Can Monotony Ever Be a Good Thing?

Raise your hand if you have ever gotten good at something and dropped it because it got boring?

I know not everyone suffers from this but I know quite a few who do. I know I tend to get “just good enough” at certain things, and then I drop them. Possibly never to pick them up again.

Why?

I’m sure the reasons abound, but the main one is that I get bored.

At least I think that is what the answer is.

This question came up for me when I think of my work. Actually when I think of anyone’s work.

You can always improve but eventually you get to a point where it is really hard to make any further gains. You have a fairly close to flawless performance. People that do your exact same job come to you for training and advice. There are probably only a few people in the world better at what you do than you.

What then is my question?

For me, it doesn’t matter how much “flow” you get when you are doing your job. It still feels like the exact same thing day in and day out. The same problems and issues come up and you handle them almost effortlessly.

Don’t get me wrong here. I’m not trying to toot my own horn or anything here. I’m honestly asking if you think that type of monotony is a good thing?

Maybe I am using the wrong word. Maybe that has too much of a bad connotation, but what do you think?

Can monotony be a good thing?

I know the simple answer is “yes, of course”. But it’s all the other questions that come up that bother me like…

Isn’t it true that if you are not moving forward you are moving backward when it comes to your work?

Won’t you get lured into a false sense of security?

Should you seek out the few people in the world that are better than you at your line of work so you can improve your skills?

Or at least be motivated to go the extra mile?

I hope I am not alone here. I hope some of you can pick up on what I am trying to say. I hope maybe you have found some of the answers I am looking for.

Ultimately, I guess maybe I am truly looking for contentment. A sense that just because I have reached a high level of proficiency it doesn’t mean I have to move onto the next thing.

That I can be content to be good at what I do. That I should capitalize on my current skills rather than always challenge myself with brand new skills to learn.

My question to you is…

Are you with me or am I the only one out here that thinks and acts this way?

Comments

  1. I visited a factory once where there were lots of people on minimum wage doing extremely repetitive menial tasks hundreds or probably thousands of times a day. The thing that really struck me was that I saw more smiles there than if I’d walked through any city office with the same number of people. I guess some people are cut out for it, I’m not though!

    Julian’s last blog post..9 Tips To Create An Extra Hour In Your Day

  2. Jeremy

    As usual .. it depends!!!!

    I have one 4 day workshop I’ve been running around 8 times a year for the last 15 years or so. It’s a pretty challenging workshop and it changes a little every year … but even so I’ve mastered it to the extent that I know it inside out. About 4 years ago I realised that I was running it on auto-pilot and was really getting bored with the monotony – sometimes running the same workshop 3 times in as many weeks. There is a real comfort in that … and because I don’t need to worry about the content there’s a chance to focus on other things that are going on. I could just settle into it, I guess, but that’s not really me.

  3. I’m like you, Jeremy, in that I like to start things, and can get good quite fast (similarly, not bragging, just stating a personal opinion) then I get bored.

    It’s like beautifying a room with lots of plants then getting tired of watering them and they all eventually die out. We are ‘starters’ not ‘maintenance’ people, as I see it. And the world needs all types, so there’s nothing wrong with this as long as we can find good people to carry on once we start, people who don’t like starting but love routine and sameness.

    Interesting, Frank Brown, Dean of INSEAD, said in an interview that he thinks people should move on every 5 years. This creates constant stimulus for the person to keep growing and leaves room for others to take their place. He said this was good for both organisations and individuals. I’m still digesting what he said.

    So should you look for contentment or keep moving? Ultimately a question only you can answer. Just take comfort in the fact that you’re not alone. There is at least one person out there going through the same thing. 🙂

    Daphne’s last blog post..Book Review: The World Without Us

  4. Hi Jeremy – I think this is a very natural reaction to have. The truth is, we think that what we want is comfort, but that often isn’t as pleasant as we think it’s going to be. Like you said – we get bored. I think monotony is good though because it makes you want to seek change and new challenges. Ultimately, I don’t think there are many who really are content with monotony.

    Amanda Linehan’s last blog post..How To Be Flexible

  5. If you assume monotony and boredom are one and same, I say no. “Variety is the spice of life.” For me, I love variety. This is certainly interesting to think about!

    Happiness Is Better’s last blog post..Are Real Estate Guru’s Worth the Money?

  6. Hi Jeremy. I think monotony gets to be a problem when we get so good at what we’re doing, we take ourselves for granted. We gloss over our accomplishments and don’t give ourselves enough credit. I do this all the time!

    Davina’s last blog post..Benefits Of Turning Off Comments

  7. Hi All,You know I have been reading all the comments and I feel a bit relieved. Not that I expected I was the only one out there, but that I expected at least one person to say that the monotony I described was good. The way I see it is that it is a good thing to be good at what you do, even if it comes easy to you. What I have found is that people often prefer the hard way. They would rather learn something new than stick with what they are good at. For instance, the math genius that could easily get a well paying, analytical, and probably satisfying job anywhere, who instead chooses to be a music teacher. The curse of being good at something you don’t enjoy a whole lot.So your comments have all helped me. Especially Amanda’s. We really don’t want comfort do we? We want a challenge and the satisfaction that comes from it. Yet comfort is something we strive so hard for. Maybe its the striving we truly desire more? ;-)hmmmm….Cheers,Jeremy

  8. Catching up here late, but I certainly agree here Jeremy. Monotomy is valuable for demonstrating consistency and often other areas of leadership and management. It can inspire others and open new opportunities for you and new perspectives (like Ian mentioned in his training). If you let if make you stale without close scrutiny for new value however, then it can’t be useful since it would then fit into my category of “wasting life”.

    Mike King’s last blog post..Avoiding Some Dangers of Goal Setting

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