I’ve worked with hundreds of clients over the years who tell me they don’t do healthy things like exercise, meditate, or eat moderately because they don’t feel like it. People who are depressed or anxious, and the most in need of self-nurture, are often the biggest culprits, rationalizing a lack of self care with their lack of motivation / energy. Especially when people are biochemically compromised, as they are in a clinical depression, I push back and often say, “Who in their right mind feels excited about getting out of a nice warm bed, particularly on a dark, cold morning, to freeze outdoors on a run? Only olympic athletes, or people who’ve had a lobotomy! You need to ‘just do it’, as the Nike slogan says.”
The Prochaska Change theory emphasizes the stages people need to go through to get to the action part of change: pre-contemplation, contemplation, and preparation. According to this theory, change isn’t something you usually just logically decide to do, and then do. One must first feel stirrings internally, then face and resolve the ambivalence about letting go of the status quo. One must also prepare with an action plan. The problem is that folks can get lost in any one of the stages, overthinking the whole thing. The fallacy is that once the ambivalence is “resolved”, one will be sufficiently motivated to act. Deciding why something like stopping smoking is good for you, is important. Knowing your tools to achieve it is vital. Having an action plan, especially one which makes the process more pleasant, is critical. But to “pull the trigger” don’t wait for a burning desire (excuse the pun) to ban the butts. Just do it.
I use this psychology in my own life as well. If I over-think my motivation to pay bills or do book work, I’m dead in the water. I’ll even vacuum the house, or clean toilets to avoid it! So I think of it this way: there are some things in life that are equivalent to bad tasting medicine – horrible going down, but good for you in the long run. The challenge is twofold:
- Make the “medicine” taste better so you’re more apt to take it.
- Make your motivation for action the “caboose”, not the “locomotive”. In other words, focus on how you feel about it after you’ve done it, not before.
So if you’re avoiding something you need to do which you know will be good for you, like exercising regularly, don’t wait for the stars to line up as a sign of the “perfect moment”. Stop thinking about it so much on the front end. Just do it! You’ll be glad you did.
Gotta go take those nasty vitamins,