We have been culturally conditioned to believe that we should value certain things, and condemn others. Every January 1st, many of us adopt the belief that we should suddenly value our health, a proper diet and sufficient exercise. So we resolve to engage in these more ‘valuable’ habits. But there’s a big problem with this type of thinking or conditioning. We don’t REALLY value our health and the habits that bring about good health. If we did, we would have engaged these healthy behaviors all along. What we truly value are the things that we think about and do most of the time – Our so-called ‘bad habits.’ Which is why procrastination is such a common behavior.
I’m not saying that healthy habits should not be valued, but that the vast majority of our brain LOVES our bad habits and puts a very high value on them. It’s only the tiny little film that grows on the outside of our cognitive mind (the little angel placed on our shoulder by our cultural inheritance) that labels our values as bad habits and tries to guilt us into changing them. It tells us that we should value certain things more than others. It rejects our consistent nature and shoulds all over us. As most of you have experienced by January 16th, this is a recipe for failure. Our real values usually win out. Their gravity is stronger. The path created by our consistent action towards them is deep and well worn. It’s very hard to stray into the briars and brambles of ‘healthier’ values.
So what is one to do? Is resistance futile? I think it is. But don’t lose faith, there is a back door. The trick is to take something that you currently value and enjoy, and apply it to something that you think you should do but don’t value strongly enough yet to actually follow through on. My adventure in this video is a perfect example – I no longer value training for races and I find it extremely difficult to do so. Instead of fighting myself and forcing myself to do it (creating anxiety and overwhelm a.k.a. ego depletion), I engage in something that I do value – exploring the woods – that also happens to involve physical activity. It’s kind of like how congress will picky-back one bill on top of another to get it passed. They find a large bill that everyone is likely to support and they attach a little bill that’s not so enthusiastically embraced and they get it passed on the back of the first bill.
So rather than making yourself wrong for your entrenched values, engage in them while piggy-backing a ‘should do’ value. The enjoyment of your true value activity will leak into your should activity and make it a much more pleasant experience. It’s a great way to start clearing a new path that leads you towards actually valuing beneficial activities and habits.
Just like the moose tracks that I happen across in this video while traipsing about in Woodford, Vermont. Make some big tracks that are easy to follow.
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