I hate going to the gym. My gym shares a parking lot with McDonald’s. Every time I go to my local gym, I can’t help but notice that it’s an equal distance from the parking lot to McDonald’s cashier as it is to the elliptical machine at the gym. It’s less effort to buy a large order of french fries than it is to adjust the seat on a stationary bike and go for a ride to nowhere. When I get out of my vehicle, my plantar fasciitis makes my heels ache. Wouldn’t it be more rewarding to get a Big Mac and go home? I think so.
Unfortunately, eating carry-out and beaching myself on the sofa at home hasn’t made my feet feel better. Trust me, I’ve tried that. It’s really easy! Instead of going to the gym, I procrastinate. I can do ANYTHING else—up to and including cleaning my house—while lying to myself with the best of intentions. I can pretend I will go to the gym later, somewhere in a vague and distant future.
It’s easy to avoid the gym. It’s easy to put off writing the next chapter in my novel. It’s easy to avoid all of the “I should be doing this” moments like folding my laundry or tidying up my desk. There’s ALWAYS something else I could do.
That’s how I discovered this anecdote from Stephen Colbert while avoiding something I felt I “should be doing” and watching C1:E5 of Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee on Netflix. Stephen Colbert was a guest on Jerry Seinfeld’s show. Stephen briefly talked about a woman who was going through some changes in her life. She laid out all of her various options and asked, “What should I do?” Stephen Colbert gave her this brilliant piece of advice:
You should think of the thing that you least want to do. That’s probably the right thing to do—and you know it, which is why you don’t want to do it.
This quote rolls through my brain all the time…because it’s so true! It’s so human. It’s so normal to avoid anything that’s perceived as painful or difficult, even though most of the time, the tasks or goals I’m avoiding aren’t nearly as difficult as they are in my mind. For example, I didn’t want to put away my Christmas decorations. Just thinking about taking down my Christmas tree seemed like too much work. In actuality, it took about 30 minutes to put everything away. When I drag myself inside the gym, I always feel better than before I started. My plantar fasciitis doesn’t hurt as much. Plus, there’s a sense of achievement when I’m done. Even still, it’s never easy to get past the inertia.
What are you avoiding today? How much better would you feel if you spent even a few minutes working on the goals that you’ve been putting off?