I once had a friend who was complaining that she needs to eat healthier and whenever she gets home she’s tired and doesn’t have anything to cook so she just orders in. I asked her Why don’t you plan and prep your meals in advance so you can get out of this cycle of exhausted panic and ordering in? You can plan to have something healthy on hand and ready to cook instead of just deciding to order in and going down this rabbit hole every day? Her response? Because when it comes down to it, I know I won’t want to eat that. I will feel like having something else.
This logic is one of the most time-sucking, goal-derailing theories my clients subscribe to. And let’s be honest, we have all been guilty of it — I don’t FEEL like doing XYZ even though I said I would. I used to avoid planning my outfits for the week because I wanted room for creative liberties – because, what if I don’t feel like wearing a skirt that day?! So, instead I would waste 20 minutes every morning laboring through my closet and the I HAVE NOTHING TO WEAR AGONY before rushing out of my house in a sweaty, flustered, and grouchy tornado.
Forget that. Years later, I have gotten wise to my propensity to wear approximately 5% of the clothes I own. Why? Because those are the clothes I most often feel like wearing. So, two years ago, I decided that I will get rid of one thing every single day. Whether that is the extra can opener or those strappy pink sandals that I never wear, every day something has to find a new family. With respect to my clothes, this means that on Sunday, I take about five minutes to pull five work outfits and hang them in my closet. That’s it. Either those clothes get worn that week or they go. I either like them enough to wear them no matter what or they find a new home. This has been magically freeing (but more about that later). I have stopped allowing myself bask in fashion creativity. I force myself to be decisive and no longer give energy to what I feel like wearing. What does that even mean?!
Anywho, the point is, we don’t like to make decisions ahead of time because we want to allow ourselves to make decisions in the heat of the moment, guided by our feelings. The problem is that our feelings are fleeting and our feelings are often driven by our primitive brains. Our primitive brains want to keep us happy, safe, comfortable and warm. The primitive brain will seek safety and pleasure while avoiding resistance. That brain is NOT the brain that will help you climb a mountain or do anything that scares you. That brain is not a cheerleader for healthy choices or difficult workouts. That brain wants the dopamine hit from chocolate cake and takeout Chinese on the couch. That brain cannot be allowed to make any decisions, unless you are running from a tiger, naturally.
Instead, we must make plans ahead of time from our prefrontal cortex – the part of our brain associated rational thinking, cognitive behavior, and decision making. This is the brain that says go to the gym, do not face dive into the box of red velvet cupcakes. Unfortunately, this brain is like your silent partner whose solid advice is often drowned out by the rantings of a lunatic toddler (i.e., your reptilian brain). You have to allow your prefrontal cortex to make decisions ahead of time, when your toddler brain isn’t participating because toddlers don’t care about planning. Once those decisions are made, you have to stick with them. This is where the real work comes in.
Most of us would not deliberately stand up a friend at Happy Hour or bail on your friend for that 5am Zumba class at the last minute so she is left to suffer alone. But we don’t hold ourselves in that same regard. When it comes to commitment to ourselves, we are terrible, horrible, no good, very bad friends. We ghost ourselves on the regular. We make plans and then we skip them. We promise ourselves we will go to the gym and then we hit snooze instead. In those instances, we are letting our warm and cozy, reptilian brain run the show. We refuse to trust the earlier judgment of our prefrontal cortex. We refuse to honor those commitments and will expend all sorts of energy rationalizing our flakiness.
Stop. Doing. That.
Make decisions in advance and commit to yourself that you will do it. Make a meal plan for the week and stick to it. Decide which days of the week, you will have a glass of wine and honor it. Set benchmarks and tasks in furtherance of a larger goal and freaking do them! My clients ask me all the time, How do you accomplish so much? How do you have time for all of that? Here’s the secret: you just do it. There is a reason that Nike’s slogan is Just Do It. Anyone who has done anything hard knows that the only trick is to simply DO IT. There is no magical formula for motivation or progress. You make a commitment to yourself and you honor yourself. It’s time to start treating yourself as well as you treat your friends and the commitments you make to them.
Here’s the icing on the cake. So many of my clients want to feel inspired and motivated to achieve their goals. They don’t act because they are waiting to be moved and inspired. Sorry, people, motivation and inspiration are not synonymous with lightening. They don’t just suddenly appear. They are created by action. Action creates momentum, which creates inspiration and motivation on repeat. How to you take action? Honor your commitments to yourself.
It all starts with learning to make commitment to ourselves and respecting ourselves enough to show up for ourselves. If you can master that skill, you can do anything.
If you are interested in practical tools to help you organize your life and start sticking to your commitments, sign up for a free consult and let’s get to work!