When it comes to losing weight, going to the gym or studying, most people find making plans difficult, but according to research, plans increase follow through.
Planning takes thought, and means making a commitment. But it’s hard to think about something in the future that doesn’t yet exist. It’s also hard to commit something new, when you aren’t sure how you’ll like it.
Planning is Making a Commitment
Before we commit to a new partner, we go through all of these questions… What if they turn out to be boring? What if they’re tough to get along with? What if someone else more interesting comes along?
These same questions appear for things like like losing weight, going to the gym or studying… What if this diet is too hard? What if I end up hating chemistry? What if I’m too tired to go to the gym?
Plans vs Feelings
There is an epic battle being waged between your Plans and your Feelings and you are caught in the middle.
Feelings are valid, and crucially important indicators about our relationship to things. A feeling like “I feel too tired to go to the gym today” can then stimulate thoughts like “that must mean I’m not a gym person,” or “I don’t have motivation”, or “there’s something wrong with me”.
But feelings are just information for us to take in. Perhaps you didn’t get enough sleep last night, perhaps you have low blood sugar, or perhaps you don’t like the exercises you’ve planned to do. It is purely a transient feeling, and it will change.
Feelings are Unreliable Plans
Sometimes we feel like we want to do our behavior, other times we really don’t.
We have a wide palette of emotions like anger, lust, love, frustration, joy, disgust, and they combine in an infinite number of ways, but we cannot control them.
Over time we develop a repertoire of our emotional reactions to things, which end up defining our sense of self and how others perceive us
“I’m a calm person who loves chocolate.”
“He’s an anxious guy who hates broccoli.”
The Hidden Truth of Temperament
In the past, we used the word temperament to describe our repertoire of reactions, aka our personalities.
“I have an artistic temperament.”
“She has a gentle temperament.”
The word temperament was passed down to us from the French and Latin, and it turns out we’ve always known our personalities are actually not these stable states.
In French, the word temperament relates le temps, a word which means both “the weather” and “time.”
The weather changes from moment to moment. Temperature, how hot or cold the environment feels, changes from moment to moment. So do our feelings about people, things, and ideas.
Feelings and Going to the Gym
If we wait for the right emotional forecast to do a behavior, our important behaviors are unlikely to happen consistently.
Waiting to feel motivated to go to the gym is like waiting to see a cloud in the shape of your childhood dog. Sure, it might happen….at some point….Maybe.
Waiting to feel like doing your homework, is like waiting for a 20% chance of rain.
Relying on feelings to do important behaviors is a bit of a fool’s errand.
A Plan creates the conditions for us to do a behavior regardless of how we feel.
The Safety of a Plan
A plan is the structure, the support for your goals. It increases the probability that your behavior will happen.
If a plan were a house, it is the foundation, the walls, and the roof, everything that protects you from the weather of your emotions.
It’s no coincidence that when building a house we say,
“Let me see the plans.”– Anyone who wants a house built.
A building or a plan can be as small or as big as you want. It can be a tiny cute, cottage, “do two push ups today!” or it can be a massive skyscraper proving to the world that you lived, “Do an Ironman Triathlon in one year!”
A great plan is a skeleton of girders that hold your goal up, in all weather, in all emotional states.
Yet without a plan, there is no structure, and without a structure, your building will fall in the slightest breeze. In fact, without a plan, you have no building. You just have a fantasy house.
Without a plan your goal of losing weight, getting to the gym, doing your work, has the same probability of there being a 22% chance of rain in the Sahara. Very unlikely.
So give yourself your best chance to create REAL results and…
In another post we’ll show what makes some plans more successful than others.