We all know the feeling of having to do something and putting it off. 'I'll do it tomorrow', you say to yourself, but you said that yesterday. That book you meant to write, that running habit, getting to work on time. Whatever it is, you can change it. And here's one idea that might help you change your behaviour so you can get to doing what you really want to do.
Akrasia is a word created by ancient philosophers, Socrates and Aristotle, to describe that dissonance we feel when our higher self is telling us to do one thing, and our immediate self is vying for another activity. (It's that feeling when you hear the words in your mind 'Don't eat the chocolate cake' when you've already had a piece.) Our desire in the moment for the temporary reward often overwrites the deeper desire to be healthy and to choose fresh and juicy fruit and veg instead.
This is simply how humans work, for the most part. But there are some strategies we can incorporate into our lives when dealing with Akrasia. So what can you do about it? You could try the 'if… then' strategy.
Using this strategy can help clarify what you are going to do, and to ensure you are focused on it. When there is no other option than doing what you have planned, it becomes extremely likely that you will do it. This is because then there is no deliberation, it becomes a certainty, so procrastination doesn't get a look in.
To use this simple strategy, plan what you are going to be doing in a certain situation, time or place:
'If it is 8am, then I will get up and do some yoga and meditation.'
'If it is 10am, then I will begin writing my novel.'
The 'if then' strategy has shown to increase levels of productivity 200-300% on average. That's some pretty good stats.
This is because it cuts out any thoughts that mean you can listen to the many excuses your mind will come up with to get you to put it off for a bit, or to think of the reasons you might change your mind and do something else instead.
Another practice that helps with this is trying cold showers, in which you hear all of your excuses not to do it, and do it anyway. Becoming aware of these thoughts is the first step to getting confident in the art of just doing it and being aligned with who you really are, and being able to do what you were brought here to do.
Setting up a new habit is challenging, so don't be too hard on yourself about whether you make it to the gym every single time. Just the fact that you are trying to change is enough for now. And the easiest way to begin is to make starting as easy as possible. Once you've gotten over that hurdle, and have done so consistently, the habit will begin to feel more natural. If you begin to make it a part of your identity as in 'I'm a runner now', then you know you have won most of the battle.
Maya Angelou said that success is "liking yourself, liking what you do and liking how you do it." Hopefully this little tip will allow you to be more of yourself and to contribute more of your time to enjoying the fullness of life, instead of worrying about what you have not done. That's pretty powerful stuff, and it all starts with your habits.
For more tips on creating healthy habits, check this out.