By Leo Babauta
Something I’ve noticed that derails a lot of people’s goals or attempts to form habits is the feeling that it’s pointless to even try.
If it feels like it won’t matter if you do anything … why would you try? And so when people feel this, they will usually give up, understandably.
But if we want to break through this barrier, then the opportunity is to learn how to work with this feeling of pointlessness.
If we can find a way to feel empowered when things feel pointless, a whole new range of possibilities opens up for us — including the possibility of moving through the most difficult parts of a project or habit change.
What would it be like if you worked with your desire to give up when things felt hard and pointless?
Let’s look at how to recognize the feeling of pointlessness, and then how you might work with it to create something new.
How to Recognize the Feeling of Pointlessness
It can be difficult to recognize this stumbling block, so let’s look at some common ways it might look:
- You missed a few days of a new habit (workout, meditation, journaling, etc.) and you feel discouraged and want to give it up. The reason is the feeling of pointlessness: “Argh, I’ll never get this, I suck, I can’t do it.”
- You think no one is going to care — you want to write a book or blog, for example, but you have the feeling that you’re writing it and no one will read it. That feels pointless, so you might not even try.
- You want to sign up for something that could change your life — a new course, coaching, my Fearless Mastery mastermind group, for example — but you think that you won’t actually pour yourself into it and so you won’t get value out of it. “What’s the point, if I’m not even going to show up for it?”
- You feel overwhelmed by the huge pile of tasks / clutter / email in front of you, and feel like you can’t tackle all of it, so you don’t even start. It feels like too much, like something you can’t handle, so it feels pointless to even try.
- Every time you give your best effort, things return back to where they were. It feels Sisyphean. So you just give up.
- You keep having the same conversation with someone, and it’s not getting you anywhere. It’s frustrating, because you’re going around in circles. Pointless to even try with this person, so best to exit (fire them, quit, break up, ghost them)!
- You were giving your best effort and then got derailed by something out of your control — injury, sickness, someone else’s mistake or crisis, world events, etc. Why even try?
- You feel lost in the unknown. Best to stick to what you know!
- You’re so far behind with bills that it feels impossible to catch up. So ignore them!
You can see that this applies to everything in our lives — wanting to meditate, date, declutter, exercise, get out of debt, create something meaningful, build an amazing team.
This feeling of pointlessness stops us on all fronts. Time to take it on!
How to Work with the Struggle
There is nothing wrong with the feeling of pointlessness — it’s such a human feeling. The difficulty comes when we believe it, and make it mean something.
So my encouragement is to make it mean nothing other than this is just how it feels right now. That’s meaningful to the extent that we can always care about how we feel — I feel sad, lonely, uplifted, curious, playful, angry, crestfallen. They matter, but they’re not the entire world.
Feel the feeling. Give it some compassion. Breathe.
Then find a way to feel more empowered:
- Missing one or two days is just an expected part of the process of learning and growth.
- Messiness is a part of life, something beautiful to love and embrace.
- If no one read a single word of my writing, would there still be something powerful for me in the writing process?
- If I keep ending up in the same place, is there something for me to look at here, something I could learn from it? Would that make these repeated attempts valuable to me, if I learned something?
- If I keep failing to finish a course or program … is there an opportunity to shift something that would be powerful for me? What would it be like if I changed this pattern forever?
- Could I let myself be curious when I’m lost in the unknown?
- If I’m far behind, could I focus just on the next step?
- If I have a mountain of tasks, could I love the activity of climbing the mountain? Could I find joy in each step?
What would it be like to find meaning in the place that feels pointless?