Monday, September 30, 2013

Monday Motivation: The enemy that keeps us from taking action

We are knee deep into the last 90 days of the year.  Some of us have taken this opportunity to assess our situation and develop strategies for reaching our intentions (or at least getting much closer) by the end of the year.  Things like this always tend to start out well, don't they?  Then we come in contact with something that somehow stops us from taking action.  Author Steven Pressfield calls this thing "resistance."  Resistance sounds like some outside force with immeasurable power.  I choose to give it a label that allows me the power to address it directly.  Two words are enough to capture the essence of what stops us from taking the action that we know we should take.

Thoughts & Feelings.

Does this sound familiar? You tell yourself that you'll start working out tomorrow.  Next morning comes and you think to yourself "I'll do it later." This type of scenario has been happening with me for the past week or so.  So many things were placed on the back burner in the name of getting it done at a later time. I needed this scenario to stop repeating itself so I looked at the situation objectively and understood what was really happening.

Why wasn't I doing "the thing" when I should have done it?  Because I didn't feel like it.  When I didn't feel like it, expressed my liberties and chose to go along with my "feelings."  Problem with all of this is that our feelings do not want the same things we want.  It behaves like a toddler who kicks and screams when it doesn't get exactly what it desires.  Our feelings cause us to make stupid choices in the present that negatively impact us in the long run. Our feelings only care about the now.  They do whatever it takes to help us avoid immediate "pain" but instead we find ourselves dealing with the aftermath of the poor choices.

The problem with all of this is how real our feelings are to us.  They evoke strong emotions which further influences our behavior.  In keeping with the toddler analogy, let's imagine that a young child was allowed to do anything and everything it felt like.  What would that child's life be like?  We all know that probably wouldn't end well.  That's why children need guardians to force them to do things they don't feel like doing. Every day, they are forced to bathe, eat their vegetables, brush their teeth, say please/thank you, put away their toys, use their inside voice etc.  If the child takes heed and does the things she doesn't want to do, she ultimately grows up to be a well functioning adult.  At some point in her life, she no longer has an authority figure telling her to do the things she doesn't feel like doing.  What happens then?

Ideally, she becomes the kind of person who can "make herself" do things she doesn't feel like doing for the sake of her long term goals.  Looking back at my actions for the past couple of weeks, I noticed dozens of missed opportunities where I chose to do the things I felt like doing instead of doing what needed to be done.  Once I became aware of this, I had to do something to stop it.  A technique I used was to ask myself a question whenever I decided to break a promise to myself.  I would ask "what is the reason that I don't want to do XYZ?"  If the reason feel somewhere in the vicinity of "I didn't feel like it" or if I was trying to avoid something, then I would immediately have to do it.  The only time I was excused from taking an immediate action is if there was a legitimate reason (like I had to do something of greater priority).  If there was no higher priority then I was operating out of my feelings like a four year old and I had to get over it.

This technique didn't work 100% of the time but it helped me increase my awareness and improve my chances of snapping out of the procrastination pattern.  As I continue to practice it, I'm sure that muscle will get stronger.  I realize now just how often I fall into the trap of not doing WHAT I KNOW I SHOULD DO just because I don't feel like it.  If I look back at my day, I should have done at least 3 things even though my feelings were not aligned.

 This kinda reminds me of a study done years ago where children where left in a room with a plate of goodies. They were asked to avoid eating the cookies for a specific period of time. Those who did would ultimately receive a greater reward.  In that room, there were no parents to keep them from eating the delicious treats. They had to make that choice.  Those who chose to delay gratification were found to be more successful later on in life than the kids who chose immediate enjoyment.  We can all learn from those youngins who had the self discipline needed to think beyond what was in front of them.  For every time I'm tempted to take the easy way out, I'll think of what I'm giving up in the long run.



  1. Lately I have also realised that I am my own worst enemy. There is certain lack of motivation that has stood in the way of many achievements this year. It's to take responsibility and take action. Thanks Nadege.

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  2. I know I'm several weeks late on this, but I appreciate this post. I have been neglecting at least 2 of the things I said I would do regularly. 1 for a good reason, the other because I've just been in a funk. While it's nice to know I'm not the only one who procrastinates here & there, it's helpful to have some tips to snap out of it.

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