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  • Writer's pictureTed Bradshaw

Something to think about, something to do

There are some times where we can get stuck in a loop, being frustrated with ourselves for not moving forwards with something (more exercise, better diet, less scrolling, doing mindfulness, working towards a promotion), but not actually doing anything about.


Most of the time, the way we think about finding a way out of this loop is to find a way to force ourselves into making this particular change:

  • Sign up to a gym

  • Remove all the biscuits from the house

  • Turn my phone off

  • Download an app

  • Make myself a plan for my work


Sometimes those things work and they are the beginning of a new habit that lasts. Sometimes it lasts for a few days and then I revert to the old loop of not doing it and being frustrated with myself.


Why does that happen?


We often default to asking ourselves what we need to do in order to improve. However, when we do that, we are getting ahead of ourselves. Before we ask “What do I need to do to get myself to move forwards with this?” it is helpful to ask:


“Why am I telling myself to do this?”


Sometimes the reason we can’t get ourselves to move forwards with something isn’t because we are stupid or lazy. Sometimes it’s because it is something we feel like we “should” be doing, rather than something we actively want. Sometimes the thing we feel we “should” be doing is even something we dread.


When we ask ourselves why we are striving for something, there are a few outcomes:


I don’t actually want this at all, but I feel like the fact I am not doing it means I am a failure or “less” than other people:


“I always strive for promotions because I always feel like I should be doing more, but actually I don’t really have much passion for the work itself.”


This is a should. Something that I am striving for because I feel that I should, but that maybe isn’t actually going to be fulfilling for me at all. Maybe a promotion isn’t going to solve the nagging feeling that I am not happy. Recognising that might enable me to work on getting to know what I really want or like, and working towards that instead.


I do want part of it, but not in the way that I have in my head.


“I would really like to be fitter so I can have more energy, but the idea of a gym or a treadmill makes me feel simultaneously bored to tears and sick to my stomach.”


If you understand that your aim is “have more energy” rather than “go to the gym more” then you might be able to find a way to get to your aim that actually suits you better. Maybe you don’t have to go to the gym, maybe you can do something else that you don’t dread. Sometimes we get stuck in the idea that there is one particular way of doing things and anything else is “cheating.” Maybe I know that I like walking or dancing, but I don’t feel like that really meets the definition of “exercising” so I discount it and end up not doing anything.


When you can tell the difference between something you actually want to do and something you think you should do, things become a little easier.


Something to think about 


What are the “shoulds” in your life?

Are these things that you actually want?


Something to do


The next time there is something you are asking yourself “How can I get myself to do this?” instead, ask yourself “How can I make this something that really genuinely appeals to me?”


Thanks for reading! Until next week,




P.S. sometimes undoing your "shoulds" can take some time. A good place to start is asking where it came from: "Where did I pick up the idea that this is something I should be doing?"


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