The Curious Case of Receding Interest

Picture this diary entry:

Day -90: "Man, this song is so great. It would be so cool to play this in front of thousands of people."
D -70: "Slash is my God. He looks brilliant on stage. What a trip it would be!"
D -50: " {Insert friend’s name} plays so great. It would be so cool to do this on a moonlit night around a campfire at the beach.
D -20: "Okay, I've decided. I want to play guitar in band."
D -5: "Guitar class enrolled. The best guitar bought. Let's do this."
D 1: "Hmmm. This is hard man. My fingers hurt too much."
D 3: "This is soooo slow. I can't play a song yet."
D 5: "Fuck it. I am sleeping in today."
D 6: "Oh, I can't go today again man. Have to go to that party."
D 7: "What, it's 6 again? Fuck it, I'll go tomorrow. I need to finish this TV show tonight."
D 8: “Oh look - cat videos!”
D 9: "Wowa! These guys have gotten so better than me at this. We started at the same time. I guess I don't have it in me."
D 10: ....................................................................................

Insert something else instead of learning guitar - running, painting, writing, photography, designing, dancing - whatever it is that is your passion. Can you see this happening to you?

 I call this The Curious Case of Receding Interest. You pick a thing you think you like and want to become better at. Over a course of time, you find it tougher to maintain the level of enthusiasm with which you started it. You invest less time. After an accumulated lack of effort, you give up and move on to the next shiny thing.

Most of us are susceptible to an attack of this syndrome. I learnt this the hard way while writing this post. Two months have passed since I started working on it. Here's what happened:

Sitting 1: A light bulb switched on shining light on this idea in my head. I scribbled down the thoughts and the basic structure. This gave me instant gratification of creating something. And, instead of finishing the post, I moved onto something else.

Sitting 2: The drudgery began. Now that I had the idea written down, it was a lot less fun to do the hard work of completion. So after writing a little, I opened Facebook and whiled away my time.

Sitting 3: I had some free time on my hands. But, I decided to clean up the house a little bit. And then wrote during whatever little time I had.

Sitting 4: Wrote some. It was becoming and arduous task to finish this. So, I opened a few football videos and watched those.

Sitting 5: I got frustrated with my indiscipline. Thus, I sat down with a pledge to not get up before finishing this. I made decent progress but still couldn't make it into a finished product. 

Sitting 6: Today, after 2 months since the beginning of the post, I sit again hoping to finish this.

Can we find a cause and solution to this problem? Let’s investigate. The irony of being the victim as well as the healer isn’t lost on me. But, let’s give it a shot.


1. It gets tough - Most things, when looked at from the outside, are simple. Only after getting into the nuances do you realize that growing beyond an amateur level needs a lot of hard work and dedication.

2. Novelty wears off - I like doing a lot of things to experience them. But once I learn the basics, the novelty wears off. Once the curiosity is satiated, I move on. 

Read: Two Weeks Sprint - The Technique I use to learn a new skill efficiently

3. Is less fun than you imagined - Browsing Instagram pictures of travel photographers, it is easy to assume that their lives are fun (not saying they are not). But, glamorizing the lifestyle at the cost of forgetting the realities of the job is suicidal. You don't know how many hours they spend in the editing room or how many shots do they painfully discard to find that single right one. 

4. Has steep learning curve, high OFF* and not enough time - Complexity increases exponentially. You'll find that there’s a lot you don't know that you don't know.  

*(OFF - Optimal Fun Frequency) Reference: How to Have More Fun at Fun

5. You find a new, shinier toy and expect it to provide you all the fun - Growth,  engagement and DIMs** are present when we extend ourselves beyond the ordinary. For example, say you have a new toy car. You can play with it by running it on a flat surface. Or, you can immerse deeper by making race tracks using pillows, books, hard surfaces (something I used to do).

**(DIMs - Deep Immersion Moments) Reference: How to Have More Fun at Fun


  • Prepare yourself with the knowledge of how tough a certain thing is going to be. This is not to deter you from doing that activity but to give you a fair perspective of what you are getting into. I read about the personal experiences of people who have lived the life I want to live. During my struggles with practicing my craft, I found comfort in knowing that others have faced similar challenges before me.
  • Take one small step at a time. Writing this post was hard for me. So, all I did was to take one paragraph at a time and make it the best I could. Learn one chord, run for 5 minutes, paint one element of the picture, take the first step, however small it may be. 
  • Observe the feeling which causes the interruption in your practice - whether it is procrastination, difficulty level, laziness or attraction towards a new thing. Observe the feeling, and then sit with it for some time. Notice where your mind is taking you. Do you want to go there? Do you really want to open a new tab and check Facebook? Give yourself a few seconds to deliberate what you want to do. Often you’ll find that with a few moments of thought you can overcome that barrier to creation. But if you can’t and your mind is still seeking distraction, ignore it*** and do your task anyway.

***Reference: The One Skill to Stick to your Resolutions

Receding interest is a big barrier to experiencing deep emotions that come with the mastery of a craft. I hope this post helps you in constantly choosing the tough but useful over the easy, and momentarily satisfying. Thanks for reading.

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