How often do you talk yourself out of something you want to do? Once a day? Twice a Day?
“I need to start eating better.”
“I should really start going to the gym.”
“I’ll start tomorrow.”
These are phrases I hear all too often. These phrases are all a form of procrastination, and they occur when the person saying them views whatever it is that they “want” to do as optional.
I often ask these people “Apart from vacations, do you go to work every day that you’re supposed to?” and they often respond with “Well, yeah. I have to”.
The reason they go to work every day is that our jobs aren’t optional. Regardless of your personality type, most people realize that if they don’t show up to work, they’re going to get fired. Simple.
The problem with eating healthy, working out, getting more sleep, reading more, etc. is that they’re optional.
Or are they?
For me, getting 8 hours of sleep is not an option because it’s a requirement if I’m going to get to the gym at 5:15 a.m. Going to the gym isn’t optional either! I spend most of my day sitting at a desk and going to the gym five days a week keeps my body and mind healthy.
Reading is another one of my requirements. Reading helps me grow, and it helps me think of new and exciting content to bring to my blog.
See anything interesting about that last paragraph?
All of the things I do have a reason attached to them – they have a “why.” It’s so easy to forget to think about why we need to do these things. Simon Sinek’s book “Start with Why” explores this topic in depth and I have a post that provides a good overview here. As you’ll see in that post, I like to assign a ‘why’ to all of the things I do, even the small stuff.
If you want to lose weight, think about why. Is it for your kids, your grandkids, or your spouse? Think of them when it’s time to eat healthily or go to the gym. It will be so much harder to talk yourself out of it when you know that being healthy means you’ll have more energy for them or even that you’ll live longer and have more time with them.
As soon as something becomes optional, you’ve lost the battle. Thinking of something as an option is the first step in rationalizing a way out of doing it, and you’ll lose that internal argument every time because there are always 1000 reasons not to do something. All you need to do is find one substantial, meaningful reason why you Should do it.
On his podcast, The Tony Robbins Podcast, Tony was chatting with James Altucher on the importance of purpose and why we need to stop asking “How.” He says:
“Let’s you and I get rid of this whole “how” thing just for a second. How is not as important as why or what. The way you create, if you have to ask yourself “how am I gonna do it?” most people won’t do it for the very reason you say “I don’t know how. I don’t know how to do any of this shit!” What I did is I decided ‘what’. That is what a leader does. “What am I gonna do? What’s the result I’m gonna produce, and, more importantly, ‘why’?” Reasons come first and answers come second. If you get a big enough “why”, you can do anything. The problem with your view of “I don’t know how.” is you’re focusing on how. You can figure out the how if you got a strong enough what and why.”
I love what he says there:
“If you get a big enough ‘why,’ you can do anything.”
I think this is so important and it goes perfectly with what I’m trying to convey about optional vs. non-negotiable choices and habits. If the reason why you’re doing something is strong enough, you’ll realize that it’s not an option. When something is non-negotiable, you don’t don’t even consider not doing it, you just do it, almost without thinking.Once you make these things non-negotiable in your mind, you can build lasting habits that are rooted in meaning, and you can train your mind to go when you say go. These habits will help reduce, if not eliminate, the internal negotiations you have with yourself so that you can become better every day.
What about you?
Do you have any habits that are non-negotiable? What choices do you face where you might say “No, I cannot skip that”? Let me know in the comments below.