Following last week’s posting (#292 The Battle for You) in which we discussed some of the challenges with making changes in our lives I mentioned that at those times we are attempting to bring long-term change into our lives we are often in a battle for our lives.
The battle is not one of life or death. It is a life or life battle and only one life can win: the life we presently have or the life we want.
We also discussed how we only ever do one thing – we do what’s important.
Following the posting I received numerous calls from folks asking why, if it is true that we only ever do one thing, and the changes we are trying to implement are probably important to us, is change so difficult to achieve and sustain?
This is a great question.
It’s not necessarily true that we always and only do one thing – what’s most important. What is true is that we always and only we do what’s most important in the moment.
It is in the moment when we make decisions and take actions that those decisions and actions are predicated on our evaluation of what’s most important.
We’re in a restaurant with friends. It is a special occasion. We have been looking forward to this evening for a long time. We open the menu. It contains many of our favourite choices. It also contains many items that, while not on our favourites list, are preferable choices in helping us shed those troublesome pounds that have clung to us for years.
So we study the menu. The deep fried calamari looks delicious. We are huge calamari fans. We also love pizza and this restaurant and is renowned for theirs.
The menu also lists a wide variety of choices that will help us reach our weight loss objectives.
We pay close attention as our table-mates place their orders. They are ordering some of our favourite dishes.
Remembering, we only do what’s important in the moment.
So how do we determine importance?
Our decisions ae predicated on one of two things. We do what we do in order to gain pleasure or in order to avoid pain.
We really, really want the calamari/pizza combo and while a teeny voice, from far, far back in our head is whispering the word “salad”, our heart (and stomach) is screaming “calamari/pizza.”
The battle is on. Do we choose the pleasure of calamari and pizza or do we suck it up and endure the pain of a healthy and filling salad?
Calamari/pizza = pleasure. Salad = pain.
We are not very good at pain endurance and work hard to make it go away.
We order the calamari/pizza.
This is an old story that is all too familiar to many of us.
Its familiarity is driven by years of repetition and later that evening we may feel a tinge of remorse for the choices we made.
We chose pleasure over pain and enjoyed its short term benefit.
We remember that, in choosing pleasure, we forgot that there are two types of pain inextricably entwined with the pursuit of pleasure.
There is the pain of discipline which – had we selected this – would have steered us to ordering the salad, forgoing the pleasure of calamari, pizza.
This pain would have made us feel really good about our choice and given us an intoxicating feeling of victory.
There is the pain of regret, which is a future pain and one that we frequently ignore as we seek the immediate pleasure of calamari/pizza.
This pain contains those horrible feelings of self-disgust and frustration that have become so familiar to us after years of repeated failed attempts.
And there is an important lesson we all need to learn.
The pain of regret always lasts longer, and hurts more, than the pain of discipline.
Choose your pain wisely.
Till we read again.