I want you to think about what is rewarding to you. If you were going to treat yourself, what would it be with? Clothes, food, a night out, a vacation? If you had to describe your “happy place” – what would it be?
My happy place in 2013 was sitting on my couch, incredibly focused on whatever show I was binge-watching at the moment while I stuffed my face with a mountain of fast food I had run out to get myself. I was genuinely happy when I was doing that. I had trained my mind and body that those actions were rewarding. About 30 minutes after I finished my food and the credits started rolling on my show. I would feel absolutely sick. Maybe I’d just keep eating? Maybe I’d follow it up with a cigarette? Maybe I’d go take a nap. I didn’t care, my day was over when I put my butt on that couch.
My happy place now is my walk back from the gym, reflecting on my work out, thinking about my day, on my way to eat a big pile of food in my kitchen that usually consists of eggs, spinach, and hot sauce. I know that once I get back home, take a quick shower, make those eggs, and then start my day, I’m going to be unstoppable. I’m going to start checking things off of my to-do list, I’m going to clean out that pantry that has been daunting me with it’s pile of crap, I’m going to write, I’m going to be active and happy for the rest of the day. The difference in my daily habits then and now are night and day.
That change did not happen overnight, and unlike most things I ramble about, it did not come from mindfulness.
It came from switching the shock and the cheese.
I want you to picture a rat in one of those big white mazes. There are two pieces of cheese in this maze. One of them will shock him whenever he goes to grab it, the other one will fill his belly with cheddar goodness. If he runs this course enough times, he will find the path to the pain-free cheese. He will map that route in his little brain and he will reward himself with his golden prize at the end. Over and over and over.
Does this sound familiar?
Even though you’re human, and your end goal might not be cheese. (I love cheese)
You have done the same exact thing in your life. You have created habits, thought patterns, behavioral patterns, and rewards in your life every single day. You are constantly running away from discomfort, pain, sadness and you’re falling into habits that keep you distracted, complacent, and even though they might feel good in the moment – They’re keeping you from what you want. In my life, obviously sitting on a couch, hating my choices and my body, getting further and further away from my goal wasn’t what I wanted but I didn’t know what to do? How do I stop doing the things I have done for years?
I had to take control of my thoughts, actions, and habits to get me to where I wanted to be and it all started with a simple question. Why? Why am I eating right now? Why am I crying right now? Why am I SO agitated right now? Why don’t I exercise? Why don’t I take more pride in how I look and feel?
I am challenging you to wake up every single day and start questioning your behaviors.
Are you doing things that make you happy?
Are you thinking thoughts that make you happy?
Are you surrounded by people who make you happy?
Do you feel proud with the choices you made and the interactions you had at the end of the day? If your answer is no. You can change that. You are in control.
I can tell you what I eat and what I did to lose 130lbs. I can tell you what music I listen to and how long I sleep at night. Those things might give you information about me and a healthy lifestyle but it’s not going to make you healthy unless you start reflecting on your own life. I will not be there to knock a box of mac and cheese out of your hands, I will not be there to stand in front of you and drag your butt to the gym.
You are going to have to make a choice to do those things.
This does not just apply to weight loss. This applies to so much more. Maybe you have relationships you want to improve, maybe you want to get out of the 9-5 and try something new, maybe you just want to be a person that you’re proud of. It’s possible.
Among the pile of self-help and behavioral psychology books I’ve been reading this last year, I found an incredible gem. If I could, I would force every human being to read this book. I would make them go through it chapter by chapter and apply it to their own life. It’s an incredible read and it will change your life and daily habits (if you let it).
“Motivation is triggered by making choices
that demonstrate to ourselves that we are in control.”
– Charles Duhigg
Charles Duhigg’s book isn’t like other books I’ve read about habit. It’s not just giving you the science side or the emotional side. It’s taking the information he’s learned from successful, motivated people and he’s giving it to you in a way that just makes sense.
Why do we continue to live these lives that upset us so much? Why do we make these poor choices that directly contradict our goals? It’s not because you’re some crappy person that has no control over their life. It’s because you’ve developed habits that are rewarding you in the moment and hurting you in the long haul. Guess what? You can stop doing that.
Once you stop thinking about living a better life as some overhaul or event that’s going to happen, you can start seeing what a slow and magnificent process it really is. Whenever you are presented with choices, take control. The only person who is in charge of your emotions, success, relationships, and life, is you. So why don’t we act like it? We have to start taking responsibility for our well being. Stop making excuses for why your life is the way it is.
Bad things happen. The things you love and cherish will leave or change.
That’s reality. It’s up to you to decide if you’re going to let every bad thing that has ever happened to you define you and keep you as a person you don’t want to be – or just maybe you give all of those things you’re not in control of the middle finger, and you push yourself to be something unexpected. It’s your choice.
“Your beliefs become your thoughts,
Your thoughts become your words,
Your words become your actions,
Your actions become your habits,
Your habits become your values,
Your values become your destiny.”
― Mahatma Gandhi
Stay cheerful, stay strong, stay consistent