Why do we so often create situations we hate?
It’s a maddening pattern for a lot of us. The exact situations we hate, the exact situations we’d prefer to avoid, the exact situations that chip away at our quality of life…we tend to create and perpetuate.
I’m not talking about self-blame. I’m talking about the way many of us very directly create those situations that we hate.
We hate messy environments— yet we continue to toss our clothes on the floor, delay cleaning the kitchen, put off doing the vacuuming.
We hate the feeling of having eaten too much— yet we continue to stuff ourselves on every eating occasion.
We hate feeling stiff and inflexible— yet we refuse to do the few minutes of stretching that would help avoid those physical feelings.
We hate feeling rushed and pressured— yet we procrastinate and avoid tasks until the ONLY way they get accomplished is under the gun or at the last minute.
Why do we do this to ourselves?
It’s not because we’re stupid. Most of us who engage in these counterproductive behaviors know exactly how it will all unfold.
In fact, that’s part of what makes the pattern so maddening: we can observe perfectly well what’s going on…we just can’t seem to change it, even as we observe it.
When we knock the problem down to its basic elements, it usually ends up being something to the tune of: we do not connect he dots between the little behaviors we do that perpetuate the problem, and the big, overwhelming situation that we end up hating.
For example: when we’re tossing our clothes on the floor, our focus is not on the eventual mess we’re creating. Our focus is on the convenience, right then and there, of doing something easy with our clothes.
When we’re eating too much, our focus is not on the eventual feeling of fullness and discomfort we’ll feel. It’s on the pleasure we’re experiencing, right then and there, of stuffing our face.
When we have the opportunity to stretch our bodies, our focus is not on the feeling of stiffness or discomfort that we’ll eventually feel if we DON’T do it. Our focus is on the convenience and desirability of doing something else we’d prefer to do, right then and there, in the moment.
When we’re avoiding a task, our focus is not on the feeling of panic and pressure that we’ll eventually feel because we’ve put the task off. It’s very often on the anxiety and annoyance we’re feeling, right then and there, to have to deal with the task at all.
The good news is: it’s all a matter of focus.
The even better news is: if we can get into the habit of connecting the dots between our momentary behaviors and bigger situations— that is, if we can get into the habit of bringing the larger pattern into focus at the right times— we can turn our natural inclinations around faster than you’d believe possible.
The process is twofold: we have to recognize when a shift in focus is necessary; and we need to be able to make the appropriate shift of focus that will allow us to change behavioral directions.
Recognizing when we need to make a shift in focus is really just a matter of sitting down, reviewing the situations you encounter in a day, and identifying when and where you’re making those little moment-by-moment decisions that are kicking your butt.
The truth is, to lead successful lives, we really only have to master a few moments a day— our decision-making moments.
How many moments in the course of a day are we actively making decisions?
Five, maybe ten, maybe fifteen minutes at the outset, where you actually have to make a decision about what you’re going to do?
It may seem like more, but the research suggests that there are only a handful of actual, active decision-making moments in our days.
Figure those moments out.
Figure out when you’re dropping the clothes on the floor. When you’re overeating. When you’re passing up the opportunity to stretch. When you’re putting off tasks.
Review your days over the course of a week— I guarantee you’ll find some very consistent patterns.
Then it becomes a matter of intentionally, consciously, purposefully pushing the pause button in those moments…and shifting our focus.
The skill isn’t, actually, very hard.
We can shift focus in the blink of an eye…if we can remember when to do it. If we don’t go on autopilot.
We don’t have to create or prolong situations in life that we hate.
But we will, unless we get serious about managing our focus in critical moments.
Find value in the Doc’s work? Consider showing your appreciation by donating even a teeny, tiny amount (even a buck!) to the Doc’s 200-mile Break the Cycle relay to fight human trafficking. Every donation helps!