How many of you have set out health and fitness goals or intentions for yourself in January, only to be back at square one in a matter of weeks or months? Have you ever thought about why you couldn’t reach the goal or intention you set out for yourself? I’m sure you have thought it came down to lack of willpower or the unpredictability of life, but what if I told you it was likely much more simple than that? What if I told you your future self is in conflict with your current self?
Now, you may be saying to yourself, but Lauren, I don’t know what my future self is going to look like. And while that literally may be true, when you set out after a goal or intention, you were making plans for your future self and what it would look like. And yes, it may not be a super clear future self, but it’s a vision of yourself that keeps you after what you set out for. The only problem is that it takes time and sticktoitiveness to realize that vision. And while willpower’s waxes and wanes and life’s unpredictability are definite factors in driving you off course, there is actually something much larger at play.
*It’s in our nature to seek instant gratification*.
We like to believe there are weekly, monthly or even overnight solutions to our problems, but when it comes to making profound change, we all inherently know it takes more than an overnight fix. Real change takes time. It takes effort. It takes commitment. It takes a bigger attachment to future self than to current self. After all, current self is what we are not pleased with and is the reason we set out for this particular goal or intention. Then why do we sabotage ourselves and let the desires of current self get in the way of reaching the future self we desire? Simple. Current self seeks instant gratification and instant gratification is SO much easier than the discipline required to become future self.
So lets explore this from a practical standpoint. It’s a new year and you have decided this is the year you are finally going to get your body back. The body you’ve been neglecting for the past 5+ years and that is in great need of a makeover. So what do you do? You commit to an overhaul of your diet and to start exercising more. But what happens when you do these things? You likely start to restrict certain foods or eliminate them all together and start working out more than you have in years, ALL AT ONCE. We are human after all and we have a natural human tendency to bite off more than we can chew, but when we set down this path, we usually do not even realize it. We think we are capable of all we have set out for ourselves, but come a few days or a week in we can’t believe we set ourselves up for such failure. We start thinking, “how in the world could I have thought I could give up sugar for a month?” or “how could I possibly have thought I could stop drinking during the week?” And then we start the justification game. I need X because of Y. Enter the horrible deprive and binge cycle.
Now that I have binged, a couple of thoughts will likely go through my head:
1 – I can now justify further binging. I have already been bad, so why not let it ride?
2 – I feel so guilty. I can’t believe I was so weak. I feel terrible about myself.
What’s the problem with both these ways of thinking?
Your future self has lost the battle to your current self. You have sought out instant gratification over the promise of a new and better you. But what if I could offer a 3rd alternative.
3 – I messed up. It’s ok. I realize it’s not in alignment with my future self and I will get back on track asap.
Here’s the thing about instant gratification. It’s instant! Duh! 😉 It’s there and then it’s gone. But long term change can be forever and it starts with the small wins of everyday life. Now, what do you mean by small wins you may ask?
Small wins are as simple as the words themselves. They are small positive steps towards a much larger goal. And when you are first starting out, they can be minuscule. They can be as small as drinking an extra glass of water or eating breakfast everyday. And they are completely up to you. You have your eyes on a larger goal, but know it’s going to take a bunch of smaller changes or habits to realize that much larger goal. So the moral of the story here is to start small. And don’t be afraid to start minuscule if that’s what it takes to start building a little forward momentum. Over time, a lot of small changes add up to much larger changes. I would recommend looking back at my article on finding the ONE thing, to give you an idea of how to get started with this concept. It is a great framework to work within for those just getting started or those with fairly lofty goals. (https://strongerme.co/2015/08/11/the-one-thing/)
Lets be honest for a moment. Not everyone is cut out to become the vision they have for their future self. And this is not something to be ashamed of. It’s a simple reality to be aware of. Part of what allows us to become our future self, is the ability to keep our eye on the prize, for lack of better words. Explained even more simply…*desire*. The desire to become our future self outweighs the desire to stay our current self.
We all know the saying, “The teacher will appear when the student is ready.” This could not be more true than in this pursuit of becoming your future self. In this scenario, you are the student and the teacher is going to be various people/things. The teacher is going to be yourself, as you learn more about yourself throughout the process. The teacher is going to be those you enlist to support you through the process. The teacher is going to be all the resources you pool together to reach your goals. And on and on. But no amount of teaching is going to amount to anything if the student is not ready to learn. And this is why so many of us fail along the way. We are simply not ready to give up the instant-gratifying needs of our current self for a mere vision of our future self. Current self is concrete, future self is fluid. The question of whether you are ready or not really comes down to one thing. Can you live with current self for the rest of your life? If the answer is yes, there is not going to be any desire strong enough to change current self. If the answer is no, you need to remove the conflict between current and future self and realize that if you start to earn enough small wins over time, your future self is not only attainable, but will be your new current self.
So if you currently find yourself in a conflict between current self and future self, take some time this week to really get in touch with your true desire for yourself. Do you really desire a change or are you really content with the status quo? Nothing worth changing is ever done easily. It is done with a lot of effort, dedication and desire. And it’s not all done at once.
Small wins + time = Lasting change
Stronger by small wins,