Trying to be Well? Not Making Progress? Embrace the Suck.

cohdranknwghts2Are you trying to get healthy, or trying to change your lifestyle, and just not making much progress? Don’t despair. It is hard to change, and it’s pretty common to get stuck along the way. If this is you, try asking yourself, “What’s the hardest action I could take to improve?” or “What should I do that I am avoiding?” Then do it! I’m serious here. Let’s talk through the issues.

It seems to me that for personal improvement, in general, harder is better. That is, the hardest or most difficult thing to do in the moment is typically the best thing to do for the long run. For example, it’s hard to stick to a daily workout, but great for your long-term health. Similarly, the easiest thing to do right now is likely to be one of the worst things to do over the rest of your life. For example, overeating feels good at the time but leads to obesity, diabetes and other chronic illnesses.

Naturally we tend to avoid doing the hard things. We’d rather try the “easy way.” If we’re trying to get slim, we use minor tinkering with our diets, fad diets, pills, supplements or liposuction in place of the much harder work of learning to cook and eat very differently. Yet they can’t really replace that, can they? We calm ourselves with TV, alcohol and comfort foods instead of doing the hard work to become more emotionally well, calmer individuals. When the easy way doesn’t work, and it usually doesn’t, we’re stuck.

But we don’t have to stay stuck if we can take the more difficult actions. I think almost everyone who’s not getting better knows the harder way that they’re avoiding. This might even be the single most important and powerful action they could take in that regard. They just don’t want to do it. Me included. I know. You know. We all know what we could and should be doing. But knowing is not doing, and it’s easier to pretend that we don’t know, or that it’s impossible. We’re all looking for excuses to stay stuck. Really.

If you can recognize this in yourself, and if you can admit it (which is also very hard), you can learn to do the hardest thing, to accept the difficult course, knowing that it is the most difficult actions that lead to the greatest reward.

Perhaps this is a little too general. Here are some ideas for hard, perhaps even radical, actions for personal wellbeing. They may or may not apply to your personal situation but can get you thinking.

  • Become a vegetarian
  • Give up sugar
  • Stop drinking alcohol
  • Hire a personal trainer
  • Enter therapy or counseling
  • Distance yourself from unhelpful friends and relatives
  • End your TV service
  • Join a Christian small group for encouragement and accountability

None of these are easy. All are effective. Choose to do what’s hardest.  “Embrace the suck,” as they say in the military and you can accomplish great things.

What are you avoiding?