Photo Credit: Alex Shuper
After working with patients for 27 years, there's one thing I've learned...people ALWAYS do what THEY want to do. We all do. Everyday. All day. People might argue with this statement because plenty of us...myself included...spend a great deal of time doing things we say we don't want to do. We eat things we say we don't want to eat. We go places we don't really want to go. We work a job we don't want to work. We carry out tasks we don't want to waste time on. We participate in activities for other people that we wouldn't do on our own. We take care of others...either physically, emotionally, or both, when we don't really feel like it. We think about things we wish we wouldn't. AND...we engage in behaviors we know aren't the best for us. WE DO ALL THESE THINGS...all the while thinking, feeling, and sometimes protesting that we would prefer NOT to be doing them. But in the end, I'm here to tell you that if you're doing something today that you think you don't want to do...the fact you're doing it at all means that you DO. And this is where today's Arrow Tip, "Get Honest with Yourself," comes in.
Maybe surface level, you're doing something you say you don't want to do...but deep down you're doing it for another reason. Everyone has the "should" and "should nots", "ought" and "ought not's," "would like to's" and "would not like to's." But what you do and don't do always comes down to what you really want MORE. And that's what we have to come to terms with. We must be honest with ourselves.
How does this play out in everyday life? If you're doing something you say you don't want to do...maybe on one level, you don't. But deep down...what you want MORE is to avoid whatever is on the other side of "not doing" this thing. Example: You're getting together with some people when you don't really want to. When you get honest with yourself, you realize you're doing it to avoid something else. Maybe you don't want other people to feel rejected. Maybe your spouse wants you to go, and you don't want to endure their nagging. Maybe you don't want to disappoint someone. Maybe you don't want people to think you're boring. Maybe you have a fear of missing out. The list can go on. In the end...you're doing something because it leads to getting something else that you need or want MORE. It's this thing you NEED or WANT MORE that wins in the end.
This sounds "negative," but in fact, it's also what helps us achieve our goals. We do things we don't want to do...to get what we DO want. That's what discipline is.
Sometimes we take care of other people in some way because we love them and want to help them. But it's still about us...even when we think it's not. It's because WE care...about something or someone. It's normal human behavior.
When this is a challenge, it comes up a lot in my work with people. They come to me saying they want to get healthier, be more productive, or change their habits. They absolutely WANT these things. But then, when it comes down to the execution, they seem to fall short and then beat themselves up for it. When we actually examine why they're procrastinating, avoiding, or behaving in ways they say they don't want to, we find out that while they do want to change, there's something else they want MORE. This "more" is what you ALWAYS do. And whatever leads you to that "more" is what you will ultimately do.
This is really important to realize because the reasons we "think" we do or do not do things are not the real reasons many times. We "think" we're doing them because we "should" on some level. Usually, for some misconstrued ideas we have about what we supposedly want or should want. When this happens, we become resentful, shameful, disappointed, and angry. It affects our relationships. It makes us unmotivated. We may feel like a failure. And it has the potential to keep us in a repetitive cycle, feeling stuck and powerless.
There is no transformative power in feeling bad about ourselves or other people and staying stuck there. If you want to change, it's actually not that hard to do so....because, as I said... we ALWAYS do what WE really want more of in the end. So you need to have the courage to be honest with yourself. Stop trying to live up to what other people think you should or ought to do. Decide what YOU really want MOST. This is about YOU, not other people. And this is where the problem lies...what you actually want doesn't match up with what you think you "should" want...because if it did...then you would be doing it without resentment or dread. So when you're doing things you say you don't want to do...notice what is compelling you to do it anyway. What's the MOST important thing to you in that moment or circumstance?
What are you doing that's bothering you? Get honest with yourself. Dig deeper. Why are you actually doing this thing? What are you avoiding or not having to deal with by doing it? What is it validating that makes you feel better by doing it? Why is it easier for you to comply?
If you're not taking the actions necessary for some goal you have, what's really stopping you? What's making it too hard for you to carry out? What's made easier for you by not taking these actions? What do you NOT have to deal with if you don't take different actions?
These are the types of questions to ask yourself when you're unmotivated, resentful, angry, or stuck. These questions will lead you to find out what you want MORE in the end. It's something that's more important to you. No doubt it's something that feels more comfortable or easier. It's human nature to try to find comfort as quickly as possible. Things that are familiar also feel comfortable. The unknown is a scary place for humans. (See Arrow Tip #4). Once you know what it is, then you can accept yourself exactly where you are. The truth will set you free...as it always does. And free is comfortable.
For some people, keeping the peace is more comforting than voicing how they feel. Until it's not. For me, being uncomfortable in my clothes is worse than being uncomfortable for 60 minutes at the gym. For a while, it wasn't. Maybe the money you're making at a certain job is more important to you right now than following your passion...until it's not. Values and priorities change. And if YOU feel like there's something you want to change you your life, it will change when that's what YOU want MORE than what you're currently doing. That's how you get permanent change. Line up what you do with what's MOST important to you. When you do that...you will do the uncomfortable thing in the moment to get the MORE comfortable thing in the end.
If you find yourself upset about something you're doing or having difficulty motivating yourself to take different actions, make a choice to get honest with yourself.
Ask yourself the following questions: Why am I really taking/not taking this action? What am I avoiding by doing this or not doing this? What am I getting by doing this or not doing this?
After you have these answers, you will see there's something you want MORE...otherwise, you wouldn't be making that choice. It may be as simple as wanting to keep the peace, feeling more comfortable where you are, or preferring to live in the "familiar" rather than the "unfamiliar." (See Arrow Tip #4)
Accept that this is where you are. There's no need to beat yourself up about it. You will do exactly what you want to do in the end because that's what YOU need and want MORE. When and if this state changes, then you will change your actions. No need to worry about that. It's inevitable.
*Remember: YOU ARE UNSTOPPABLE!