A question I receive often (and relate to like WHOA) is this:
How do you get yourself to take action, day in and day out, on the things that don't bring you any immediate gratification? Or even any obvious results? How do you stay motivated to keep on with those actions?
Oy. That's that age-old question, isn't it?
Right now, I can think of several tasks I don't particularly enjoy, but I do them daily because I know they're good for me.
The first that springs to mind? Flossing. GOOD GRAVY FLOSSING IS AWFUL.
And I wasn't always a flosser. (Mom, you didn't read that.) About three years ago, after a sad trip to the dentist, I started flossing in earnest. Having survived twenty-something years without a cavity, I was sure I didn't need to be the daily flossing type, so I reserved my little spool of waxed string for the night before a dental appointment (which, I'll admit, I scheduled few and far between), and that was that.
But at age 31, I got a cavity. And then another. And another. (I won't tell you the exact number of and anothers that should follow because that's just flat-out embarrassing. Suffice it to say: I need two hands to count my fillings.)
(Ugh, I think I may have just embarrassed myself.)
Anyway, the upshot here is, I became a fanatical daily flosser once I had proof that 1. flossing is necessary for my dental health, and 2. not flossing is actually a way of hurting myself.
A good portion of the damage is done already. I got cavities; I have fillings. It all could've been avoided.
But there's a part of me that knows I need to keep up this newish habit—because abandoning it could lead to more cavities, sure. But also because I want to be the Helen who takes care of herself.
You see, what really changed my perspective on flossing wasn't the cavities or the fillings or even the dental bills.
What changed my perspective on flossing was a reframe I happened upon.
That reframe was this:
I love myself enough to [fill in the blank].
I love myself enough to floss tonight.
Simple and profound, all at once.
When I view the task before me as an act of self-love, the task is transformed. Motivation is irrelevant. Readiness is neither here nor there. Energy plays a part only insofar as I might be really damn tired, barely capable of keeping my eyes open... But c'mon, flossing takes all of, what? Three minutes?
(You'll remember motivation, readiness, and energy as the Three Fallacies that Stand Between You and Taking Action.)
So, it comes down to loving ourselves enough to do what we don't feel like doing.
This isn't to say if you don't floss tonight, you don't love yourself. It isn't quite so black and white as that.
If the question, though, is how to persist with relentless action-taking when the task feels inconsequential (or unrewarding, or boring as hell) in the moment, try finding its connection to your self-love.
Try reminding yourself that you deserve to have the thing that's on the other side of the seemingly thankless task. To have happy gums (gums that don't betray your not-flossing secret when you finally go to the dentist and they bleed...) To have healthy teeth.
Because really—when it comes to flossing, or whatever else it is that has us falling off the wagon periodically, good teeth is actually something we can provide for ourselves! We have a hand in it! We can give ourselves the thing we want! So, then: Why wouldn't we?!
Try it on for size: I love myself enough to [fill in the blank]. And let me know how it goes. What shifts?