Ever noticed how you already know most of the things you should be doing to improve your life, but you never seem to feel like doing them, or know how to make yourself do them??
Honestly, you are one book, one Google search, one YouTube search away from changing your life. So how come you don’t do it?
Now, no need to start beating yourself up about it. The problem is not that you’re “lazy”, and believing that would be an over-simplification that would also free you of all responsibility: “I can’t do X because I’m like this”. There. Done.
The problem is that you haven’t yet found ways to make yourself “start”, to get your butt off the couch, and get moving towards your goals.
It’s all about solid foundations. You must first find a strong Why, this means identifying clearly the things you want to change and leave behind, and why; then identify the things you want to go towards and why. Then you must figure out the How: how do you go about making yourself do things.
You can train yourself to become a person that takes action, a person that not only knows the things they should do or want to do, but that also does them.
“If you listen to how you feel when it comes to what you want, you are never going to get it”
Step 1. Lose that guilt and forgive yourself
If there are things you know you should be doing but are not doing, then you are probably beating yourself up about it. And if you are, it’s probably causing you a lot of guilt, and perhaps even shame.
It’s crazy how badly we can talk to ourselves in our own minds. We wouldn’t even say those things to someone we dislike, but we say them to ourselves, daily. Imagine the damage it’s causing to your self-esteem.
First things first, if you are going to become the type of person who acts on the things that you know would improve your life, then you need to believe that you are the type of person who can.
This means you must stop the “I’m worthless/my life will never amount to anything/I’m incapable of doing that/I’m not smart enough/etc.,” inner dialogue you have going on.
There are different ways you can change your inner dialogue and thoughts, and upgrade your mindset. You can:
- Learn to catch the nasty thoughts you have about yourself when they arise and kindly tell yourself to “stop”;
- learn CBT techniques to deconstruct these negative beliefs;
- Start practicing self-care and self-love;
- Listen to positive/inspiring/motivational audios or videos for 30 minutes every day;
- Start doing affirmations.
- Affirmations for depression: how to get it right and what to expect?
- 18 powerful affirmations for the depressed millennial
Step 2. What is the source of pain in your life?
Do you want to get yourself to start doing the things you know should do? Then start finding good reasons why you should.
Yes, I’m telling you to start exploring your pain. No, I’m not encouraging you to rehash the sob stories you already keep telling yourself over, and over. I’m telling you to stop avoiding and pay attention to the source of recurring pain in your life.
What are the things that you consistently think about and that cause you shame, sadness, fear, anger?
If something is likely causing you recurring emotional pain, then it’s probably something you should be addressing.
Facing them will steer you in the right direction and give you the push you need to get yourself moving towards what you want.
Avoidance is an illusion. You may think it frees you from your problems but that’s a lie. You are still paying a high price for them, you just pretend to not see it.
Basically, you are lying to yourself while causing yourself harm.
Not addressing those things is a sure way to keep experiencing these negative feelings that are weighing you down, impacting your self-esteem and energy levels.
Related article: Get rid of depression now by solving your problems.
Once you truly understand that avoidance and not solving those things cost you a lot in terms of time, health, money, relationships, etc., it will (hopefully) give you the extra motivation you need to start moving and make yourself do the things you should be doing for your own happiness.
Step 3. If things could change, what would the perfect outcome be?
Look at your life as it is right now and reflect on how it could be improved. Something realistic but still exciting.
I’m all for dreaming big but let’s save that for later. Right now, we are trying to find what would motivate you to move towars the things you want and/or should do. And for that to work, you need to believe that it’s something you can do.
If you are underweight, maybe you dream of looking healthier or building more muscle? If you are broke, perhaps you would like to have a stable, well-paying job that allows you to repay your loans without having to eat ramen all year long?
Allow yourself to dream, take your time, ask yourself questions, use the source of pain in your life (identified in the previous step) to guide you.
Figure out honestly where you want to be, and dare to believe that it’s possible.
Step 4. The “5-Second Rule”.
“The moment you have an instinct to act on a goal, you must 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 and physically move before your brain kills it”Mel Robbins
Do you know what makes most people not take the actions they want? They hesitate.
The moment we start hesitating before making a move, our brain rushes in and starts doing everything in its power to convince us that we should not be doing that thing.
That’s because our brains are designed to stop us from doing things that appear scary or that are unknown. And guess what? Change is scary and unknown.
It’s not your ‘fault’ if you don’t seem capable of doing the things you know you should be doing but can’t seem to make yourself do. It’s your brain’s fault. But now that you know this, you can either sit on your butt and stay on auto-pilot mode, OR you can take back control over your life.
And Mel Robbins’s Five-Second Rule is a powerful tool that can help you break that cycle.
I started applying the rule when I realized that my mind was killing every single idea I was having, all the time. I had reached a point where I truly just hated myself for it: no matter what idea I had, my mind would systematically jump in and shoot it down, and violently!
But then, I started counting backward: 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, and slowly began to do the things I instinctively knew deep down I should do, or wanted to do.
Let me tell you, once you start doing that and it becomes a habit, your life transforms, no doubt.
Step 5. Take the smallest possible step toward your goal, but do it every day
“The objective is not to get ahead of others, but ahead of yourself”
Now, how do you make yourself do something that appears scary but know you need to do?
You break your goal into tiny, non-threatening steps that even you, with your defeatist spirit and low self-esteem, would believe you can do.
Ok, now make it an even smaller step. I’m not joking. It’s not giant steps that will get you there, it’s consistency. Don’t lie to yourself, you will not keep up with the giant steps for more than a day. Maybe two.
So yeah, start thinking long-term.
The key is to get you to take one small step toward your goal every day. And every day, try to do 0.001% more than you did the day before.
Do you know what will motivate you to keep doing the things you know you should do? Repetition and seeing progress.
Step 6. Reward yourself for progress
When you are trying to make yourself do hard things or things you know you should do but have a hard time doing, it’s important that you acknowledge and/or reward every milestone you hit.
Better yet, decide on the reward in advance.
Related article: How do you reward yourself effectively?
If your goal is to save $1 000, and you’ve saved your first $100, then guess what? It’s time for a mini celebration!
Bubble bath? Hot chocolate in bed with a new (library-rented) book? Yep, I mean, you didn’t think you would celebrate by spending that hard-earned money, did you? It would defeat the purpose of the exercise.
Instead, try to identify things that make you feel good, and/or that encourage you in your goals, and at the very least that don’t go against your goals.
Oh, and do not underestimate the power of regular verbal encouragement from you to you! Like a simple: “You go, girl!” or “Good job, babe!”, or “Yes, you are that good!”.
I see you laughing right now, but I swear, it works!
You can be the person you know you could be. You just need to tweak a few things, adjust your mindset and apply a few strategies like Mel Robbins’s 5-Second Rule.
What are things you know you should be doing but can never make yourself do?