Here is some unhappy news. You will rarely feel like doing the things you most need to do. For many years I have rather dazzled by the number of people who are really shocked when confronted with just how hard it can be to make anything worthwhile happen in life. So many people seem to think that once they have identified their goals then suddenly magical fairies and unicorns will appear to grant their desires. If you have been paying attention you will already be aware that the universe is not functioning this way.
Sadly, we will rarely feel like doing the hard things that we need to do. Why? In today’s video I give some of the main reasons. From the perspective of evolutionary biology we have evolved to try and do the absolute bare minimum to stay alive. For most of human history there was a very good chance that taking pretty much any risk would usually lead to you being eaten by a bear. We learned early that it makes way more sense to preserve all our energy to maximise our chances in the game of survival. Self-preservation means we learned to do as little as possible.
The nest key point is simply that if you wait for feelings to arrive to get you to do the things you don’t really want to do, then you may be waiting a very long time. For example, imagine you are trying to get fit and you have a goal of jogging each day for a week. It’s all going well until an unexpected cold-snap rolls in and it starts raining. It’s 6am. It’s cold. Very cold. Guess what? Unless you are a serious badass with years of this stuff under your belt, you are simply not going to ‘feel’ like running. Full stop! You are going to feel like skipping your run and having a shower or coffee or donuts…or maybe coffee and donuts in the shower! Whatever, you get the picture.
The only thing that will actually get you out the door for that run will be the fact that you have developed a very clear and compelling set of beliefs and reasons about why you are going to go running. This is where evolution kicks in again. As much as we have this powerful animalian brain, we also have developed something called the prefrontal cortex. It is the part of the brain that other animals simply do not have. It allows us to undertake complex abstract reasoning and imagine elaborate future states that can be very compelling. It’s also the part of the brain that will get you out the door on your run if you have allowed it to develop a clear sense of purpose, of benefits and payoffs! All this is just a fancy way of saying that you need to be really clear on what matters to you and why because feelings will rarely come to the party.
Another simple strategy has to do with something called ‘activation energy’. This is simply stating that often all need is just enough energy to get something important to us underway. We just need to be able to do something to get us moving and then momentum takes over. It can be as simple as leaving your gym shoes by the front door or of agreeing to meet a friend at the park for that next run. You don’t have to summon the energy for the whole task. You just need enough to get your started.
But always remember, if you always wait for the feelings to show up…you could be waiting a long time.