I think we’ve all been there. We know something is good for us, but we still don’t do it. We want to be nice, or healthy or successful (actually all 3). We want to engage in more positive thinking or spend less time at work or eat or sleep better. But then life happens and we wait for tomorrow – which never comes. Or we do start with great intentions but lose motivation before we’ve made any in-roads.
In my work over the years, I’ve found that many of us struggle to engage for long in what’s good for us because of one (or all) of these reasons:
We haven’t connected with the why of our intentions
We haven’t aligned our intentions with actual behaviors
We haven’t fueled the behaviors with joy
Here’s why these are important:
We all have a brain that is actually made up of a few “brains”, each with its desires, capabilities and motivations. The 2 most prominent ones in motivation are the rational brain (prefrontal cortex) and the emotional brain (in particular the nucleus accumbens). And even though we may like to believe that we’re conscious creatures, and that our rational brains call the shots of our lives, unfortunately that’s not the case for many of us, and certainly not always for any of us.
The rational brain likes to set intentions. It likes to plan, it can see into the future, and most importantly, it’s capable of connecting to something larger than itself. This is the “why” that justifies its actions.
The emotional brain is pleasure oriented. Its short-term focused, it runs away from pain and it wants more and more of what makes it feel good in the moment. And often this means chocolate cake, binge-watching TV and other self-defeating behaviors.
Here’s the good news though. This little bit of information about these 2 brains can help us motivate ourselves towards the things that are good for us, instead of waiting until we “feel like it”. Because rest assured, you’ll never feel like doing things that are hard or uncomfortable. That’s not how the emotional brain works…
Here then is a 3 step process that will guarantee you results:
1. Know your why – get clear of why you want to engage in the behaviors and how it benefits you and others who are important to you.
2. Align behaviors – what actions will reflect your why. Even better, can these actions become habits because then they will not drain you.
3. Make it fun – how will you make sure the behaviors are fun, even wacky sometimes. How will you reward yourself so that you feel like doing them again and again and again
So here’s an example. If you want to eat healthier, know your why. Why is this important to you in the long run? Would it give you more energy to engage with work or with your family or both? What are the behaviors that will help you? Would a weekly round of healthy grocery shopping or a daily jogging plan with a buddy be your best habits? How will you make it fun? Can you take out your best china for your meals or buy yourself a nice track suit for the jogs? How will you reward yourself once you’re done – because remember, if there’s nothing in it for the emotional brain, you won’t engage in it for long.
Why – What – How, a simple practice, long term benefits.
Try it out this week and see how it goes.