads to success. What many people fail to acknowledge though, is that working “hard” and for a long time is not the right way to go. As cheesy as it sounds, hard work only works if you truly believe in yourself. This idea is not in any way new or my own; it has been repeated probably millions of time before me and will be repeated millions of billions of times in years to come. Time after time, I hear this theory and I scoff. It truly isn’t until you experience it can you really appreciate the validity of it.

Self-motivation is the best kind of motivation, and it was what I had been missing.

Here is how I see it: hard work alone is never enough to achieve a goal because working tirelessly at something you don’t actually want or think is attainable is a complete waste of time. While there are instances in which people get lucky and achieve the dreams they thought were personally impossible, it is usually illogical to dedicate as much energy as you can doing something you have no hope in or don’t really want. This is where the self-motivation and desire parts step in.

After evaluation of personal experiences, I have tried to answer the question “Can you work hard at something you really want?” through two different scenarios:

  1. Mental barriers: If you don’t think something is possible, you will be less motivated to work hard for it. In this case, the time that you spend will be extra boring and the more impossible you make your goal out to be, the less likely you will be able to achieve it. The hard work that you put into trying to achieve your dream will likely be overshadowed by self doubt and ultimately decrease productivity.
  2. Lack of desire: Do you really want it? It is hard to establish if your goal is something you really want for yourself or if it is something society is forcing you to want or it’s someone else’s dream. Determining if you really want something can save you a lot of time and energy because if you don’t really want something, it will make it so much harder to work hard for.

While it is hard to achieve goals in the scenarios I outlined above, there are possible solutions!

  1. It is very difficult to overcome a mental barrier and there is no formula for believing yourself, but if you really want something, you can figure out a way to overcome it. Some ways to counter self-doubt is to look at other people’s success stories or to inspire yourself by tracking progress. These strategies help to relieve the gap between your goal and what you think is possible.
  2. Personally, I often realize that I am not effectively working even though I am working long and hard. Usually, it is because I come to the realization that I don’t actually want what it is I think I want. A quick fix to this is to make it something you want. It sounds impossible, I know, but it actually works in practice. Oftentimes, I lose motivation when I am working for something I don’t want because it helps me get something I do want. In this case, it is vital that I remind myself of the ultimate goal and that this small goal can lead to my general success. If this is not the case, rewards can be put in place as a motivator. For example, while you don’t necessarily desire the benefits of obtaining your current goal, you can plan to reward yourself with something you do want (e.g. splurging on an expensive purse, going out, treating yourself, etc.) when you accomplish what you need to accomplish.

These are the key points that I’ve taken from my experience with success and failure. Just like my sister in the picture below shows, you should conquer your biggest enemy and overcome challenges by taking the first step. 🙂


Picture I accidentally took of my sister about to conquer great challenges (aka some stairs).


3 thoughts on “Can you work hard at something you don’t really want?

  1. The part you said about you being your biggest obstacle is something I completely empathize with. I’ve always had a similar mindset, and I’ve been good enough at the things that mattered to me that it didn’t impact me that much.

    I really like your advice about overcoming mental barriers and not really wanting something. I’m strongly in favor of the reward-yourself-to-motivate-yourself method– it works for me, and I get something out of it ;D

    Liked by 1 person

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