What To Do When Nothing Is Interesting

Posted by in Career Success | 29 comments

One of the issues I hear often from clients is that nothing really interests them.

They’ve tried a number of things and have some life experience but they still haven’t found what they’re looking for in their work.

in the morning, while he waits for the coffee to be served pedro veneroso via Compfight

We can go through all the personality assessments, exercises, readings, and coaching but they still can’t seem to wrap their hands around their passion.

In my experience this has to do with something that goes deep for them.

I believe we were all created to have desires and interests unique to us.

So somewhere in their life they learned to keep those desires and interests hidden.

They developed an ability to keep their desires hidden away for safekeeping for a better time.

It may be they had an overly critical parent who squashed any expressed enthusiasm.

Or perhaps they witnessed someone in their life pursue their dreams and passions only to fail in their pursuit.

Many times it was just a subtle unspoken message in the family and culture they grew up in that said they were only allowed to do practical things to bring in income rather than chase “foolish” dreams.

Whatever the reason, they learned to let the air out of the tires of their passion before someone else did.

It is a defense mechanism and it was needed at the time to deal with their environment.

However, now they’re adults and this defense mechanism is so ingrained they can’t imagine thinking in any other way.

What Now?

The solution to overcoming this obstacle begins with understanding what you have control over and what you don’t.

There are five things you can do to help yourself overcome this obstacle:

1. Identify how you developed this defense mechanism. What were the circumstances in your life that made it unsafe to express your enthusiasm? Was there a particular person who influenced this? A situation or environment that led to covering your desires? Find the root cause.

2. Forgive the person involved. If there was someone who directly influenced your decision to hide your desires you must get to a place of forgiveness with them. Forgiveness doesn’t mean you’ve forgotten or that it doesn’t hurt. However, forgiveness means you don’t want or need anything from that person any longer. You’ve freed them from their obligation to make it right with you. In reality, you’ve freed yourself from the prison of bitterness.

3. Write this down and put it on your wall. “You have permission to find your passion.” We can often feel like we don’t deserve to find our passion. Give yourself permission and remind yourself daily of that permission.

4. Start small. What kind of food do you like? What are your three favorite movies? Begin to identify the little things in your life that you like. Pay attention to the things you recommend to your friends and co-workers. Those are small windows into the emotional cave that houses your passions.

5. Redefine passion. Those who have stuffed their enthusiasm and desire for a long time have difficulty knowing what it feels like. Often they put pressure on themselves to find the one thing that gives them unending bliss and excitement. Understand life doesn’t work that way. Sometimes our passions are exciting but sometimes they exhaust us, bore us, become unpleasant and burdensome. Passion doesn’t fulfill us and we shouldn’t expect it to. Passion gives us fuel to work through the difficult days and tasks involved with sacrificing, serving and doing work that is meaningful to us.

If you find yourself in this situation please know there’s nothing wrong with you.

You adapted to your environment and you were doing everything you could to succeed in that environment.

Yet, now you’re in a different environment and what you did to protect yourself is no longer helping you to have a meaningful and enjoyable life.

You’ve been protecting your passions for so long.

Why don’t you let them come out and play for a bit?

You never know what you might discover.

 

Question:  What else can someone do when nothing seems to interest them?

  • Adam, this resonates really clearly with parts of my life. For a long time I was doing what was “practical” or expected of me with normal society. This was so limiting to me though in all areas of my person. Now pursuing my passion, each day feels like being a kid waiting to get up on christmas morning.

    Thanks for posting!

    • It’s so great Scott that you’re taking the initiative to pursue your passion. Yes, having that focus and clarity certainly creates an excited anticipation just like Christmas morning. Keep pursuing…

  • Dean

    Hi Adam.

    Being a multi-potential, I’ve gone through this for most of my life. Different family members, friends, church people, etc. telling me to specialize in one thing, and do it.

    The problem is that they all had different ideas of what I should do. My grandparents “worshiped” the educational system, and told me that i needed to get a degree, and stop being a dreamer. They hated the “jack-of-all-trades” type of person, and wouldn’t even think of trying several things.
    So, I went on to get 4 doctorates, which I never used. It does look impressive to have all the letters behind my name, but that’s about it.

    The titles really make me look like an expert, but I never had a passion for those fields.

    Friends wanted me to be into whatever they were into, usually to justify their mistakes!

    Church people always talked about finding God’s Will for my life, but when I would come up with something, they said that it couldn’t be from God!

    I do believe that God has a specific purpose for everyone, and that He will let you know what it is, but sometimes we get so wrapped up in people’s traditions that we get confused, and can’t hear Him clearly.

    Sometimes, in order to get through the confusion, we just have to start throwing some things at the wall, and see what sticks!

    I have learned a LOT about what I’m NOT called to do, and keep coming back to the same few things that I have been able to fit into an overarching theme.

    I like what you said about starting small. It is a lot less intimidating to decide what you want to do today, rather than to think about what you want to do for your whole life!

    • Hi Dean,
      Yes, we often have very well intentioned people in our lives try to “help” us find a career direction. The trouble is we’re all biased in some way or another so it’s quite difficult to get an objective opinion.

      85% of the process of finding work you love is looking inward. Know how you are wired and what is meaningful to you. That’s the only place any of us will be able to find work that fits us well and that allows us to serve others in a meaningful way.

      It’s important that you know a lot about what you don’t like. So yes, start small. Pay attention to the little things in your life that you enjoy.

      Unfortunately there’s not a formula but if you work on understanding how you were created that will give you the foundation to find work that is in alignment with you.

  • Start Small – this is great advice, I think often we get overwhelmed when we look at the size of things. I think the quote from the new “Man of Steel” movie is a great example of this – when Clark Kent’s powers started to overwhelm his as a child, he said “The world’s too big” to which his mother replies “Then make it small.”
    Another approach is reflecting back to the last time you really felt like yourself – what were you doing at that very moment?

    • That’s another great way to tap into your passions Jon. I’ll often ask my clients to think of a time in their lives or careers when all cylinders were firing and they felt energized by what they were engaged in. It can be difficult for some to identify those times but the more we look for those times the easier it is to experience them.

  • On point, per usual Mr. Rico. 🙂 I will be sharing this with my friends and social contacts. There is one thing you said that I did not understand, and I was wondering if you may be able to explain it a little further:

    “Passion doesn’t fulfill us and we shouldn’t expect it to. Passion gives us fuel to work through the difficult days and tasks
    involved with sacrificing, serving and doing work that is meaningful to
    us.”

    Particularly this part stuck out to me, “Passion doesn’t fulfill us and we shouldn’t expect it to.” As I am learning what my passions are, I feel like I have experienced fulfillment as I live them. I have definitely experienced my passions as “fuel” to propel me to keep doing them, but I’ve also experienced them as fulfilling. I think they are fuel, BECAUSE I find them fulfilling. Is this wrong?

    • Hey friend. I think he meant that you have to learn to live with passion instead of expecting the passion to be the thing that fulfills us. That’s something I am learning. Not sure if that’s what he meant, but that’s what I believe.

    • Hi Alana,
      If we think finding our passion alone will give us fulfillment in our work we will come up empty. Our work needs to be in alignment with 1) our personality, 2) strengths & talents, and 3) our values, passions, and dreams. Focusing solely on our passion can become a selfish pursuit depending upon how you go about it. It can become my passion, my work, my life – it’s all about me.

      It’s when we channel our passion to the service of others in a selfless way that we find our work to be meaningful and fulfilling.

  • Such great advice.

  • Cher

    Thanks, Adam. This really hit home and gives me yet another perspective on why not to be so hard on myself. I’m my own worst critic!

    • Yes, Cher it’s easy to beat ourselves up. But try to give yourself the grace you would extend to others. It will help you thrive in the long run.

  • Isn’t it funny how kids don’t do this? My son pours a glass of milk and calls himself a chef. He didn’t ask what is required to be a chef, what degree or experience, he just took it. I don’t dampen his enthusiasm – or explain that he isn’t really one. I don’t want him to be realistic. I want him to dream.

    • Yes, I love that about kids. My 5 year old tells me often her career dream is to be a superhero. There’s no doubt in her mind this is a realistic career path for her. I love it!

      • Dev

        Why cant we be free to dream and live

      • Aditya Dot

        It’s a sad state in India
        Where children are drilled into taking up engineering
        From a very young age
        It’s place where dreams are squashed
        I am lucky to have parents who don’t impose anything on me though
        I always wanted to be a footballer
        But looks like I too will be going down the engineering road
        India is a place bred to produce engineers I guess
        Am 17 btw 🙂

        • I’m sorry to hear that you believe India is a place where dreams are squashed. However, I’m encouraged that your parents don’t impose certain careers on you. If you choose engineering as a career path I hope you are able to know that it will be a good fit for your 1) personality 2) strengths, and 3) interests. If not, I recommend choosing something that is in alignment with those three areas if at all possible. I know each country has different career options and I wish you much success as you navigate your career choices.

  • Denise

    Hi everyone.. Going through a life crisis. Divorce, moving away from friends and changing my lob. I have been in the same job for 25 years. I like what I do but I never advanced myself. Now I am tired and want to do something else. I have always felt like there is something waiting to bust out of me! But, WHAT? I am 51, trying not to feel like it is too late..All these positive stories and comments are great. Thanks

    • Hi Denise,
      It sounds like you’re going through some major life transitions. Yes, it’s definitely not too late to allow your best to shine. The key is to look inward at who you are and you’ll be able to find the type of work that is the best fit for you. You’re just getting started.

  • gpc

    Hi I’ve shared this on https://www.facebook.com/NothingInteresting23 🙂
    Great article btw!

  • Dusking Dawn

    I have been struggling with finding something that interests me for long. On one hand I do compose, write and am creative but on the other hand, I dont see a worth doing anything. Say if I have these dozens of compositions here, but they dont change the way I look like or feel embarrassed in public.

    There is more than that. I can be good at many things if I be consistent but I fail to do anything for long. I have a technology blog I update in months as I just see it as a trash of words. In other words, its a simplex communication where I dont get anything useful in return.

    I dont know how to explain this complex situation where I am simultaneously struggling to get identified but have to stay behind the curtains as I look so ugly.

  • Ray

    I think your statements and solutions to the problem are so misguided bias and not to mention just too simple. You seem to think everyone who does not have passion were just poor children who never got a chance. First point I make I have no passion for work. Simple answer I don’t like work. I was never told you have to work or anything like that. I just realized if I want things like food clothing I should work. So this is a clear situation where I do something I have no passion for for survial. Next point passion comes and goes. One day I wake up and something new is very interesting. New things are very interesting. Cuz there new :). Give it a week things change. You become familar with the new thing your no longer learning as much about it as quickly as you were before. Your interest starts to dissipate. My question I have is how can you stop this. I don’t know of any way. You can prolong it for sure. Let’s say you give a red ball to a kid he plays with it for a while and then sets it down. Now let’s say you then make that red ball change colors. Let’s say it turn blue then red then yellow every time its bounced. The kid becomes interested in the ball again but not forever. So then you have to make a new change to it. You can repeat this process for a while but eventually I believe a ball will become uninteresting but who knows maybe someone out there picked up a ball and never set it down :). But if you do put down The ball I think this example can be used on life in general. A much more interesting thing with many more possibilities. I still think once you learn the majority of it all the rest to learn is just variations. I’m not saying I learned everything I’m just saying with the resources I have I feel like I have a pretty good idea of how most things work. So if you find yourself Googling everything is uninteresting just think man I need to either get some more resources or start learning new things a lot slower so there’s less of a gap in between. Thanks if your read this its just my opinion I hope it helps

  • James Earl Adams III

    Wouldn’t it be a simpler explanation that such a client simply doesn’t have any passions and is earnestly disinterested in everything you’ve presented to them? Why bother inventing reasons to think that they must be hiding their passion?

    • Yes, that could be one explanation James.

  • Humayun Jameel

    Adam, it is indeed a great post. Yes, I want to forgive someone and talk to him and let go of everything but really not sure how to do this. I really need some strength. Believe me, I have emptied my heart umpteen number of times but only in front of mirror or when I am lonely. This feeling is eating me inside. I am not able to focus anywhere. Just doing much for bread n butter. I had a lot of plans which are still on paper.

    Also, I am not able to throw away the weaknesses I have developed because of how that person always treated me. I am really not sure how to handle this. Can you please help me out?

    • Hi Humayun,
      Yes, forgiveness can only come when you decide you no longer need anything from that person. No apology, no repayment, nothing. That is up to you to decide when you’re ready to cancel their debt to you. You don’t have to trust them but you can forgive them. There is a big difference between the two. It can be difficult to make the decision to forgive someone, but when you do you free yourself from the prison of holding a grudge. The best way to be able to do this is something I would be happy to share with you privately. If you’re interested please email me directly. My best wishes to you with your situation Humayun.

  • Jon Stafford

    But what if there literally is nothing? What do you do then? (I’m just now realizing how old this thread is and that very likely no one is paying attention to it any more, so likely this response is an exercise in time-wasting.) You are correct when you say that something in our childhoods dampened our passion — that is certainly true in my case. But while I have recognized this and long ago forgiven those responsible (who were only doing the best they could), there is still nothing. I still feel empty, and nothing fills that emptiness. Nothing interests me, nothing makes me curious, nothing engages me. There is simply nothing I really care about except being left alone. I’m 45 years old now. If I haven’t found my passion by now I am not going to. So what do I do? At the moment the plan is to ride out the next thirty or so years and take my own life when age and physical decrepitude have set in. So basically I’m just spinning my wheels, waiting to die.

    • Thank you Jon for taking the time to comment on this thread. I’m so sorry to hear that you feel empty and nothing engages you. There can be many things that influence our ability to find enjoyment and passion in life. I don’t have a cure all that remedies your situation, however, one tip may be to look in your past and try to remember if there is anything that you were ever excited about. Doesn’t have to be work or career related. For example, it could be your favorite ice cream. Just trying to connect with those feelings may help you remember what it feels like to enjoy something.

      In regard to your comment about your plan to take your own life at some point in the future, I am extremely concerned for you. I strongly suggest you seek some professional mental health services to find support and help. Seeking help can take courage, but it’s the smart thing to do. Please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 to talk to someone and get some help.

      Again, thank you for commenting on the blog and I pray you will find the resources and support that will help you get through this difficult time. If there is anything I can do to help you please let me know.