The Enemy Within: Why It’s SO Difficult To Get Yourself To Do Hard Things

I saw this on a T-shirt once: “There’s a skinny person inside me…but I can usually shut the bitch up with a cookie.”

That got me thinking: One of the great misconceptions we have is that there is only “one” of us living in our skin. We think that all our decisions are made by the same person. Me, myself and I. The guy you shave with in the morning. The woman staring back at you when you’re putting on your makeup. But the reality is that we’re two people: the motivated, disciplined, achiever and the fat, tired, “couldn’t give a sh*t” slob.

THIS is why it’s so hard to follow through. Let me give you an example of how this plays out…

Have you ever decided to get serious about losing weight and getting in shape? Something usually inspires you. You see an Olympic athlete perform an amazing feat of human strength and athleticism. You see a magazine with a very fit, attractive individual on the cover with abs of steel who is your age or OLDER, has 12 kids, runs a business, yadda, yadda (all your excuses gone). You go to a conference (like one of mine) and see someone like James Lawrence, the Iron Cowboy, talk about how he completed 100 Iron Mans in 100 days. Incredible.

Instantly, a part of your personality wakes up and takes notice. Let’s call him “Motivation Man” (or “Motivation Mama” for the ladies).

Motivation Man takes a hard look at you and doesn’t like what he sees. Motivation Man knows you feel sluggish and tired all the time. He forces you to painfully look at yourself in the mirror. You’re FAT and grossly out of shape. You eat like a pig. So Motivation Man decides HE’S taking over and leaps into action, throwing away every fattening food in your pantry and refrigerator, signing up for the gym and buying running shoes. He maps out a routine where you wake up early to run. Then you have a healthy breakfast of egg whites and berries, coffee black. Four times a week you’re lifting weights and stopping all sugar, snacks and eating after 7:00 p.m. Juicing. Fasting. Green glop.

Motivated Man likes the word “discipline.” He lives for ACTION. He’s totally intolerant of sloth and laziness and HATES being fat. He ramps you up to see a new vision of yourself. ENOUGH IS ENOUGH is his battle cry! He sets the alarm clock early so you can wake up and get after it.

Before you know it, you’ve lost a little weight! You actually make it through a week without pigging out on pizza and cheeseburgers. You stopped the binging and feel thinner, less bloated! Your energy is back. You’re PROUD of yourself and that inspires you to press on.

But then the setback happens. You get sick. You have to go on a trip that disrupts your normal routine. The holidays come around. Something blows up at work that puts you into a spiral of long workdays and stress.

At first, you skip a workout. No biggie, you say, you’ll get back to it tomorrow. After all, you’re still sore from the previous day’s workout and you could probably use a day off. The next day you hit the snooze button once. Twice. It’s cold and dark outside. You suddenly feel exhausted and uninspired. Hungry. Motivated Man has left the building…and in that moment, you think to yourself, “What happened? Where did he go?” Then the Captain’s Chair in front of the control panel of your mind slowly pivots around to reveal what’s going on… The SLOB is back in town, baby, and he’s been locked up for FAR too long. He comes back with a vengeance and you find yourself eating EVERYTHING that’s not nailed down…and since you’ve given up on the damned diet, what’s the point in working out? None. So that goes too. As does getting up early. Drinking enough water and taking the supplements.

Is it any wonder we struggle to do hard things? All of us have the dark side. The slob. The “fat chick.” It’s the side of us that pulls us into ease and UNDERachievement. The side of us that says, “You work too hard,” or “You’re not that fat! Who are you trying to impress anyway?” It’s the voice inside that “explains why” YOU can’t. HIS mantra is “Yeah, but…” You’re too old…your metabolism is too slow…you inherited your fat genes…you have kids…you’re “big-boned”…you’ve got a bad back. The list is long.

So, how do you get “Motivation Man” or “Motivation Mama” to show up and stay? Simply, you have to learn how to deal with the slob when he shows up; and boy, will he. When setbacks happen. When things don’t go your way. When you’re under EXTREME duress. When everything goes sideways. Until you can learn to control your emotions during those times, the SLOB will be right there, waiting in the wings, ready to jump in and take over the minute you stumble.

That’s why it’s critical to plug yourself in to a source of inspiration and a group of people who will support you. It’s damned difficult to stay on course and have courage in the dark on your own. It’s also helpful to have someone around you who believes in you more than you believe in yourself – which is why a good coach or mentor is so useful. If nothing else, they can clarify your thinking and give you borrowed courage to do what is necessary to get through the tough decisions and difficult times.

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