Part 1: DO
When we want to change our destiny, we start by changing our behavior. Hence DO.
I've literally wasted years of my life planning, pondering, weighing my options, thinking, considering, evaluating, and anticipating instead of doing.
There's nothing wrong with thinking, of course. Nothing wrong with planning, with anticipating mishaps and preparing for them. Nothing wrong with caution. Fools rush in and all that.
But too often, all this mental plate spinning serves only to delay action. To block the DO.
As my friend and teacher Peter Bregman points out, sometimes the best way to make a decision is to just try something and see what happens. Often a coaching client will have a decision to make, options to weigh, and gets paralyzed by the unknown. In that case, more thinking is almost never the answer. Instead, Peter suggests, flip a coin. If it comes up Heads and your heart sinks, then you know that you really prefer the Tails option.
Most of the time, being stuck in indecision is a convenient, comfortable place. Because it removes the need for us to DO.
As my friend and teacher Josh LaJaunie frequently insists, the heart of change resides in DO mode.
Josh lost 200+ pounds and became an ultra endurance athlete without a coach or a plan. He just DID stuff and saw what happened. Sometimes he made mistakes, and sometimes he nailed it. But every mistake turned into a revelation, which led to a tweak, which contributed to his positive journey of discovery and change.
Hundreds of people reach out to Josh for advice and inspiration on Facebook and Instagram.
Many of them are desperate to escape the same prison of obesity and misery that had caged Josh for many years. Yet when he responds to their pleas for help with concrete advice, they often balk and resist.
Offering reasons why not. Why they can’t do what he did. Why now isn’t a great time. Why that solution is too extreme, and they won’t be able to maintain it long-term, so why bother?
In truth, they don’t need Josh’s advice. They already know enough to clean up their diets and start moving.
Even if they’re confused about green smoothies or coconut oil or red wine or pastured-raised beef, they can still cut out the soda and donuts and cheeseburgers. Ain’t nobody out there saying those are health foods.
Even if they’re uncertain about which GPS watch or running shoe or training plan, they can still lace up their everyday footwear and start walking.
As Plant Yourself Podcast guest Tim Kaufman puts it, “Just do a little more today than you did yesterday.”
Even if you don’t know what to do, DO something. Anything. If you want things to change, then you have to change. Something. Anything. So DO.
Part 2: BE
After two weeks of guidance and inspiration and support, many participants in the Big Change Program had made significant changes in their eating and moving habits. In the forum and via private emails, they expressed their gratitude, excitement, and – fear.
Fear that once the initial motivation wore off, they’d slide back to where they started.
Not an unreasonable fear.
Most of us have experienced that rush of motivation that fuels heroic action that doesn’t last. And that leaves us more dispirited and hopeless than before we started. It’s a shitty feeling.
The habit experts tell us how to conserve and deploy our motivation intelligently and strategically.
We learn how to sanitize our environments to minimize temptation. How to talk with family and friends to get them to stop trying to sabotage us. How to conquer our inner gluttonous nature through a strengthened neocortex.
All these strategies are useful, and in fact quite necessary during the first stages of our change journey.
However, they all have one flaw in common: they assume that we will always have to fight this inner war between what we want in the moment and what we want long-term. So our lives become a dance of impulse management, in which we can’t slip up even for a second.
No wonder we fear the moment that motivation wanes and we have to go back to our ordinary lives with our ordinary, pitiful desires.
There’s another way to approach this journey. And that is to allow the DO to change how we BE.
We can decide to BE different than how we were.
It’s much more than getting better at resisting temptation. It’s changing so deeply that we simply don’t attend to the temptation any more.
For example, when I was little, I used to bug my mother to get me sugary cereals when I accompanied her to the supermarket. (My favorite was Peanut Cap’n Crunch, a preference that lasted, I’m ashamed to admit, well into my 20s.)
I no longer feel the pull of Peanut Cap’n Crunch when I amble through the cereal aisle. It’s not that my iron will keeps me from lunging for the shelf and ripping the box open with my teeth. I’ve simply changed so profoundly, the junk cereal has no appeal.
This might sound like bad news. Because how can we will ourselves to bring about such a giant change? When we’re on the Before side of a shift, the After side feels like a technicolor Oz, unattainable by any earthly means at our disposal.
The good news is, we don’t need to change anything, really. As Josh shared in the most recent Big Change Kickoff Call, we’re not looking to BE something different, something alien from our true nature.
To the contrary, what we’re trying to BE is who we really are. Before all the cultural programming. Before all the hyper palatable foods and self-serving marketing. Before the desk jobs and TVs and couches and fossil fuels turned us into caricatures of our authentic, noble, athletic, lean, healthy selves.
Part 3: DO
So how do we get to BE our authentic selves again?
By DOing what our authentic selves are designed to do. Meant to do. Programmed to do.
Move like the bipedal animals we are.
Sweat and strain.
Look for ways to challenge ourselves.
And DO a little more today than we did yesterday.