If you’re the kind of person who can eat just the one biscuit without automatically ramming the rest of the packet in your mouth straight after, or you wake up bright and early every single morning and skip to the gym because YOU LOVE WORKING OUT SO MUCH, or you go after every opportunity in life with gung-ho gusto, this email probably isn’t going to be of much interest to you.
For the rest of us, I want to let you in on something:
I didn’t feel like getting up at 6.30am this morning. But I did.
I didn’t feel like exercising at 7am this morning. But I did.
I didn’t feel like being thoughtful and understanding (yet assertive) when I received that weird and unfair email last week. But I did.
I didn’t feel like politely declining the glass of wine in the restaurant when it was offered to me last Friday. But I did.
I didn’t feel like learning German for 10 minutes last night. But I did.
I didn’t feel like sitting down to meditate yesterday afternoon. But I did.
The reason why I didn’t feel like doing any of those things? Because often, what I want in the moment feels more important than what I want long-term.
What I want long-term looks like getting out of bed at 6.30am so I can exercise before work. I want to start the day feeling energised. I want to be the kind of person who values my physical health over an extra 30 minutes in bed dicking around on my phone.
What I want long-term looks like being thoughtful and understanding (yet assertive)—even when I receive weird and unfair emails. I want to be the kind of person who treats people as I would like to be treated.
What I want long-term looks like turning down the glass of wine I was offered because I’ve realised that alcohol makes me anxious and miserable. I want to be the kind of person who values my emotional health over a quick-fix.
What I want long-term looks like looks like learning German. My kid is rapidly picking up more and more words each day and I’m starting to not understand everything he’s saying. I want to be the kind of person (and parent) who chooses to learn something new for 10 minutes a day, rather than watching stupid cat videos on YouTube.
What I want long-term looks like the feeling of calm that meditation brings me. I want to be the kind of person who sees the benefit of meditating, even though I feel a right twat sitting on a cushion and generally want to pull my hair out while I’m doing it.
Huh? So if I want all of these things for my life, and I also want to be the kind of person who does all of these things, why didn’t I feel like doing any of them?
Because I felt, amongst other things (*clears throat*): Scared, nervous, uninspired, small, warm in bed, tired, worried about being different to my friends, wired, too busy, apprehensive, lazy, demotivated and bored.
In those moments, it would have been so much more easy and comfortable to let my feelings drive my decisions and actions. Seriously, if you’d held a microphone to my brain, you would have heard this:
“It’s ok to press snooze one more time on the alarm, I’m so tired, I’ll get up early tomorrow instead.”
“Oh, and I don’t need to exercise this morning anyway, it’s so cold outside, it won’t make a difference to my training overall.”
“I’ll reply with a really shitty email back. I can’t be arsed with people like that.”
“It’s only one glass of wine, Liz! It’s not going to make a difference!”
“You’re not learning German fast enough. What’s the point anyway? Oh look, a cute cat video on YouTube! I’ll watch that instead.”
“Meditation is stupid. I should just do some more work.”
As humans, we’re hard-wired from the day we’re born to respond positively to instant gratification. We feel hungry—we cry—we’re soothed by getting a bottle of milk or a boob shoved in our mouth. We pee ourselves—we feel uncomfortable—we cry—and someone comes along and changes our nappy and rubs soothing cream all over our bum while cooing at us in a sweet, soothing voice. Have you ever spent an afternoon with a toddler? They’re all, “I WANT, I WANT, GIVE ME, GIVE ME, I DON’T WANT THAT, GIVE IT TO ME NOW.” Seriously, two-year-olds are extremely annoying, right? And yet beneath their irrational behaviour, they’re just being human and they want to be gratified—RIGHT NOW. If you don’t give them what they want? They have a spectacular meltdown in aisle 12 of the supermarket, and people start backing away as you calmly try to reason with a screaming mini-child inferno (thanks for doing that, Kid).
Here’s the thing though! You’re no longer a two-year-old, you’re a grown adult! And yet you still act like you need to instantly act upon every single feeling you have.
You feel sad, so you stay in bed all day instead of going out for lunch with your friend like you promised her. You feel tired so you get the bus home from work instead of running like you’d planned to. You feel bored so you face-plant a giant chocolate cake. You’re instantly gratified. You feel good. It feels like the right thing to do in the moment. You’re essentially cooing at yourself in a sweet and soothing voice. Until about 2 hours later when you get that shitty sinking feeling going on. And so how do you respond? You eat the last slice of the chocolate cake, because you feel guilty about earlier stuffing your face. “Why not”, you tell yourself, “it’s not going to make a jot of difference now.”
This merry-go-round of feeling after feeling after feeling is the root of yo-yo dieting. It’s the reason why millions of people are trapped in unhappy marriages – they’d leave, but they feel too scared to, so they instantly gratify themselves over and over by staying put. It’s the reason why gyms are half-empty by March, given up on by people who just don’t feel like exercising today.
Here’s the second thing! Constantly listening to and acting upon your feelings will rob you of doing the things you want to do.
We wait and wait and wait for the perfect job to come along—because we’re more comfortable whining about our shitty job to our friends and family than pulling our finger out and finding a career that excites and interests us—all because we feel terrified and uncertain. We gain more and more weight and hate how physically and emotionally heavy we feel in our bodies—while speed-dialing the local takeaway—because we feel lazy and too tired to make a salad. We don’t have THAT conversation with our mum, boss, friend, partner, because we feel awkward and scared of confrontation. We don’t stand up, step out, and say what we want to say because we feel small and nervous and unsure.
We all know the path to being a content and healthy person is to do all the things we already know we need to do. It’s not rocket science, you can Google healthy eating plans and workouts and download free meditation apps and read articles about how to be more confident and assertive. And yet we don’t feel like doing any of those things, so we don’t.
Over and over and over again, we value feeling relieved and comforted and gratified in the moment over our long-term emotional and physical health.
Ridiculous, isn’t it?
If you’re interested in working with me over the next few months, so that I can help you understand why what you say you want hasn’t quite lined up with what you’re actually doing (or not doing), click here and let’s talk. This free, 35-minute introductory session will give you a taste of what coaching is like with me and help us make sure we’re a good fit. (If you’re not actually interested in potentially working with me, and you just fancy a free coaching session, please, please, please don’t book a call, it’s bad juju.)