On my Private Coaching intake application, I pose a simple task: "Rate your readiness to create this change", referring to the goals my client has laid out in their responses to the application. The choices are; "I can't do it", "I may do it", "I will do it", "I'm doing it". It sounds like a silly exercise at first. Here they are ready to invest in a coaching relationship, of course their going to do it!
We know, of course, when we're putting ourselves on the hook for something, it's likely going to be work! It's going to challenge us, make us uncomfortable and take some, maybe a lot, of start-up energy as we create the momentum necessary for change.
As I've observed my own behavior and that of my clients over a several year period, I notice that there's one thing in particular that propels us into "I'm doing it!" mode...
We're goddamn ready. Usually, because we're fed up with our own bullshit and we can't imagine living one more day under that stress, shame and fear. This is a problem for us. We know it's going to be hard work to solve it, but it will be worth it, once we are on the other side.
But, there's a big misstep we make time and time again and I was reminded of it when I was reading Mark Manson's "The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck" over the weekend. We imagine our lives once we're deadlifting 350 pounds off the floor, once we're 30 pounds lighter, once we have sworn off sugar for good. We picture that life, who we are then, how we're living and how effortless it's going to feel once we have it all figured out. You know, that "I'll finally be happy when..." scenario? In this fool's illusion, we're sauntering into the gym without fail every morning at 5am with no help from an alarm clock and when we get dressed angels sing our praise as clothes slip on our body like a they were made just for us.
Of course, we know the reality, right?
When we got married, did the argument we've been having about the dirty underwear on the floor with our spouse go away? When we lost the 20 pounds, did we magically have zero self-esteem issues anymore? When we started working hard at the gym did we ever stop having to work hard?
As Mark Manson points out in his book, "Your problems never f*cking go away, they just improve". What he means here is with the solving of one problem, we create new problems. So, rather than try to remove problems from our lives, let's think instead about which problems are worth fighting for?
I'm not saying that not deadlifting 300 pounds is a problem for me. But, for someone who's been working diligently to increase my strength and power, it'd be nice to see some more PRs in my not to distant future. But, see, I've had to take random periods off in my training but this, this cycle of ramping up my training then taking time off when my attention is needed elsewhere in my life, this is a problem that excites me and is worth fighting for. I love the thrill of creating momentum again with my training. I love taking on new goals, fighting through setbacks and then working my way back to lifting big numbers again. I love the journey, not JUST the destination. My training is hard, a mind game at times and motivation wanes more often than I thought it would.
Mark talks about the modern self-help market that touts positivity and quick hit highs; "It’s really good and easy to consume...but there is an inherently painful and difficult struggle as part of growth and if you are never willing to hit people on the face with that, most people are just gonna avoid it...they’re just going to keep finding more feel-good stuff to distract themselves with.”
Keep in mind that there's utility in the struggle towards that goal you just committed to. When you get there, new problems may arise...scratch that, they WILL come up. But, if you've chosen a goal that aligns with your values and that's worth struggling for, you're probably giving a f*ck about about just the right thing. ;)