Action isn’t just the effect of motivation; it’s also the cause of it
~Mark Manson, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F***
This is one of the most personally impactful quotes I have ever come across. It is from Mark Manson’s, The Subtle Art of Not Giving an F***. The timing of reading this book along with Mark’s to the point, no BS style of writing were a perfect and necessary tonic. I was forced to look at my personal values and goals and really determine my priorities. Quite simply, I was motivated to — do something.
I have always wanted work on my writing. After reading the book, I realized I had been in love with the outcome (i.e. being a writer) and had not yet been willing to put in the work. I had to be in love with the process and I wasn’t sure I was. So I decided to do something about it — I began writing. I made it a daily practice and realized the process is something I deeply enjoy. Now, more than a year later I have built up a little collection that I hope to publish one day. However, whether it ever gets published or not is really secondary. I have found enrichment in the act itself and for me that is enough.
Similarly, being in the medical field and given my family health history, I was keenly aware of the need to work on becoming physically fitter. Medical school and residency had taken a toll on my physical fitness and I knew I needed to do something about it. However, as most of us do, I was waiting to be motivated. I was waiting for myself to magically become a person who would go to the gym regularly and be able to go for runs. Didn’t happen. It wasn’t’ going to happen until I employed the “do something” principle eloquently put forth by Mark. I needed to act in order to get motivated. I had a treadmill in my basement that was gathering dust. I resolved to just go downstairs and run for 5 minutes regularly. Anything else was a bonus. That got the wheel rolling. I started enjoying my runs and added weight training. My friends and I created a WhatsApp group where we simply post our workouts, to motivate each other. Now, I exercise pretty regularly and enjoy it. I’m in much better shape than I was 10 years ago which probably isn’t saying much but hey, progress!
I have been trying to incorporate the above strategies to my interactions with my patients. When for example, patients would come in to discuss their hypertension, cholesterol or diabetes I used to discuss a number of things they needed to change in terms of lifestyle in order to manage their condition better. Patients probably left overwhelmed and unsure of where to start. They, like me, were probably waiting to get motivated. Now, I ask patients to suggest 1 or 2 small, sustainable changes (see SMART Goals) that they can make. Furthermore, we explore what may be their keystone habits, from which other healthier habits may emerge. Patient generated changes are much more likely to stick. I ask them to just focus on these changes and hope they will begin to build momentum.
I have an interest in weight management and am working with a number of my patients on this. Together we try to focus on the process and what is within the patient’s control and not the ultimate outcome (i.e. pounds lost). By focusing on sustainable change, the hope is to improve their health and quality of life regardless of how much weight is actually lost.
So, if you have a number of things you want to work on in terms of your health, my suggestion is first prioritize them. Decide which are important enough for you to put the work in. Look at which goals may lead to other improvements in your life (for example, maybe improving your sleep routine will allow you to exercise in the morning or prepare better meals). Once you have decided what goal you want to tackle first, think of 1 or 2 specific, sustainable changes you can make to help the goal become a reality. Do something…and get the ball rolling. Here’s to better health!