Welcome to Episode 24 of Honestly Speaking. I’m your host Dawn Keegan. Today is the first of February and my guess is that way too many of us are at the end of the first month of the year beating ourselves up because we feel we’ve fallen short of the lofty resolutions and goals we set for ourselves a short month ago,. The good news though is that despite what the weight loss industry or other more or less well-meaning critics would tell you, the problem isn’t a lack of motivation it’s instead a need to revisit how you create your goals. Rather than doubling down to work harder or giving up entirely, there is a better, easier path that doesn’t cost you a thing. Please allow me to explain.
The idea that all living organisms are preprogrammed to move toward pleasure and away from pain is believed to have been around since at least 300 bc. in the teachings of Aristotle. Everything we do in life is consciously or unconsciously with one of those goals at heart. The “push/pull” or “pleasure/pain” principles are used in some form by parents, teachers, coaches and personal trainers every day. Unfortunately, as a means of permanent life altering change, these are pretty weak motivators. While they work well in the short term, it takes something much stronger and personally meaningful to propel us toward our true potential and dreams. The “Just do it” mantra sounds good, but it only works well for someone who already has a deep-seated understanding and driving force for their goal.
Often the first instinct we have when striving to make change is to do it for someone else or to reach some other extrinsic goal. However, for genuine, long lasting change to take place, it has to come from the place of doing it 100% for your improvement and satisfaction.
We love to talk about motivation. As a personal trainer the greatest challenge I faced was not that of motivating my clients, but instead, the constant fight to retrain their brains against a society beating them down with canned one size fits all answers. Anyone in the business of facilitating change at some point has come to the understanding of a concept, known as Negative Willpower.
Marc David founder of the Institute of Eating Psychology defines it as: “The use of fear, tension and aggression to fight a habit.” He further says: “Fighting a habit makes the habit stronger. Hating or fearing a habit further binds us to it.” Basically what you or someone else says you can’t have becomes the only thing in the world you want.
In his book “The New Psycho-Cybernetics” Dan Kennedy equates the struggle to that of stretching a rubber band tight between two fingers and attempting to walk around that way all day. He says eventually something will distract you and you will experience the “bounce back effect,” and suddenly the rubber band is no longer in its stretched state.
Therefore there are really two significant steps to goal setting for permanent change. The first is to find your own personal and compelling enough WHY.
I was first introduced to the Japanese concept of Ikigai (pronounced – icky guy) by author Neil Pasricha in his book “The Happiness Equation”. Ikigai is a Japanese concept meaning “a reason for being” or as Americans might say “Why you get out of bed in the morning”. But rather than just a sense of responsibility or fear of punitive measures or reprisal, Ikigai is a much deeper soul satisfying motivation.
The Japanese believe everyone has an Ikigai, and it is only through the discovery of that Ikigai that you’ll find real satisfaction, meaning and happiness in your life. It’s the foundation behind the Confucius saying “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” But Ikigai isn’t just found in professional goals. It refers to anything that makes your life worth living and in some cases may be the one value you would risk your life for. The real beauty and value of Ikigai is that unlike negative motivation or using push/pull techniques the actions you take in pursuit of your Ikigai are natural and spontaneous such as I suggested at the beginning of this book. When you give in to the true path and passion of life suddenly no longer is work or anything else such a grind.
The second part of the equation is in creating meaningful deadlines. The tendency for most of us is to be hell bent on immediate gratification or at the very least brow beating ourselves into believing we have to conform to some artificial and unrealistic timeline.
We talked earlier about motivation and how a goal has to have the right significance if you are to achieve it with the least amount of angst and for it to be permanent. The same applies to your deadlines. Here are some examples from my life:
When I was studying for my personal trainer exam in 2014, I was only giving it occasional attention and had no real agenda. However, I had been dealing with chronic back pain for nearly two years. I finally found a doctor with a solution who scheduled me for surgery on April 14. The CPT exam was important to me, but I additionally knew that my best recovery would happen if I had nothing else on my mind. Therefore, I scheduled the exam for the Friday before the surgery, spent about two weeks diligently studying and passed it on the first attempt. I was then able to recover and to this day am pain-free. Another example was in the launching of my podcast. My business partner and I had been trying to get it underway for at least six months. Finally, a couple of weeks before my 50th birthday I made up my mind that it would launch on my birthday no matter what it took. The goal was important, and the deadline was significant to me. That first podcast was only 6 minutes long, and I was a nervous wreck, but the act of taking control and meeting that goal had me smiling for days.
Finally, the last example relates to the completion of this book. It had been hanging on for months with me barely dabbling in it or in some cases ignoring it all together. At the same time, I had a legal action that had been dragging on for more than two years. When the mediation for my lawsuit finally got scheduled I determined I wanted to go into the negotiations without the book hanging over my head. Therefore I set myself a drop dead date for the last day of the month and the day before the mediation. Because all of these goals were of major personal significance to me, I was determined to make them a reality. And although nothing negative would have happened if I hadn’t met them, the promise of getting them off my plate made completing them in the proposed timeline far less stressful than ignoring them regardless of the consequences.
An example of how the average person sets goals and why they don’t often work is this: How many people do you know who have determined to lose weight for a special occasion? Sometimes they are all in and achieve the goal only to revert to their old habits afterward and end up in their original shape or worse. Other times they rework the goal in their head to realize the world wouldn’t end if they didn’t achieve it and subsequently gave up. If your goal is truly important, you will continue to make progress no matter what. Even if you get knocked off course, you will come back. Be patient with yourself but keep moving forward. To do that requires you to genuinely know who you are so you know the difference between being patient and procrastinating.
Everything we do is a process. The most exciting and fulfilling results may require a couple false starts. However, once you find the why that is genuine to you, the rest becomes much easier and more natural.