She looked at me with that forlorn, woe-is-me look that I’ve seen so often on the face of Malka, our little Shi Tzu – Dachshundwhen things are not quite going her way.
“My problem,” she began, “is that I have no discipline. I just can’t seem to stick with anything that I start. A great example is that I recently laid out a whole bunch of money to join a health club and like a good little trooper I went three times a week every week. That lasted for the first two weeks and I haven’t been back since.
“And that seems to be the pattern of my whole life.
“I can’t stand the way I look,” she continued, “but I can’t seem to do anything about it because as much as I begin each new program with great passion and enthusiasm, it never seems to last and before long I have given up, once again.
“I guess I am just one of those people who have no will power.
“It’s been like this for as long as I can remember. Ever since I was a child I have struggled to stick with anything I have started.
“I know people who are so disciplined that when they set their mind to do something, nothing ever seems to get in their way. They will get up at three in the morning to go for a run as part of their training for a marathon. I can barely get up at three to go to the bathroom.
“I even seem to have lost all passion for my job. I used to look forward to coming to work every day and now I can’t wait for the day to end so I can go home and not stick to my weight loss program, not go to the gym and not take the dog for a walk because too much exercise is not good for him.
“What do you think is wrong with me?”
Listening to her story reminded me of how many times I have had that exact same conversation with myself over the years. I know all too well the feelings of frustration, anger and self disgust that accompany repeated failed attempts to changes things in my life.
Fortunately, a long time ago, I learned the reasons for those continued behaviours and what is necessary to ensure they don’t recur.
“Nothing is wrong with you, I said as reassuringly as possible. “This has nothing to do with discipline and even less to do with will power.
“This is a function of Want Power.”
“What you mean Want Power,” she asked?
“Well,” I began, “as we have discussed so many times before, we only ever do one thing. We go to the gym and work out. Or we don’t. We eat within the dictates of a program we are following. Or we don’t. We talk the dog for a walk every day, as we have pledged. Or we don’t.
“And we base the choice we make on this; we only do what is important to us in the moment.
“Another way of saying this is that we always and only ever do what we most want to do. So when your friend decides to get up at three in the morning to train for the marathon, he does so because in that moment he wants to train more than he wants to roll over and go back to sleep.
“So the question becomes this: what does he want more? To train today for a marathon in the future, or to get extra sleep right now.
“And his decision will always be based on what is more important to him in the moment.
“So your decision to go and work out at the gym or not to go is determined solely by how much you want to be in shape and look good in the future versus how much you don’t want to go to the gym today.
“And in every case your Want Power will win out. You will go to the gym and work out today if you WANT it strongly enough or you will avoid the gym if you DON’T WANT to go strongly enough.
“So the issue is not why you go to the gym or don’t go to the gym. You need to focus on your reason for going to the gym – what working out in the gym today will do for you tomorrow.
“You said that your intention in joining the gym was to feel better about yourself and to look better.
“Working out at the gym is simply the method you have chosen to get you there. It is the means to the end.
“And we seldom stick to the means to the end if we don’t passionately WANT the end strongly enough.
“In other words, focus on what your life will be like if you achieve what you set out to achieve.
“And then focus on what your life will be like if you don’t.
“This is where it gets interesting. If, as you focus on achieving what you want, you feel a sense of excitement, exhilaration and accomplishment that is so overpowering that you will do almost anything to get there, you will probably go and work out at the gym far more often than you are doing presently.
“If, as you focus on what your life will be like if you never get there, you don’t experience a near crushing sense of pain and disappointment that you would move mountains to get rid of, you might consider advertising your gym membership for sale on Kijiji.
“We are never motivated by will power. We are driven by WANT POWER.”
That conversation took place in early January. Today she dropped by the office to show me her registration for an upcoming marathon later this month. She looked fabulous; slim energetic and happy.
She told me that the moment she realized that she wanted to look and feel better about herself more strongly than anything else, she began hitting the gym regularly.
And staying within the confines of a healthy eating program.
And the dog is now in great shape too.
And work has becomne fun again.
She said that if we learn to focus today on what we want in the future, we will make choices, and take action, today that will bring that future to us. If we don’t focus on what we want in the future, we may make choices and take action (or inaction) that may push the future we want further and further away from us.
Where have you put your future?
Till we read again.
P.S. I was very excited to learn this week that my book Life Sinks or Soars – the Choice is Yours is Number One on the Self Connection Bestseller List. If you would like to preview a free chapter please click here. If you would like to order your very own copy, then please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or click here and Mike from Self Connection will personally delivery your copy to your doorstep. (He may have to personally deliver it if Canada Post remains on strike much longer).