[01/17/23] Mind Body Monday: Why we have such a hard time keeping our goals and intentions
There are commonly two difficulties we face when we are challenged with keeping our word to ourself.
The first has to do with understanding the difference between what I call a “Should” and a true Desire.
The second is understanding what a Dopamine addiction is.
So firstly, a Should is an Expectation we believe is held by others.. Others can mean family, friends, media, society, environment, culture, religion… etc.
It is the belief we hold that we are “not enough” or “not doing it right” or a disappointment because we are not fitting into our Perception of what is wanted or expected of us.
Why is this important? Because if a goal you have is under the category of “should” than you may find, it doesn’t actually serve the purpose that your higher self, inner being really wants. It is unnecessary or even contrary to what will enable you to become the greatest version of yourself in this lifetime.
Let’s use the example of losing weight, that’s always popular this time of year. Perhaps you look in a mirror and you negatively compare yourself to others, or a past version of yourself even, and you use this shame-based comparison to tell yourself that “working out” for instance, is something you Should be doing. If you truly don’t want to be doing it, then all you will be successful at is “shoulding on yourself” and feeling terrible - like you are a failure, when you don’t.
So the first thing you must do is decide if the goals you have set are for yourself or for others. Ask yourself “Why” you want to do something and if it is to avoid a perceived punishment, then it is likely that it is a “should” rather than a desire. Everyone is motivated by pleasure seeking or punishment avoidance. Often when we are doing something to avoid feeling bad about ourselves it is insufficient motivation for change. We have to want to feel better about ourselves for doing it. Not just bad for not.
People say to me, well what about things I “have” to do that I don’t want to, like dishes… Okay, if you don’t want to do the dishes then don’t. As with all decisions there will be consequences. Are you comfortable with the consequences of not doing the dishes? Are you good with eating off of dirty plates? Are you good with hiring someone else to wash them? Are you good with trading chores with a partner? Are you good with buying biodegradable or recycled plates to eat off of instead? There are always choices. Free yourself from the trap of thinking that you have no choice. Because when you do it kills motivation to change.
One of the ways I do this is… I say to myself, “I could if I wanted to…” and then I make a list, mentally or on paper, where I list the pro’s and con’s of doing something. If the pros outweigh the cons then it becomes a choice, not a should. Now I have the ability to move from a place of shame to empowerment as you make that choice. Accepting the consequences of whatever it is. If necessary I will reframe my thinking and move my “half to’s” to my “get to’s” and that means that I don’t do anything I don’t want to do.
Now on to the second reason and for me, the Most difficult to overcome, that has to do with our brain functions. Specifically the neurotransmitter called Dopamine, which gives us the feeling of a “reward”. Dopamine is what we feel when we have done a good job or been successful at something. It is pleasure seeking, and It feels amazing. It also gives us motivation to do more of whatever we were doing to get it. However, our problem arises when we choose an instantaneous dopamine hit that distracts us from the things that take work. Or a dopamine hit that is self-sabotaging rather than self-creating.
Some examples of this type of self-sabotaging are: social media, television binging, gaming, alcohol, drugs, sugar, fast food, gambling, smoking, internet rabbit holes, sex, pornography, you probably already know what yours are. I know I do! ;) All of these things (and more) can give us a dopamine hit and leave us feeling good, for the moment, and then we want more of it. The easier it is, the quicker the hit, the more addictive it becomes. We love instant gratification, and in our world it is becoming easier and easier to get it.
This gets us trapped into a loop of perpetuating behaviors that don’t feel fulfilling yet feel self-indulgent in the moment. If you are unsure of the difference, I did a Live on the difference between Self-Indulgence, Self-Care and Soul Care and I will link it here for people that want more information on that. https://youtu.be/nHGXN5FHXWw
So how do you do it? How do you avoid the distractions and focus on the life changes that you want to make? You can start by working on the addictive component. Deny yourself those meaningless dopamine hits UNTIL you have achieved a goal for yourself.
If you want to do something, and I mean Really want it, Not think you “should”… Then do that thing first. If you want to “doom scroll Facebook” but you also want to do laundry, than sort your clothes and put a load in before you pick up your phone or your computer. If you want to meditate then do it before you sit down to watch t.v. Make the dopamine hits that don’t progress your life forward, the reward for the actions that do. It’s like tricking your brain in a way! And I love brain tricks!
To quote Mel Robbins, “If you made the changes that you're avoiding, you would have the life you deserve. The secret to success is to do the shit you are avoiding. The stuff you put off every day, even though you know it will move you forward.”
Another way to trick your brain, is to link things you automatically do every day with things you want to do every day. As an example… After you get up every morning, stretch your body for 5 or 10 minutes, or make the bed. Reward!
After you brush your teeth at night, immediately meditate or do that skin care routine you’ve been putting off. Reward! Try connecting activities that bring you self-satisfaction with those that are already habits.
Lastly, I recommend taking a “dopamine-addiction” break every once in a while. Take a day and don't indulge in those activities. Instead do the things that are going to make you feel successful, and bring you a sense of pride in your accomplishment. The more of those things you do, the more you will want to do them, and soon you will crave the dopamine hits that are harder to achieve and more valuable to receive. The more you will love yourself for what you are capable of.
I will end today by saying this: Everything in your life has been created by you. It’s either a reaction or an intention… Let that sink in. What power we hold!
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