We’ve all got things we really want to, even promised ourselves we would do, but then talked ourselves out of. For me, it is jumping out of a perfectly good, working aeroplane. What is it for you? Maybe it’s tackling a mud run or an extreme adventure, going to the gym regularly, losing a few kgs, or just trying a new hairstyle or colour.
Most of us are more likely to keep promises to other people before ourselves. New Year’s resolutions made and then broken within a matter of days, weeks, or maybe even just hours. Things that for years we’ve been telling ourselves and others that we are going to do, but never get round to. Why do we do that; why are the promises to ourselves the ones we just can’t keep?
It’s our inner voice, or ego, that stops us. The voice that tells us, “don’t go to the gym or for that run today, it’s [insert excuse here], go tomorrow”. Or the old favourite, the diet that can always start on Monday, one chip won’t hurt. You can go platinum blonde on your next visit to the hairdresser, just a trim for now. And so on, and so on, until you’ve got all the adventures you save for ‘one day’ which conveniently never comes.
But where does this inner voice come from and why does it hold such power over us and our choices? The ego’s job is to keep us safe. It’s a primitive instinct from humanity’s early days of fight or flight survival, when survival meant “there’s a sabre-toothed tiger – RUN!” These days deadly predator attacks are rare, our survival needs have evolved, but the ego hasn’t. Its job description hasn’t changed; it’s still keeping us nice and safe from what it sees as the sabre-toothed tigers of today.
So how do we manage our ego, the voice of caution in our heads? First, let’s give it a name, maybe Ted, ‘Ted in your Head’. Second, and this is a word to the wise: use your ‘inside voice’ when talking to Ted. Chatting away out loud could raise concerns meaning that unfulfilled goals and a wider waist are the least of your worries! Seriously though, talking to Ted is the best way to let him know that he is doing his job and keeping you safe, letting you get on with the important work of achieving something you’ve always wanted to.
Let me show you how the (inside!) conversation goes:
You: “Ok, I am going to do some exercise every day, I’m going to get up half an hour earlier and go for a walk every morning”.
Ted: “But what if it’s cold, that won’t be nice. Or wet, dark and windy? Do you think this is a good idea, will it really make a difference? You should just stay in bed a bit longer, it’s much safer there!”
You: “Thanks Ted. I really appreciate your concern for me but I want to get fitter so I am healthier and can do more things that keep me happy. I’ll start slowly and have realistic goals so I don’t set myself up for failure, I’ve got this!
By reassuring Ted, your ego, that you will be safe and that you are doing something that will make you happy, he will quieten down and won’t stop you. Similarly, if you try and ignore, shut down or argue with Ted, he will become bigger, louder and almost militant in wanting to control you. So let’s see what we need to do to jump out of that plane, or step off the dock onto whatever it is that floats your boat.
Step 1: Set the Scene
Determine what it is that you want to do. Set some goals by writing a list of all the things that you’ve said or thought you’ve always wanted to do. I suggest starting small and manageable, then tackling the bigger ones. Make sure your goals are SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time-bound). So the vague “I am going to go on a hike”, should be “I am going to go on a 11km hike, through the Foreshore Trail from Port Melbourne to Elwood, in September 2018”. Not only does it allow you to break down what it is you really need to do, but you’ve pinned some details to the goal, making it harder to ignore! You can then plan backwards from your deadline; what do you need to do each day, week and month to work towards being able to do the hike? Set some milestones along the way and celebrate when you hit those! This gives the added bonus of motivation as you see progress.
Step 2: It’s Good to Talk
Start the conversation with your old friend Ted. Let him know what you are doing and why. As you start to change your daily routine and Ted knows that you are staying safe and you have a clear plan, he won’t bother you with doubts. Once he can see that you are getting fitter and that you are more fulfilled as a result, he’ll start to change his tune and be your biggest supporter! After all, his job is to keep you safe, healthy and happy.
Step 3: A Little Help From Your Friends
Tell the people around you what you are going to do and maybe even include some of your family, friends or workmates in your adventures. Making your plan public gives you another level of accountability – again making it harder to conveniently forget about! You can ask others to keep track of how you’re doing towards your goal, and celebrate your milestone achievements with you.
Step 4. Just Do It!
Take action. Get out there and start walking, join the gym, book in the haircut, write the first paragraph – or whatever it is you’ve now got the support of Ted, your family and friends, and most importantly yourself, to do.
My skydive is happening in July as a Mother’s Day gift from my sons. I decided I wanted to go skydiving 25 years ago and I still haven’t so I am about to change that! I’m taking action – how about you?