“It is easy to see the beginnings of things, and harder to see the ends.” - Joan Didion
There’s a lot of advice out there about how to nurture your relationship with your significant other; how to communicate, individuate, create deeper intimacy. When things start to get a little stale you can schedule a date night or a weekend away and fall in love all over again across a bottle of champagne. Ah, romance.
But there’s no guidebook for when you fall out of love with your passion project. Your app, your blog, your startup—you gave it endless hours of effort and attention. You alone saw its potential and you poured your heart into it with reckless abandon. Every bit of praise and attention for your work left you walking on clouds like a love-struck teenager.
Until one day, when you realize that your interest has waned. You find yourself daydreaming about new possibilities, and what once seemed so fresh and exciting now feels like a heavy weight sitting on your chest. Is it just another bump in the road, or is this time different? How do you know when it’s time to let go of a great love?
Most of us fall in and out of love with our work – sometimes over the course of years, sometimes in the span of a single day. Like any long-term relationship we go through ups and downs, moments of elation tempered by moments of despair. Usually the good times outweigh the bad, and with care and attention we hope this is a love that will last us a lifetime.
Too often though, we pay attention to the wrong things; we get so caught up in the day to day that we lose track of why we started something in the first place. There’s always one more support request to answer, one more blog post to write, one more email to reply to before bed. It’s so easy to become reactive to the demands of a project, meeting schedules and fulfilling other people’s expectations, until eventually all the fun is gone. The novelty has worn off, and we have stayed too long at the fair.
When we stop being intentional about our work and why we’re doing it then what started out as love becomes just another routine. Thoughtless repetition is fatal to creativity and self-fulfillment; despite our busy schedules, we have to make time to regularly check in with ourselves – to check in with our hearts – and ask Is this still making me happy? And we have to be honest with ourselves about the answer.
Good relationships should give us room to grow as our needs and interests change. Sometimes that means finding new avenues in old projects: unfamiliar things to explore, fresh challenges to tackle.
And sometimes, it means letting go of something we love that we’ve held on to for too long.