Why We Don’t Always Do What Is Good For Us
Why don’t we do what we know is good for us?
For many people struggling to get the results they want - whether that’s in business, relationships, health, whatever - the problem isn’t that they don’t know what they need to do. Sure, that comes into play, too, as that’s when we need clarity and direction. But just as often, we know exactly what we need to do.
We need to stop eating donuts and start eating salads. We need to get off the couch and get to the gym. We need to hire a web designer, build a program, have a hard conversation. Yet over and over again, we struggle with actually doing those things.
Today, I want to break down the various reasons we don’t do those things we know will serve us - because breaking big ideas into smaller pieces helps us understand what’s really going on. Then we’ll look at some mindset hacks that will really, truly help you break through that barrier and get the job done.
Here they are: the 5 major reasons we don’t do what we say we’re going to do.
- 95% of our behavior is subconscious - which means that our actions are driven by about 5% of our brains. Think about that for a minute! We believe we’re in charge, but really, our choices are driven primarily by things that are under the surface. What is that 95% made of, then? Usually it’s subconscious values, rules, or beliefs that we don’t even realize we have - until we take a good hard look.
- The belief that you can’t do it. Sometimes we don’t even realize how strong that is. We think we can ignore that little voice in our heads telling us we can’t - but until we really address that, it may be pulling strings and impacting us more than we know.
- Our perceived win/loss or cost-benefit. We might feel that what we lose is greater than what we win. Sometimes this comes down to short-term versus long-term gain - for example, we know we shouldn’t be sitting on the couch eating ice cream, but it’s so pleasurable in the short term, we still do it - because the benefit of not doing it is long-term, and therefore seems less real.
- We could be fighting a real, chemical addiction. This might be pretty visible (if it’s alcohol or drugs), or it might be sneaky, as in the case of sugar, technology, or food. If either of these is the case, that addiction needs to be addressed, so I urge you to get some support that can help you overcome it.
- Our bodies are designed to survive, so if we’ve survived so far doing what we’ve been doing, that can make us less motivated to change. Even if we intellectually know that we need to do something differently, our bodies might not be on board because there’s no clear and urgent threat. This is why it can be easier to make a change when there is a clear and present danger - for example, getting a scary diagnosis might light the fire under all our vague diet plans.
How to address these issues and really make a change
- Take a super honest look at what's going on, what’s underneath the behavior. Look beneath the surface. Are there beliefs about this change you didn’t realize you had? Maybe it’s the belief that if you give up drinking you're not going to have any friends. Or that you can’t do it, or you don’t have enough time, or you don’t necessarily deserve it. Or maybe you believe that if you make this change, you’ll benefit, but other people will be inconvenienced - and you’re prioritizing thei needs or comfort over yours.
It’s helpful to look at our values and rules, because these often come into conflict in our subconscious. For example, some people have a rule like I must do X the same way all the time in order to be loved. Take an honest assessment, and if you need some clarity or guidance or accountability, seek out help - whether that’s a coach or a therapist or a mentor, or even an assessment online.
- Focus on changing one thing. Don’t try to change everything all at once. Get your beliefs, values, and rules in alignment with the new change. (Again, this can be uncovering a lot of hidden things in your subconscious, so don’t be afraid to ask for help. This is what coaches and therapists are trained to do.)
- Be mindful. Notice when you’re feeling tempted to do something unhealthy or unproductive. Identify your triggers. Get clear on the environment that makes it harder (and easier) for you to avoid that thing, and make changes accordingly. And, in the moment, pause. If you’re holding that candy bar up to your mouth, thinking Well it’s all over now, or if you’re about to light that cigarette - pause. Take a breath. Notice how you’re feeling. And know that just because the candy is unwrapped or the cigarette is lit -or even if the candy is half-eaten and the cigarette half-smoked - you don’t have to finish it. You can still make a healthy decision.
- Make a plan for when those moments happen. Get crystal-clear on what you’re going to do instead. Don’t let it be a void or leave it open-ended. When you pull something out, you need to add something back in. So if you’re taking away a food or a habit or an activity, you need to substitute it with something. And if one provides comfort, and the other doesn’t - ex. Watching TV on the couch vs exercising - ask, what are some other comforts you might add to make you feel good?
- Create some accountability - with consequences. I like to suggest writing a check to a charity you don’t like, and asking a friend to mail it off if you don’t follow through with your commitment. (You can also do that with a charity you do like.) Whatever it is, bump up the cost of doing it.
Another way is to create a vision board of the negative consequences. Maybe if the change you’re making is to eat healthier, make a vision board of what will happen if you don’t do that. Go dark with it - maybe a hospital bed or even a tombstone. This will clarify the pain point and accentuate that threat, which can be motivating. And of course, do the positive version, too - what will your life look like if you do follow through? Time with family, doing things you love, feeling good, looking good, etc. That will make the pleasure point really visible, too - which is also a kick in the pants.
- Visualize your success - and the steps you need to take to get there. Train your mind for the real thing. You can always do Moticise if you want to visualize and exercise at the same time - check out the Mindset Reset bundle if you want to give it a shot.
The cool thing about visualizing is that it can help you get through the hard parts of life, too. It’s useful not just to visualize your fantastic new business five years from now, but also to visualize yourself doing the work it takes to get there. If there’s something you’ve been putting off out of fear or resistance - maybe setting up an important meeting with an investor - see yourself picking up the phone, visualize that conversation happening. This can make it less scary when it’s time to actually call them.
- Celebrate your successes - no matter how big or small! It’s important to wire that good feeling of accomplishment and success into your system. Your brain is programmed to want rewards, so if you don’t give it rewards when it does things well, you’ll lose motivation. So celebrate something every day. What did you do well? What do you have (or know) today that you didn’t yesterday? Celebrate that! Jump up and down, brag about it, take a break. You’ve earned it.
Now I want to turn to you.
Which one of these speaks to you? Is there an area of life where you’re feeling some resistance?
If you were to dig a little deeper, what might be the cause of it? Do you have some hidden rules, values, or beliefs that are holding you back, secretly determining your behavior?
When you shine a light on those, you start to gain control over them. So even if it’s scary to look beneath the surface, I encourage you to go there. The more you know about your own 95%, the more you can engineer it so that it will impact your actions in the way you want it to.
I know this is a big topic, so I always want to invite you to contact me and set up your next coaching session. This kind of work - looking at all the different factors that determine our behavior, and therefore determine our results - is exactly what a life coach does. You’ll be surprised with that you uncover when you start to look within.
Go out and shine.
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