In school, there were some subjects which I totally hated. And, when I had to study those subjects, I tried to do it as superficially as possible. Let’s take the example of Physics. Before exams, I would read through the chapters and have an idea of what the sums were about: tossing a ball into the sky, an object being pushed up an inclined plane, possibly something about an electromagnetic field where my thumb should tell me the right direction and what-not. Of course, before every exam it was the same thing. I was more or less prepared but I always had this uneasy feeling. Sure, I roughly knew all the theories and sums which may appear in the exam, but applying a concept on my own during the exam for the first time was a remote possibility.
Let’s move to Chemistry, a subject I was really fond of. Crystals being formed, solutions changing colors and diamond-shaped structures. These things all made sense to me and I knew the basic concepts perfectly. In exams, I didn’t need to rely on any superficial knowledge, I knew I would be able to apply concepts on my own. However, it’s not that I read the Chemistry books and concepts just popped into my head. Of course, not. It took time and effort, and for some reason, I didn’t have a mental block when it came to the studying the subject. Though it took time, I enjoyed Chemistry.
So, why not apply the same thought to Physics? Because, sometime we have preconceived notions due to a variety of external and internal reasons. For some reason, I had just assumed that Physics was tough and Chemistry was easy. I’m sure this decision was reached through some childhood incident which had no depth associated with it. However, one day I thought about this. Why didn’t I just apply my brains when it came to Physics? There was no reason to just dislike the subject.
And, while trying, I learnt that it’s very difficult to hate something when you’re trying to understand it. However, mundane something may be, the moment you try to do it well and start using your brains, it just stops being boring. It’s sort of like exercise. You can do 20 push-ups incorrectly (you’ll know it’s incorrect when it doesn’t hurt), and the entire thing would be a waste of time. But, you may do 5 correctly, and then you’ll know it paid off. The moment you engage with something, it’s just not boring anymore. Most of the times, the things we think are boring are just concepts. Like “a lecture” is a boring concept. But, what about an interesting lecture? The moment you try to sit through a lecture for the heck of it, of course it’s boring. But, the moment you put your mind to it, it ceases to be boring.
Of course, you can’t like everything. But often times, when we need to do things which seem boring to us, we can make the experience better by just getting absorbed in the process. When, I hear people complaining about how boring work is, or even when I complain, I force myself to think in the same way as I used to when I was in school. Am I putting in effort to complete the task? Or, am I just trying to somehow get it done with. More often than not, I’ll realize that when I’m trying to do something superficially, it’ll not only take me more effort but it’ll make me downright miserable. The moment I put my mind to it, and try to figure it out, time just passes and before I know it, I’ll realize work had absorbed me completely.
We tend to think that if someone is innovating in a lab, it’s super-exciting. But, if we’re sitting in an office cubicle and going though an excel, it’s super-boring. Once, again, it’s the play of concepts here. A lab just sounds way more innovative and exciting as compared to an office cubicle. But, at the end of the day, you can be completely absorbed in your excel, or you can be superficially doing something in the lab. Its not really about the “what” or “where”, but more about the “how”.
However, time and again I do still take shortcuts. I frequently take the lazy way out and then realize it is not working. And, then finally I do something the right way. I think the human brain is instinctively lazy and wants to conserve energy. But, I also think that if I make myself take the harder, yet more fulfilling way over and over again, and try to absorb myself in whatever I do, it’ll soon become a habit. Whatever worked when we were young, should work now as well and vice versa.