WHY can't I stay committed? I need to exercise more. I need to be more patient.
If you find similar thoughts swirling in your head, you're not alone. Whatever the category is, the feedback loop is the same. We know certain things would be good for us, yet we resist them.
Do we lack the discipline to develop -- and stick with -- new habits, or is it some kind of self-sabotage? And then the excuses start flooding in:
| I don't have enough time
| I don't have enough money
| I'm too tired
If this sounds familiar, you'll be glad to know I've figured it all out -- right after I finish "Why Don't I Do The Things I Know Are Good For Me?" The book leapt out at me at the bookstore the other day.
After hundreds of interviews, author B.J. Gallagher concluded there's a huge gap between what we know and what we do.
Gallagher says there are many factors that affect our behavior -- cultural, psychological, familial, spiritual, emotional, economic and historical. There are, however, two major categories that describe why we don't do the things we know are good for us: external reasons and internal reasons. For most of us, it's a combination of both.
For example, one may cite "a desire for immediate comfort and stress relief" as an internal reason for eating junk food, with the underlying context of an external influence like a TV commercial. The historical knowledge of relief that has been gained before -- even though it may have been followed by self-loathing -- results in the behavior. The operative word here is "immediate."
People do what works. What we need to look at, in my opinion, is the definition of "what works." And, more specifically, "what works for how long."
When we're only interested in short-term gains, we tend to repeat the same self-sabotaging behaviors (excessive drinking, smoking, eating, shopping, etc.) It's only when the pleasure of the short-term fix is overcome time and time again by the long-term pain that we can think about making a change. And then it's certainly not easy.
Our rational thoughts tell us what would be good for us, but our fatigue and emotions -- the need for immediate stress relief -- override our rationality. This isn't a character flaw; it's because we're human.
When we feel pain, we look for the quickest, easiest way to make it go away. So, how do we start to change?
The first step, according to Gallagher, is to just notice. Something that's good for us often speaks in the voice of "I should."
| I should save more money
| I should say "no thanks" to that invitation