Recently, I was chatting with a colleague about building strong mindsets and moving from moments of awareness to action. We found ironic amusement in the fact that, even as rational and logical beings, humans often do not do what's in our best interest. It isn't always as toxic as purposefully doing things that do not serve or harm us, but rather, how infrequently we act in order to better, expand, and improve ourselves.
The example we discussed was about fitness. As rational humans, we know how important it is to eat a well-balanced diet and exercise, yet the majority of the population (in North America, at least) neglects to do so. It's not as if any of us lack the means to make changes; we can easily walk or run sometimes instead of driving everywhere, and even if we lack the means to eat a fully organic diet, eating fast food is not the only alternative. This represents only one example, but can easily be applied to a wider range of thought. The question raised in my colleague was, "If we're smart and know what's good for us, why don't we just do it?" A powerful and thought-provoking question, indeed.
We chatted more to try and discover the 'missing link' between awareness—of ourselves and what's best for us—and actually taking the necessary action to move in a more positive and rewarding direction. The answer is somewhat ambiguous, as there isn't a singular reason why we know, but do not do. Some point their finger towards laziness, and that may have some merit. When we're comfortable, we possess less inclination to make changes and rock our metaphorical boats. It's shocking what we can become used to, given time, and without the pain of discomfort, we lack a real desire to change.
That desire plays a huge role, as it's the spark that lights a fire of action beneath us, and drives us forward. All kinds of fear and limitation can hold us back from taking action; it's different from person-to-person, and from situation-to-situation. The common thread, though, is that if we lack the desire, drive, persistence, or determination to set out on a journey of growth and improvement, we will find myriad excuses not to, and remain set in our ways.
To discover the 'missing link', I found that going back to one of Tony Robbins' basic principles shed light on an answer. He maintains that humans either seek pleasure or avoid pain, and when put to the ultimate test, will choose to avoid pain before pursuing pleasure. This actually speaks to my observation that our desire to change correlates inversely with our comfort level. In essence, unless we can associate pain with what we do not want—in the case of the fitness example, feeling slow, sluggish, lethargic, or generally unhealthy—we will not move to change. If you are comfortable—whether you're telling yourself or not—with not achieving your goals, you'll not make the necessary changes in order to reach them.
So, what is my advice, you may ask? Learn to buck comfort, and become uncomfortable. If you have a goal you want to reach, yet you lack the desire to take decisive and massive action towards it right now, ask yourself what is holding you back. Search for what's making you feel comfortable in a place, mindset, or state of being that does not agree with your awareness and desired direction. Once you've identified the culprit(s), work on associating pain with it(them) to such a degree that you become uncomfortable existing in that way. Use that discomfort to really understand what you don't want, and then shift your focus to what you do: the rewards from achieving your goal(s). Through a mixture of avoiding the pain you've created with your current situation, and a desire to move towards the pleasurable state your new goal(s) will bring about, you'll be in a much more motivated place to take the action that aligns with awareness of yourself, and where you want to go.