Learning how to do hard things will propel you forward faster than anything I know. A good place to start is to clarify why. Why do hard things? Because they are hard. Well, yeah. That's why we call them hard things.
I've learned this: You get to have either hard-easy or easy-hard. And what I mean by that is often when we choose to do the easy thing now, we set ourselves up for a harder existence later on. Good example? “Yeah, I don't feel like exercising. That would be hard so I choose to do the easy thing now which is to avoid exercising.” Then I set myself up for a harder existence later on when my health crashes.
I had a friend who told me, “You know what, Paul? You pay for your health now or later. One way or another, you pick one.” You do an easy thing now, you set yourself up for a harder existence. Check it out the other way around. What if I do the hard thing now? Well, then I set myself up for an easier existence later on.
Using the same example, if I do the hard thing now and just go exercise, get myself out of bed, get myself into my gym shoes and go, that's hard. Right? But it allows me to be more fit and healthy and have more energy in the long term. So, you get hard-easy or easy-hard. Pick one of those and let's start teaching our kids about that too.
Back to our hard-easy, easy-hard, we have to be clear about what it is we ultimately want. And there's an approach avoidance conflict that we run into. This is a psychological term that basically means there's a lot of reasons you want to do this thing but it's hard and so there's a lot of reasons you don't want to do this thing too. That's the approach-avoidance conflict.
I saw this demonstrated very powerfully. Back when I was in graduate school, one of my professors was working with a young man who was trying to earn his Eagle Scout award. Now, to do so, he needed a swimming and a life-saving merit badge which meant he had to get into a pool. Well, the problem is he's afraid of the water. He didn't know how to swim.
This is a dilemma. He wants the Eagle award but he doesn't want to go in the water. That's the approach/avoidance conflict that I was talking about. How do we overcome that conflict? Well, my colleague had a plan and he worked it out with the kid’s parents. He put a $50 bill in a little ziploc bag, and a rock. He took this young man to the poolside where he tossed that little baggie into the water about 5 feet of water.
Does the kid want the 50 bucks that is now at the bottom of the pool? Yes, he does.
Does he want to get in the water? No, he doesn't.
What my colleague was able to do with that young man was to tip the scales a bit so that he could overcome his avoidance of the water in order to approach the $50 and he got the prize at the end.
What are we willing to do for ourselves to tip the scales in our favor? Being clear about our why is definitely one of those starting places. Are you starting to see your own approach and avoidance conflict going on?
That thing that you have said that you want, you really do want. It's going to be hard or painful or expensive to get it. Right. What's it costing you now to not have that thing?
Recently I was on a call with a prospective client and we were talking about one of my coaching programs that costs whatever it costs. And they said, “Well, I really can't afford it.” And I asked a question. I said, “What's it costing you to not have what you could have if you were in the program?” “Oh, it's costing me my relationships and it's costing me my happiness.” I'm like, “Wow! That's pretty expensive already.” We have to find what it is that we really want so that we can get past our approach/avoidance conflicts.
Whether we change or we don't, we are going to have this approach and avoidance conflict. And that's because no matter what we choose, we get to have pleasure and pain. Pleasure and pain are two of the most fundamental human motivators.
Let's take the example that I used earlier about exercising. Exercise would bring about a lot of pleasure in your life, right? Well, if I make that change, I'm going to be healthier. I'll have more energy. I'll look good, I'll feel good. I'll be proud of myself. Okay, this is all the pleasure you get to have if you make that change.
Do you get to have some pain if you make that change? Oh, yeah, there's the expense and the effort. And it's hard and you get sore and you get winded. You may have to give up some something else to have time to exercise. And it's just hard. That's the pain you get to have when you make that change.
What is the pleasure of not changing? Oh, I don't have to do anything. See, the pleasure of not changing is avoidance of the hard stuff, the painful things we talked about. You don't have to engage at that level. That's pleasurable.
Well, what is the pain of not changing? You are going to get fat and lazy and it's going to be a compromise to your health. And eventually you're going to die. ♪Dan dan dan daan! ♫ I know. Sorry to break it to you. Well, everybody's going to die but you'd probably die earlier if you don't start exercising.
All of these have to be considered because if you are considering changing, you are going to have to deal with both pleasure and pain. If you consider not changing, you are going to have to deal with pleasure and pain. There is a little psychological hurdle. This is the trick that I wanted to get you to.
The psychological hurdle has to do with when the pleasure or the pain shows up. When do you get to have the pleasure of making the change? When you start exercising? No. Well. you get a little satisfaction right then. But when do you get the health benefits, the energy benefits, the increased fitness? It all happens later.
When do you get to have the pain of changing? Oh. right now. Yeah, it's up front. Pay-as-you-enter sort of a thing. You get to have the soreness now, the tiredness now. The effort is expended now.
When do you get to have the pleasure of not changing? Right now. When do you get to have the pain of not changing? I mean the bulk of it. Because you'll beat yourself up for not going to exercise but when does the poor health kick in? When does the I'm-severely-overweight kick in? That's all later.
One of my clients wanted to stop smoking. He was determined to stop smoking. He knew that it was going to kill him, but not today. And that's what had him putting off that decision. I think as we get clear about our pleasure and pain and be aware of the psychological hurdle you have to overcome to actually get yourself to do hard things, really, the pleasure of change and the pain of not changing is what's real. The pleasure of not changing in the pain of changing.
Get your shoes on and get out there. This is important to understand because that puts you in control of your own mind so that you can actually get yourself to do hard things. Do something. Do something today. Something that you've promised yourself to do. If you need more inspiration and help for that, there is a positive personal development playlist at Live On Purpose TV on YouTube. It is going to provide you all kinds of inspiration. At the end of the day, you got to get out and do it.