By Coach KB
It’s a funny thing when two people who are always right find each other and get married. Over the last few years I have never been more right so many times and more okay-maybe-not-as-right-as-you-but-still-pretty-right. Many months ago I was bemoaning something that I had to do but didn’t want to do… some sort of visit with family, I think. Josef said, “You don’t HAVE to do it.” I argued that yes, in fact, I did. That sometimes you would rather be doing something else but that there are certain family obligations that you just HAVE to do. He continued to push that everything we do in life is something that we WANT to be doing. Of course I got frustrated because he just didn’t understand the nature of putting family first even when you have other things to do. And then, of course, as the days and months (and okay, minutes and hours) went on, the more I thought about his assertion, the more I realized how right he was and how not-as-right-but-still-pretty-right I was.
You see, it’s not that it wasn’t true that I had other things I would have liked to be doing. And it is certainly true that I believe that family is important enough to sacrifice whatever else is going on sometimes. But the actual truth is that everything we do in life is something that we WANT to be doing. I wanted to visit my family MORE than I wanted the guilt of skipping the visit; therefore, also more than I wanted to be doing any of the other things I thought I wanted to do. Josef was right. Sometimes the decisions we make are not about what we want to do but about how we don’t want to feel… or make others feel. Either way, the end result is us doing what we want to be doing.
This got me thinking about how this applies to all the decisions in my life. And, because I’m a coach and particularly interested in issues of the health and well-being of society, it especially made me curious about how others make their decisions. In my line of work I often hear about wanting to be stronger or wanting to be healthier and feel better or wanting to sleep more or wanting to be more active or wanting to be less stressed or wanting to be more flexible or… or… or…
All of these things that we all WANT. All of these things that could make our lives better and ultimately make our society a better place. If we want them so badly and they would be good for us and those around us, why aren’t we doing them? The truth is that change only happens when we are truly ready to make changes – change only happens when we truly want to do the things necessary to be the person we want to be. If you try to change before you are willing (want) to fully commit, you will end up defeated and less likely to make the change later on. Here are a few examples based on some of the previously mentioned common desires I hear:
STRONGER – “I want to be able to do a pullup.” Do you want to be able to do a pullup enough to come in a few minutes early or stay a few minutes late and practice them until you can do one? Or do you want to be doing whatever you are doing for the five minutes before and after class more than you want to do a pullup? Do you want to be able to do a pullup enough that you use a more challenging band during the workouts until you can do them without one? Or do you want to get through the workout faster and/or avoid the struggle of maybe only doing one or two reps at a time? No value judgement either way - one is not necessarily better than the other; just know what you want.
BE HEALTHIER/FEEL BETTER – “I want to be healthier. I know my joints would feel better if I lost my excess weight. I will try to eat more vegetables but I’m not giving up dessert after dinner – everybody needs a little treat.” Okay, well, which is it? Do you want to lose excess weight and be healthier or do you want to keep eating treats? Which is more important to you? How much more do you want dessert every day than to be healthier? Because this is a common one and the answers are often not as simple as can be written here, in these cases it might be best to examine why you feel like you need [(want) … I also often hear the word deserve] a treat. I recommend re-framing it to be that you need/deserve to be healthy. This can be a good jumping off point to figure out what you want related to your health.
SLEEP MORE – “It’s hard for me to fall asleep early enough to get enough sleep.” Are you watching TV, reading, Facebooking, tweeting, eating, or working in the evening when you could be getting ready for bed and sleeping? Do you drink coffee or other caffeinated beverages later than 9 or 10am? Which do you want more? Again, no judgement; just a reality.
MORE ACTIVE – “All I do is sit all day at work. I sit in my car to and from work. Then I sit at the bar after work with my friends. Then I come home and sit on the couch. Then I go to sleep. I want to be more active.” Is bike-commuting a viable option? If yes, are you willing to make the changes necessary to do so? Are you willing to “be the weird one” at work and ask for a stand-up desk and, even weirder, take walking meetings instead of meeting in the conference room? Can you go to the gym or on a hike in Forest Park with your friends after work instead of the bar? Is there a project you can work on at home instead of sit on the couch and watch TV?
I want to stress that there really, seriously is no judgement either way. Speaking as someone who has recently shifted her thinking on this whole thing, knowing what you truly want, whether it seems like the “right” choice or not, is really empowering and avoids a lot of frustration. If you realize that you truly want to check Facebook for 10 minutes rather than meditate or go home from work an hour earlier rather than going to yoga, do it! It takes the guilt and emotion out of our actions to know that we are actually CHOOSING what we REALLY WANT to be doing. It puts us in control of our lives. If you really want something to change but haven’t started acting on it yet, you simply aren’t ready. No shame in that. You will start when you’re ready. Until then, the other option is simply to be happy knowing that you are choosing the life you want. After all, everything we do in life is something that we WANT to be doing.