Why you don’t go running, even though you say you really want to

Olof Ekman
Aug 5, 2020

During lockdown, I did an online workshop with 10 of H&M’s young leaders on the topic of value-driven habits. In preparation for it, I presented an idea to my wife to get her feedback. My argument, which was inspired by this interview with Derek Sivers, was basically this:

If you say that you really want to get in shape, but then never do anything about it, it’s not actually that important to you.

Sound harsh?

My wife thought so too. She’s an illustrator who has been wanting to start tattooing and said:

It was impossible for me to work on my tattooing during lockdown because we had the kids around all the time.

Here’s the thing. There are people who put their work before their kids all the time. But for my wife, our kids were, fortunately, more important to her than her tattooing ambitions, so she chose to focus on them. But let’s be clear, that was a choice she made. She could have put on Netflix and locked herself away and got to work.

When I asked her for feedback on this article, she said she still was not sure she agreed with this. I’m just guessing now but I think the reason for that is because it’s a bit painful to admit that it was up to her and no one else.

And this can be the case for you as well as you read this. Maybe you will get a bit upset and think, “Hey, it’s not that simple you…” — And if you do feel that way, I hear you because I’ve felt it too. It’s comforting to know that there are reasons outside our own control that makes us not take action.

But if we are really honest with ourselves, we choose what we take action on. And most of the time, our actions show us what really matters to us, not what we say matters to us.

And if you don’t have clarity about your values and what you care about, it can be hard to understand what’s going on.

Here’s another example; Recently a good friend of mine wrote to me to ask for advice on how to build a better sleeping routine. Here’s how the conversation started:

As I kept on asking her questions, it became clear that even though she said going to bed early was really important to her, her actions proved that something else was more important: time for herself.

So when we say that we really want to go running, but then never actually do it, something else is more important. Maybe it’s watching Netflix. Maybe it’s work. Maybe it’s spending time with your kids.

Now you might think, choosing to watch Netflix over going running is just straight-up laziness. But here’s the thing, you can watch Netflix instead of going to work as well, but most people don’t because they think making a living is more important. So they choose to go to work instead. It’s a choice we make.

The things that are really important to us, we act on.

Someone who has been overweight for the last 10 years and has been wanting to do something about it often doesn’t do anything until the doctor tells them they have type-2 diabetes. Suddenly they start taking action because it’s now the most important thing to them. Before, something else was more important.

And if we don’t really know what’s actually most important to us, we often fall into autopilot mode and simply act based on how we feel in the situation.

So if you have something that you want to take action on, but you can’t seem to get going, two things can help:

  1. Get clarity about what your values are and what really matters to you. Once you know this, you will find it easier to decide what you want to do about it by asking yourself:
  2. “How would it look if my actions were aligned with my values?”

In The 1-Month Habit Experiment, the first thing we do is to explore and define our values by looking at our previous actions. What have you done in the past that felt meaningful to you? Where are you spending your time? Based on that, you can build habits to support your values and, by doing so, live a more fulfilling life.

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