Over the past two years we have spent much time discussing why we do what we do.
We have revisited this topic time and time again and always concluded that we only do one thing; we do what is important to us in the moment.
And we’ve discussed how we determine importance: we do what we do in order to gain pleasure or avoid pain.
A few days ago I spent some time talking with a fellow resident in the condo building where I live.
I have known him as a neighbor, for several years and have frequently seen him leaving the building on his way to a yoga class, or to the gym, or just going out for a run.
We recently renovated – and greatly improved – the gym in our condo to the point where it is now comparable to any gym in our city.
Since the opening of the gym a few months ago I have seen my neighbor using the gym on what seems like a daily basis.
Clearly to me working out – staying in shape – is an integral part of his life and I have often marveled at his discipline in sticking with this regimen day after day, week after week.
So when we had the chance to talk a few days ago I asked him how it was that he was able to stay motivated to work out as frequently as he does because I know from my own experience, and from discussions with many of my friends, colleagues and clients, the ability to stay with that type of dedication and commitment to a way of life program has been very difficult for most of us to adhere to.
His answer surprised me and, as I have thought about it over the past few days, it makes perfect sense. He told me that working out was “no big deal,” he just did it as part of his day and didn’t put much thought into it.
He also said the not working out would be more difficult (painful) than working out.
Now remembering that we only do what is important to us and that we determine importance by whether it will provide us with pleasure or help us avoid pain, I tried to reconcile that with his explanation.
And then it dawned and me. What he has done makes all the sense in the world. He has taken something that is very, very important to him (remember we only do what’s important) and has made it so very important that it has become unimportant and has simply a part of his daily routine or ritual.
Think about this! Most of us (actually all of us, I hope) go through the exercise of brushing our teeth in the mornings (and hopefully at other times during the day as well). To most of us the thought of leaving home without brushing our teeth would never cross our minds. It is as routine, natural, and automatic as breathing and so we go about doing this every day.
But remember we only do what is important, and brushing our teeth is very important so perhaps, one of the reasons brushing our teeth is not viewed as a chore for most of us – as important as it is – is because we have taken this very very important task and made it unimportant and routine. We just do it and it’s “no big deal.”
And that is what my friend seems to have accomplished by working out as diligently and with as much focus and effort as he does.
I have often been asked where I find the time to read as much as I do. I don’t find the time. Reading is simply a part of my life. I cannot imagine a day in my life without time spent reading.
As I think back over my life, I cannot remember a time when I was not an avid reader. In fact, I come from a family of avid readers. And so for me reading is not a task, it is not a chore, is not something I have to do, it is just something that I do. It is so important to me that I don’t view it through the lens of importance; I don’t really think about it at all – I just do it.
I have spent many nights in hotel rooms as part of my business life and I cannot think of a single time where I have gone to a restaurant for a meal without having with me, as a dinner companion, a book or a magazine to read – it’s what I do.
By the way, I case you’re wondering, I also brush my teeth a lot.
And I’m sure my neighbour views working out simply as something he does.
Kind of like eating dinner. We don’t think of eating dinner from a perspective of importance – we just eat dinner.
Many of us spend a great part of our lives trying to “make changes” in ourselves.
From losing weight to walking more; from quitting smoking to yoga; from enrolling in classes to putting in more effort at work, we are constantly seeking new behaviours.
Essentially we are trying to develop new habits and – as so many of us already know – this is not always the easiest thing to do.
So I began to wonder what would happen if we could take the very behaviours that are necessary for us to achieve what we want, and make them important (so that we will do them) by making them unimportant, “no big deal” and simply something we do?
And it seems that if we learn to do this we will all eat salad instead of chocolate cake, go to the gym instead of eating potato chips on the couch and take the dog out for a walk instead of putting him on the treadmill for fifteen minutes.
I am volunteering to selflessly offer myself up as a guinea pig to put this theory to the test.
And I think I have identified how this will help me make a few changes in my life.
I’m going to start reading about working out.
Till we read again.