Have you ever been on a roll? Have you gone for days or weeks without breaking a habit or missing a beat?
Have you then lost all motivation? Have you crashed and burned or sabotaged yourself or procrastinated even while knowing it was wrong?
Our bodies and minds are mysterious things, and so much of what we do originates in unconscious processes. While the exact nature of unconscious thought is a question for the psychologists, *how* we can relate to it is another question.
I’ve begun to think that my body and mind are rather like a pet dog.
They’ll only go so far with me before they start to rebel. Sometimes they’ll be on their best behavior, and some days they’ll try to s*** in the garden path at a wedding reception (yes, this actually happened.)
You should absolutely push yourself, just like you might train any animal with which you work. You are capable of far more than you realize. But you should also realize that your body and mind have some sovereignty in the equation.
If you pour abuse on yourself to keep going, you might keep going. But the part of you receiving the abuse (the unconscious) is going to get resentful.
It’s most important to remember this in your self-talk—which for most of us is a large (if only variably effective) part of the motivation to action. If you pour abuse on yourself to keep going, you might keep going. But the part of you receiving the abuse (the unconscious) is going to get resentful. And over time, resentment builds alongside that “roll” you’re on.
Any horse you want to train can kick you in the head and kill you. Any dog can turn on you. Any trained parrot could (presumably) cuss you out. And your unconscious will do the same if treated to the same fare every day.
When you understand the animal-like behaviors of our bodies and minds, it makes sense to keep this core lesson of animal training in mind when dealing with yourself.
You have to mix play with discipline. You must give yourself variety. You must reward yourself. You must call yourself a “good doggie.” And you have to be the kind of master that your mind and body will love and follow.
Intellectual Credit: I most recently really heard about the idea of negotiating with your subconscious from Jordan Peterson in 12 Rules for Life.