“Why don’t we do the things we know are good for us?” This is one of the most common questions I hear on a daily basis.
There are valid reasons why we don’t! Many are connected to the evolution of our brains and how we are hard-wired. Furthermore, because we have two different parts to the mind, this adds a tricky hurdle standing in the way of our success. Even though most people know what they need to do, the following statement is many people’s response to the above question:
‘I know what I should do I just don’t know why I don’t do it.’ Click To Tweet
‘I know what I should do I just don’t know why I don’t do it.’
Why are we brilliant at not doing the things we know we should?
Does that sound familiar? If so, then I am guessing you are still trying to find the answer to the first question? Most people know what actions they need to take, yet don’t. Lack of consistency and failure to do the right things sabotages even the best plans.
- Why is there such a gap between knowing what we need to do and doing it?
- Why is it easy to hit the snooze button on the alarm rather than bounding out of bed and going to the gym?
- How come it’s easier to select chocolate cake over an apple?
- To binge on Netflix instead of getting an early night?
- Or, waste valuable time on social media instead of completing an important project?
So, why don’t we do the things we know are good for us?
The short answer is that we are humans and we have emotions. We are fundamentally driven towards pleasure and away from pain. The reason you gravitate towards chocolate or an easy task rather than eating an apple or completing an important yet challenging project.
Furthermore, we seek meaning for the experiences we have. To make sense of the world and create concepts and structure. We try incredibly hard to make sense of everything that happens in our lives. Moreover, this tends to lead to overthinking and often, overcomplicating things. When we ruminate too long we tend to turn things into mental monsters. Hey presto, we get stuck and often stay there.
You have two parts to your mind, a conscious and subconscious
The longer answer is more tricky and the solution found by digging deeper into our minds. First, we have to understand a) that you have two parts to your mind and b) they operate very differently. Your conscious mind is volitional. It’s where you set goals, analyse and make logical decisions.
Beneath this, and way more powerful is your subconscious mind. This part of the mind is the storehouse of memories. Everything you have ever experienced. Your experiences, what you believe, value and assume. Furthermore, your unresolved emotions and most importantly, your habits. Aligning both parts of your mind is critical for accomplishing goals, getting the results you desire and for creating a Mindset for Success.
For simplification, let’s call your conscious mind ‘Steady; and your subconscious mind ‘Speedy.’ Moreover, because Speedy is a million times more powerful than Steady, it tends to take charge, whether or not the direction suits your goals. This is why there is a gap between doing the things we know we should do and not doing them. Speedy is just too fast!
Speedy is where your habits reside, and your habits are outside your conscious control
Your subconscious mind, Speedy, is responsible for about 95% of your thinking, which then lead to your behaviours. Eventually, they become habits. Studies show that about 40 percent of people’s daily activities are performed each day in almost the same situations. Habits are formed to save you energy and time, yet operate automatically, often without your conscious awareness.
Moreover, this is why we react to events often illogically rather than carefully responding to get better outcomes. Furthermore, our habits include our thoughts. With around 50,000 to 70,000 thoughts a day it isn’t hard to see why most of them have becomes habits. Consequently, we fall back into the same old ones are yesterday! Speedy takes over.
Speedy is around a million times more powerful than Steady and is one reason why we don’t do the things we know are good for us.
Because Speedy is faster than steady, anytime Steady fatigues or has too much to think about or do, Speedy jumps in and takes over. And of course, because we prefer pleasure to pain, Speedy simply runs an old habit that is more pleasurable right now, regardless of whether it helps you get nearer to your goals or not. It does what it thinks you want!
Instant pleasure or gratification. Chocolate now is more appealing than weight loss later. Netflix bingeing is so much more pleasurable than completing an assignment. Immediate pleasure exerts a stronger influence than concern for long-term health.
When you are tired or the task feels arduous you are in the danger zone of letting habit take over.
Speedy’s job is to keep you safe at all costs. When you pursue your goals or tackle a new challenge, you have to confront the prospect of change. This requires stepping out of your comfort zone, into the unknown. Furthermore, this signals danger to Speedy. As a result, a chemical is released which you generally interpret as doubt or fear.
Consequently, you create stories, giving yourself reasons and excuses why not to proceed at this moment. Justifying why you can’t, shan’t or won’t change right now. This occurs even though you may not be living the life you desire or feeling stuck or frustrated with your current situation.
How can we do the things we know are good for us?
The key is for you, to use your conscious mind, Steady to carefully and intentionally give Speedy crystal clear instructions. This takes time and consistency. Just as a small child requires kindness, persistence and consistency in teaching them about the world, so does Speedy.
Here are seven ways to start programming Speedy.
1. AWARENESS. The first step is to become aware of what you are habitually thinking and saying to yourself. As you become a master spy on your thoughts, what you uncover may surprise you. Words, thoughts and language patterns that may not be in alignment with your goals. When you hear that inner critic, that imposter, do not fight or argue with it. It originates in Speedy which is already powerful. All you do is give Speedy even more power. You are fighting a losing battle. It’s like you driving a mini minor on a motorway and trying to race a Porsche. An impossible contest.
Decide what it is you want.
2. CLARITY. Decide exactly what you want. If you don’t like what you currently have, create the ideal future. When you aren’t crystal clear about what you want, you can’t possibly give Speedy clear instructions. Even if you do, unless you are consistent and patient with retraining Speedy, Speedy will simply operate from old habitual patterns and programs. Speedy does what it thinks you want. Consequently, as you haven’t programmed Speedy correctly yet, it doesn’t know what YOU really want.
3. CLEARLY WRITE OUT WHAT YOU WANT. Write your goals and desires down. Then make a plan. A simple dot point plan is fine. This gives your mind a focus to look for and a target for your brain. When you use specific and measurable goals that include numbers or measurements they are easier to monitor. Similarly, if you want to get fit, make a crystal clear picture internally of how you want to look. Finally, find some pictures that inspire you and look at them daily. Your imagination is powerful and your mind cannot distinguish between what is real or imagined.
Small consistent steps is the key
4. TAKE SMALL INCREMENTAL STEPS. Decide on one or two behaviours that will help you move towards your goals. Make them small so you don’t allow your past patterns or inner saboteurs to pull you off course. Furthermore, if they feel easy, that is even better. You are a creature of habit, so it is important to build new habits slowly. Behaviours repeated consistently eventually become new habits. More importantly, habits are the domain of Speedy. You will eventually program Speedy with helpful habits and set yourself up for success to do the things you know you should.
Helpful habits are the backbone of who you become, your identity.
5. DO WHAT YOU INTEND. Schedule your new behaviours in your diary and commit to carrying them out. Consistency is king. Otherwise, you aren’t giving Speedy clear instructions. When you don’t do the things you know are good for you, you give Speedy mixed messages and guess who takes over?
6. SET INTENTIONS. The energy of the mind is attention. Where you put your focus energy flows. Set clear intentions every day to ensure you are steering your focus in the right direction. If you don’t Speedy will take over. It will run from its memories and habits, falling back to one which may not be in the best interest of your goals.
7. TICK OFF YOUR WINS. Acknowledge and tick off your wins every day. Your brain will send you a shot of serotonin, a feel-good chemical. When you feel good you are more motivated to keep going.
Slow but sure wins the race. Remember the story of the hare and the tortoise?
In this classic fable, the hare is very confident of winning, so he stops during the race and falls asleep. The tortoise continues to move very slowly but without stopping and finally, she wins the race. The lesson of the story is that you can be more successful by doing things slowly and steadily than by acting quickly and carelessly.
This is exactly the same as your success. Slowly and carefully program Speedy with clear instructions by sticking to doing small things consistently. This is the way to build new habits. New habits programmed into Speedy so your subconscious mind will co-operate. This is the way to combat that eternal question, why don’t we do the things we know are good for us.
Creating helpful habits increases your chance of doing the things you want to do
The key is to create helpful, successful habits so when you tire, Speedy now operates from these new habits. Slowly and surely you can then head more purposefully towards your destination. When you align both parts of your mind, you have the captain, Steady, taking charge and the crew, Speedy, following orders. As a result, the journey is smoother and the destination reached. Even more important, you no longer have to agonise over the question,
‘Why don’t we do the things we know are good for us.’
Slow but sure wins the race. Above all, you have a strategy for steering your ship in the right direction and ensuring Speedy and Steady work together to win your chosen race. Finally, you need to learn exactly how to keep focused and how to avoid distractions so you can achieve more of what you want and take your success to the next level.
About the Author
Mandy Napier is a Global High Performance Mindset Coach who is dedicated to supporting high achievers fulfil their potential and achieve extraordinary results professionally and personally. Transformations are the norm, and results guaranteed.
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