Eval week, as I’m calling it, is in full swing right now. The idea is that I’m taking some time over the next few days to figure out exactly what happened in 2015 and what direction I want to head in 2016. I know I’m supposed to do this kind of thing before the year starts, but it just worked out better this way. Hopefully it will lead to something good.
As I started, however, I realized there’s a tempting trap in dreaming towards the future I easily stumble into. The temptation to skip Why.
Falling victim to this trap typically begins with a shallow list of positive changes I’d like to make for the future.
Decide on a real career path.
Travel to cool places.
Learn how to dunk.
For the following week I’d make a few lifestyle changes (when they’re convenient) and eventually things looks pretty similar to the last year.
The internal conversation sounds like this:
“I want to run consistently this year.”
“I don’t know. I mean, I know it’s good to be healthy and running is a good way to exercise and stuff. Right? I’ll just try it today.”
After a couple months, the back-and-forth shifts:
“I should run tomorrow morning.”
“Why? That sounds miserable.”
“Good question… maybe because I haven’t exercised in a while? On second thought I’ll sleep instead, I love sleep. Sleep is good.”
Eventually, I feel intense shame in recognizing how I’ve failed to change. How I’m never going to be good at anything and life is all downhill from here. How nobody will ever love a lazy fool like me, might as well give up and commit to a life of celibacy.
Sometime later, I remember how I used to exercise and felt better the rest of the day when I did. Running begins to happen for a time until another week passes and it’s just not convenient again. The cycle continues.
Inspiration —> failure —> shame.
Fortunately, the problem is simple: I don’t know why I run.
I’ve never faced the Why question with any clarity so I usually shrug by and just try something. When resistance attacks, I have nothing to throw back at it. If instead I start with the Why and then act towards it, the conversation is completely different.
“I should run tomorrow.”
“Because you’ve decided to create a routine of exercise. Because discipline in one area leads to discipline in others. Because you want your pants to keep fitting.”
“Oh, good point. That’ll probably suck in the moment, but I do like those jeans a lot. Let’s do it.”
There’s still internal (and sometimes external) resistance to positive change—that doesn’t go away—but now I’ve got something to fight it with. And not just something, but the most powerful internal change agent of all, Purpose.
If I know the purpose for change, I’m motivated to actually make it happen. Change won’t be easy if it’s worth anything, but it will be purposeful and sustainable.
Want to keep moving after the Resolution Honeymoon ends this year?
Figure out Why.