As we think about what we 'should' do in our quest for health and wellness (and, too often, 'why' we don't do it!) we frequently find our thoughts blowing around and around inside our head just like those child's colored windmills. As I was writing this, it reminded me of the words of that Michel Legrand song of the late 60's, "Windmills of your Mind".
"Like a circle in a spiral, Like a wheel within a wheel, Never ending or beginning, On an ever-spinning reel ...
That's what those kind of 'should' thoughts mostly feel like - "I know I should do this because ... but if I don't do it, then what? ...and if I .. ? etc etc?" Or those 'why' thoughts - "Why do I always do this? ... why can't I succeed? ... why do I always fail?" I'm sure we've all had those kind of thoughts before - "round and round and round they go and where they stop nobody knows!"
Let's use exercise as an example. You want to become more active and you have done it for a few days or even a few weeks ... but then you just stop. What's the problem here? You know that you should exercise and you know why you should do it - but you just stop. Each time you 'fail', you go round and around in your head wondering why you always do this and ultimately deciding that maybe you just didn't try hard enough.
What is going on here? Does this happen to everyone all the time? Are we all just lazy (because we just can't be bothered to do it) or stupid (because we know what is 'good for us' but don't do it anyway?). Of course not! It's something much more basic than this. Very often it's the kind of question you ask (yourself or others) that 'pre-selects' not only the way you set your goal, but also your response to making (or, especially, not making) the goal, and also your next attempt at the goal. Here's my take on this based on current research in behavioral science and my training as an Intrinsic Coach.
'Why?" questions are almost always the first ones to be asked post-goal setting. If you set yourself a goal and you don't make that goal, I can almost guarantee the first thing your trainer will ask (or you will ask yourself) is some variation of 'Why do you think you didn't make that goal?" But here's the thing, 'why' questions (however nicely asked) are hardly ever productive. If asked of another person, they tend to produce defensiveness (e.g. I just got too busy, I just didn't feel like it etc). If asked of yourself, they tend to produce some variation of 'I don't know', followed by 'maybe I could do this or maybe I could have done that or next time maybe, maybe, maybe ...' ... never ending or beginning like an ever spinning reel!
More productive and far less circular are 'What?' questions - but not a 'What should I do?' question, since that's really the same thing we just talked about above. A different and more clarifying question is "What is important to me (about this goal)?" It is essential to say here that this is not the same as 'what is best for me', or 'what is good for me', or 'what will benefit me', or even 'what will I get out of this'. No - we are thinking here only about "What is important to me". Incidentally, if for some reason you don't make that initial goal, the other 'What?' question to ask is "What did I learn from this?" (rather than 'Why did I mess up?" or similar). I have written about this in earlier posts - check out "GOOOAAALLL!!!" and it is worth repeating that for many people this initially is a funny question to be asked (funny 'peculiar' not funny 'ha ha'), and almost always takes some time to elicit a clear answer. For more details - and more thinking - on this check my earlier post Get SMART - Look Yourself In The i
If you clarify the 'What is important' part, everything else follows, step by step, with each step informing the next
"As the images unwind, Like the circles that you find, In the windmills of your mind"
Unwind the images - you are outside the circular - what is important to you?