The origins of action, and an exercise in self awareness

When I sit down to write a post nowadays (yes, meaning 3-4x per year), I first think about what it is I am trying to accomplish. The original intent of my blog was to empower people through nutrition education. While that is still my intent, the way in which I do so has changed. Before, I tried to create simple, delicious recipes to “prove” that healthy food could taste great, and does not have to be laborious. Now, I feel a transition to more informational and contemplative posts. I will always believe that knowledge is power, and education is necessary and empowering. But my professional experience over the last two years has demonstrated that information is not enough. People must both have the motivation to do something as well as the information and tools to follow through for meaningful change to occur.

Motivation is tricky. We are all motivated to do certain things in order to achieve desires, and we usually are cognizant of that connection. What we seem to be blind to is not what we need to do to achieve our objective, or even what are our roadblocks are, but why those roadblocks exist. I get annoyed while reading when an author writes purely in theory and doesn’t clarify with an example, so here is a simple one:

Darla is a bit overweight but eats fairly well most of the time, albeit a sweet tooth. She knows how to reduce carbohydrates and calories to lose weight and wants to lose weight, and realizes that her main barrier is when she that she continues to eat sweets.

WHY she has a sweet tooth may not be clear to Darla. Even if Darla has an idea about what drives her to eat sweets, my experience leads me to presume that it is an incomplete awareness, or a sugar-coated one. And this is a perfectly understandable defense mechanism! When something in our life does not match up to our ideals, it is far less painful to place the blame elsewhere, ignore it, or deny it. The problem with these tactics is that the root problem remains, and breeds increasingly more compensations (problems).

My goal for this post is to challenge you to discover your barrier and at least attempt to identify why it exists. Identifying the barrier is not very hard, but in order to even come close to identifying the root cause of your barrier, you must be incredibly self compassionate. Whatever it is, it is okay, and there is a 100% chance you are not the only one with that challenge/thought/history/desire.

While I am biased in the direction of attacking health issues, you could apply this exercise to any issue in your life or goal you want to meet but are struggling to. I did this for myself and identified a couple deep deep rooted issues that have led to my barriers. I don’t expect to fix these over night, and I realize that one or two may be life long practices, and one or two may fade in and out of my life. And that is okay. The point is awareness, without which we are all relegated to the inertia of now.

Use a real PEN AND PAPER to do this exercise.

  1. Identify the goal you are struggling to reach.
  2. List the steps or parts required to achieve the goal.
  3. Circle the steps or parts that you are not able to complete, or struggle to complete consistently.
  4. For each circled step, draw an arrow outward and write why you are not able to do so. If there is more than one reason, draw multiple arrows.
  5. For each arrow, ask why and draw another arrow leading to the answer.
  6. Ask why 1-3 more times, until you cannot dig any deeper or the reasoning becomes circular.

Below is a fake, common example.IMG_4533

In the sample above, this woman may have identified that her job is no longer fulfilling and her marriage is unhealthy, both exacerbating her emotional eating tendencies. Are these easy admittances? Hell no! Realistically, these things do not usually come out in one, simple exercise, but it is good to get the wheels turning.

I can one hundred and fifty percent guarantee you that you will answer why without any issue and then feel like you are done. You are not be done with this exercise until you feel uncomfortable.

Once you feel slightly sweaty and panicked, you know you have hit the nail on the head.

It doesn’t mean you have to do anything about it today, tomorrow, or ever.

It doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with you, your past, or your future.

All it means is that you have learned something about yourself, and you will forever be empowered by this information. You can throw away the paper and never think about it again. If you decide to do something proactive, that is fantastic, and I encourage you to seek external help in doing so.

Because if it was easy enough to do on your own, you would have done it already.

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3 thoughts on “The origins of action, and an exercise in self awareness

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