It is really, really easy to fall into a trap of paying lip service to the things we think ought to be important but that we don’t actually find important in our day to day lives.
“Oh, I should be spending less money,” says someone waiting in line for a large coffee and a breakfast pastry at a local coffee shop.
“Oh, I should be spending more time with the kids,” texts someone to their sister while their kids are out in the yard and they’re camped out in a comfortable chair.
“Oh, I should be cleaning the house,” thinks someone as they change the channel.
All of us do this. It’s not a unique phenomenon.
Quite often, the path of least resistance is the one we choose to follow. It’s far easier to snag a convenient meal when we’re hungry than to search for a better option. It’s far easier to camp out in a comfortable chair after a long day at work than to take on another challenge. It’s far easier to just keep watching television than to jump up and take on a personal task.
There’s nothing wrong with doing those things, either. The problem comes in when we pay lip service to those things we know we should be doing, but we don’t bother to actually do them. This fails us in two ways.
One, we don’t actually achieve the thing we think we should be doing. Instead of spending less money, we spend more. Instead of playing with the kids, we vegetate. Instead of cleaning the house, we watch “America’s Next Top Model.”
Two, we reinforce a negative pattern that undermines that thing we “should” be doing. We reinforce a pattern of eating that expensive breakfast. We establish a routine of vegetating after work while the kids play. We begin to accept a messier house and a greater dose of television in our routine.
Lip service is more than just words. Here’s how we break out of it.
When you have a notion of something you ought to be doing, push yourself to go ahead and take care of it. Recognize that you’re trying to put off something genuinely important, then stand up and take care of it. Don’t even give yourself a second to try to talk yourself out of it. Get up and do it.
At the end of the day, reflect on those times you made the “better” choice. When you look back, you’ll feel really good about the things you achieved that day. You’ll tie some strong positive feelings to making that better choice.
The result of that reflection is that the next time that choice comes up, the balance of what seems like the better decision will have shifted a little bit. You’ll feel more inclined to make the “good” choice and not just give it lip service.
Remember, your actions define what you value, not your words. Whenever you find yourself proclaiming one thing with your words but another thing with your actions, you’re betraying yourself in some fashion. Make them match – make your actions live up to your positive words – and you’ll feel incredibly good about the direction your life is taking, not just today, but over the long course of life.