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If you’re basing your life on doing only what you like and what feels good and avoiding what you don’t like and doesn’t feel good, you’re not going to be very happy or successful for very long. So when I hear clients say they don’t enjoy or like eating healthy foods, exercising or going to the doctor, I know that my job is to help them find some other motivation for engaging in these essential activities.
The first thing I focus on is the belief that they must like something to do it. Where does that assumption come from? Is that a belief their parents had and modeled or taught them? If so, how well did it serve them then and how well does it serve them today?
My client Rebecca was one of six children whose parents were rarely there to guide her through her childhood. When she put up a fuss about doing something unpleasant, they called her defiant and more or less let her be. Two unfortunate things were going on here. By allowing Rebecca to avoid doing things she didn’t enjoy, her parents were abnegating responsibility to do what was best for their children (I’m not blaming here, just explaining). Plus, they were modeling this same avoidance. Because they were uncomfortable pushing her to do something beneficial for her, they let her be. Wherever, then, would Rebecca learn how to ignore discomfort to do what’s best for herself?
This situation is one scenario of how children grow into adults who avoid discomfort. The other is when children are too often forced to do things they don’t want to do via harsh commands, punishment or withdrawal of love. They learn nothing from this experience about how to draw on internal and external resources to move beyond discomfort and then become resentful of not being allowed to guide their own lives.
Here's the trick to doing what you don’t enjoy doing. Rather than expect to delight in something or force yourself to like it, feel proud of doing something that brings you no pleasure but is best for you in the long run. Let pride save the day. In fact, be especially proud of engaging in activities that are in your best interest but may not be your cup of tea in the moment. It feels great to be proud of something you enjoy doing that comes easily to you. A deeper pride is the kind you feel when you’re doing something you don’t enjoy that demands effort and discomfort because you care enough about yourself.
Next time you’re thinking about avoiding something you don’t enjoy or like, put a different spin on the situation and switch gears to feeling proud of doing it anyway. We don’t get to like everything we do, but we can feel proud of all our endeavors, pleasant or unpleasant. The more unpleasant, the more proud we get to feel.
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