by Terri Trespicio
We all have goals that seem just out of reach. Eat healthier. Exercise more. Lose weight. Go to bed earlier. No matter how much we say we want to do, have, or achieve it, it just keeps…not happening.
This is perhaps one of the most perplexing mysteries of human behavior.
It’s not just about health-oriented goals, either. It could be anything–from starting a side business to writing a book to cooking or drawing more. Seth Godin calls it “the resistance.” Food and lifestyle blogger Darya Rose calls it the “I don’t feel like it fallacy” (and writes about how it derails her own cooking efforts). Whatever you choose to call it, it plagues us all. But it doesn’t have to be this way!
Here are the steps for getting past it.
Step 1: Resist the urge to label yourself
It’s one thing to experience friction around a goal or new habit. But it’s another to slap a short, pejorative label on ourselves when we have an imperfect day. We say things like, “I’m lazy,” “I’m unmotivated,” “I have no willpower,” or worst of all, “I’m incapable.”
None of these things are true. But if you settle for the label, you undermine your efforts and beat yourself up in the process, heading into a downward spiral of shame and guilt. Resist the urge label yourself a failure, and, instead, find out why you’re struggling with this particular habit.
Step 2. Channel your inner three-year-old
When you feel your momentum slowing and your energy flagging, ask why. And then ask why again–like a toddler (if you have one, I don’t need to tell you how this works).
So, let’s take the classic example: “I don’t feel like working out.”
Why? “Because I’m tired.”
Why are you tired? “Because I work a lot and have been having trouble sleeping.”
Why do you have trouble sleeping? “Because I’m stressed.”
Why? “Because I feel like I have no time to do what I want to do.”
Okay! Now we’re getting somewhere.
Step 3: Identify the BIG why
You have a handle now on why you don’t want to exercise and where the excuses are coming from. So let’s pan out to the wide shot:
Why did you want to exercise in the first place? “Because I don’t like how I look and or feel.”
Why? “Because I’ve gained a few pounds and feel out of shape.”
And so why do you want to exercise? “Because I look at other people who exercise and they seem so fit and energized. I want to be like that.”
So why can’t you be that person? “Because”–and here it comes– “I don’t want to be the most out of shape person in the class or running through the park. I’m afraid I can never be one of those fit, happy people.”
See how this line of thinking shuts off any possibility of growth? The research is clear: our mindsets matter. If we don’t believe we are capable or worthy of success, our motivation falters.
Step 4: Question the belief
Rather than swallow your own excuses whole, question them. Look at them as you would anything you’re dubious about.
Follow up your “why” with “who says?” Who says you can’t find a little time each week to move your body? Who says it has to be in a gym? Who says you can’t be fit and happy?
Once you identify the false belief, you can see through it to the fear. Becoming aware of this fear is the first step towards conquering it.
Step 5: See beyond the feelings
Look, we all have our moments when we don’t feel like doing something, whether it’s writing a book or folding laundry. But you do not have to be governed by an emotional response. Because emotions pass, and once they do, there you are, in your life again. Of course, you deserve the things you want most. And there’s no reason you can’t have them.
The key to establishing habits that support your goals is knowing why you’re doing it and that you can do it in a way that works in your life, not some other life you wish you had. And when you understand the whys and why nots, everything starts to shift. Just watch.
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