One of the things I find myself saying most often to coaching clients and patients is: “You can’t wait until you feel like doing it.” There’s something in the human psyche that deeply believes that if something is hard to do, doesn’t feel comfortable or doesn’t come naturally, it’s better not to do it—yet.
The thing is, virtually everything that will create positive results and change in your life will be hard to do at first, and some things may always be hard to get yourself to do (but will always be so worth it when you do—that’s the payoff).
It’s a strange yet undeniable phenomenon that life seems to take a natural drift, or current, toward what we don’t want, toward what will actually steal life from us.
It’s easier to sit on the couch and watch mindless TV than to spend quality time talking with your spouse or a friend, or to read a book that will stimulate your mind or help you and your life to grow. (I’m not stating this from a pedestal of perfection—I am a recovering Netflix addict and can personally relate to every point I’m making here.)
It’s easier to hang out and do nothing after a long day than to get up and do something that could be counted as exercise.
It’s easier to pick up some fast food through a drive in window than to go to the supermarket, buy some fresh real food and take the time to prepare it.
If you’re feeling depressed, it’s easier to turn down an invitation to go out with a friend and stay home alone instead. You may not feel like being around people,. It may seem an effort to make conversation. And you don’t feel like putting on proper clothes. Yet studies show that getting out and spending time with others is a key therapeutic activity that will help turn your mood around. It can feel like lifting a thousand-pound weight to get yourself off the couch, comb your hair, and get dressed, but going out will heal your brain, lift your spirits, and put you on the road to recovery.
It’s hard to resist the natural current, the downward pull, but you need to. No one else can do it for you.
A coaching client said to me yesterday that she finally understood that if she was going to get rid of the clutter in her house once and for all, she was going to have to flex her muscles, force herself off the couch with all her strength, and just do it. She finally got this key concept, that it would require almost a Herculean level of effort to force herself to go against the natural forces and tendencies which wanted to keep her on the couch. She pushed herself and conquered that powerful pull toward laziness, and did it. She told me that when she finally attacked that clutter it felt so good, she even came across some things in her storage locker that reminded her of a neglected, forgotten passion which she is now going to take up again.
Another place where going with the natural flow can steal your joy and life satisfaction is in relationships. In my “Live a Life You Love Club” year-long program, we talked about how friendships and relationships naturally drift apart: When a loved one or friend moves to another city, usually the initial efforts to stay in touch are strong. You still talk regularly, maybe you even immediately plan your first visit. But with time, the natural flow of life is to create distance. “Eventually you just end up sending cards at Christmas,” one woman commented.
The only way to combat this natural flow is to be determined to swim against the current. If you really cherish a relationship, whether the person lives near or far away, you need to be intentional about regularly creating opportunities to connect meaningfully. We can’t wait for the other person to do it, and sometimes may end up being the person who reaches out most of the time. As long as the relationship is healthy and rewarding and matters to you, don’t let resentment kick in as it often does if you’re the one doing most of the heavy lifting. Someone has got to! And many, many people won’t as they unconsciously go with the flow of that natural drifting apart.
What is the biggest change you would like to see in your life? What is it going to take for you to make that change? What new behaviors and habits will you need to adopt?
The most likely reason that you haven’t been able to make the change so far is that you haven’t accepted or recognized how much effort it will take to turn things around. Have you been waiting to “feel like doing it”? That may never, ever happen, so stop waiting.
The great thing is, when you become determined to make a change and make the effort to implement new behaviors and choices in your life, you soon begin to experience the positive results. These naturally reinforce the positive behaviors and choices, and it becomes easier and easier until the behavior has become a habit.
When you’re used to eating healthy homemade meals, fast food will start to taste awful and you’ll notice how bad you feel physically after eating it.
When you make a point of regularly spending time with people you love, you’ll notice how your whole life feels better and will miss that feeling if you spend too much time alone.
You’ll notice that on the days you exercise that you feel better and have way more energy, that your skin looks more radiant and healthy and you even sleep better. On days when you skip it, you’ll notice that you feel sluggish and off.
You’ll notice that when your house isn’t cluttered with all kinds of stuff, you feel lighter and freer and less stressed and enjoy having people pop by, rather than shouting “just a minute” and panicking and running around throwing things into closets and drawers. (I speak from experience!)
You’ll notice when you read more and watch less TV, you feel less anesthetized and more inspired about life. You’ll sleep better (from spending less time in front of melatonin-zapping screens) and have more interesting ideas and topics to share with others in conversation.
You will feel so good. But at first, these changes won’t be easy. In fact, getting yourself out of your various ruts may be the hardest thing you’ve ever done, even if in theory it should be simple. It’s not. Swim hard and determinedly against that current into the life you long to live!