A weird question isn’t it? No one likes to be told how to live life. Most of us really hate it when “solutions” are imposed on them. Yes, there are good practices, best practices even and plenty of advice out there for all areas of “life”. I do believe whole-heartedly that if we did follow them life itself would be a lot more different and probably much better for many people (including myself).
But here is the trick – we don’t. From “don’t text him ever again” to “change your job”, from “this cake is no good for you” to “focus on the important priorities in life” – we somehow often just neglect all that and go for the text, go for the cake, go for the glass of wine as opposed to the apple juice. And the subtle cherries on the top – “don’t stress”, “motivation is a habit – you can cultivate yours if you wanted to”… you know all of it, I know it too.
Really - How to live life?
Why most of us neglect what’s actually best for us?
Can you consistently do only the good things?
Why are some people better at doing what’s best for them and others are frankly very far from it?
Hmm.... in my coaching training and qualification the first thing we were thought was: “Don’t give direct advice” – leave the client to define how they want to live their life. It used to be a challenge from a professional perspective to keep my mouth shut when my brain works differently to that of the person I work with and I’ve felt that I can just tell them this little thing like “cake is no good for you” … But with time… I see it more and more. I understand it more and more with each day. No one knows better than YOU how to live your life. It’s not a cliché.
So, how to live life? You tell me. Do you want to send that text or eat that cake? No, it’s not good for you, you might need support that will help you stop doing what’s not good but at the end of the day – your journey is your journey. Your life and your mistakes are your life and your mistakes. No one else’s. Your scars and lessons learnt too.
I am NOT encouraging taking the same stupid or painful decisions/ actions that harm you. Not even slightly, but I do want to remove the pressure … from expecting to fit into the “good bracket”.
1. Why we often neglect what’s best for us – "Immediate Gratification" is the name of the game
It’s tough – we spend a lot of time trying “to be good” based on sheer will-power. Will-power doesn’t work long term unfortunately. So you pile up your attempts to do something the “right way” until it exhausts you and you brought yourself to a point where you crave the bad stuff. You crave sending that text, you can’t think of anything else but the cake, you indulge in a huge rant to a friend after being good and “positive” for sooo long.
It’s so unfair isn’t it… I know it is. It seems you do your best… the step ahead… and then – the two backwards – with intensity that scares even you but it feels good. Doing the bad thing is like scratching. We can scratch until our skin not only gets very red but starts bleeding. Sounds disgusting but it is the truth – you have done it! Don’t lie. And it felt good while you scratched! Until it hurts. Then you stop for some time…
What’s the solution if any…? Love yourself more! <3 (cringe all you want... ) Anything you do that harms you – from stress to unhealthy eating – it’s a sign of not appreciating how special you are and how much you should really take care of yourself. Would you give your child something really bad to eat consistently? Would you want your daughter/ son to text that person that hurts them every time? Would you want your loved ones to smoke 2 packs of cigarettes a day? - I really don’t think so. Would you want your kids to give up on their dreams because it’s scary and they might fail?
Then why do we do it to ourselves? We are so hard on ourselves, so demanding and so unreasonable. Appreciate you! For all that you’ve done, for all that you are. You do deserve the best – strive for it because it’s there for that – for you. You deserve to treat-yourself with the respect and love you treat others. You need to take care of your stress levels because you are a person that you deeply care for. Care from now on. Love you! Don’t allow yourself to give up on dreams, to stuff your body with food that harms you, to be scared in the ‘dark’ whatever the ‘dark’ is for you – scared of loving, of taking a chance, of giving, of trusting, of helping, of asking for… Because it’s OK to. It truly is. You matter enough to demand those things for yourself.
2. Can you consistently do what’s good for you?
Sometimes It’s tough to define what’s good and what’s bad. You give the definitions and (most of the time) you know best. Yes, there are cases where the distinction is clear cut – a healthy person should “exercise vs not exercise at all” – straightforward in most cases. However, very often the coin is two-sided. You can get something positive and something negative from most situations. For example – “send that text you know you shouldn’t” – the negative side of it is that you are exposing yourself to potential disappointment and hurt knowing that the probability is so high that it’s almost certain. On the other side you have been honest and true to feelings as well as brave or closer to closure. What do you want to get out of it? What’s best for you?
The bottom line is that you can consistently do what’s good for you if you are consciously aware of the need for immediate gratification in the first place and then take your decisions based on a logical explanation of how something will be good for you! Another example would be studying for exams. It’s tough for many to concentrate, you know you should study but you procrastinate. Be aware of the need of immediate gratification, acknowledge it and then simply take a decision on what’s best for you. Focusing consciously on the fact that now it is best for me to study will make it a lot easier if not even pleasurable due to the realization that you are doing something worthwhile.
3. Why are some people better at doing what’s best for them and others are frankly very far?
They associate gratification and results with doing the stuff that are good for them. I.e. those are individuals who meet their needs, which are deeply rooted in our systems (and are the same for all of us) through actions and decisions which move them forward. That does not make them better or worse than you. What it makes them however is people with better mind-set at this particular point in time. You can do the same for yourself.
People have 6 Human Needs (Robbins-Madanes theory of the human needs):
1. Significance 2. Love & Connection (with others and ourselves)
3. Certainty 4. Uncertainty/ Variety
We need to have all of those satisfied one way or another, but we do prioritise certain needs over others and we would do anything to meet them – sometimes through conscious actions other times through unconscious decisions we take. We can meet our needs through either positive, negative or neutral actions. If we were to be totally rational – then we would meet our needs by only doing positive things. However, not knowing what drives us and not choosing consciously leads to the following – two people with the same need for significance can chose completely different ways to meet their needs. One can decide to go to Africa and help poor children, the other can be a murderer …. Both satisfying the same need for Significance.
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How to live life? Live life without expecting from yourself to be the same person each day. Be the crazy ambitious person you want to be in certain periods, be calm and slow down when you want to. Be one person or be a thousand different ones. Up to you. Is there a recipe – yes – many! Which one do you want to cook by now?