Motivation and Making the Bed

I don’t make my bed. Ever.

I think it’s a gigantic waste of time. And I value my time.

When I was growing up, making my bed was required. It was one of my daily chores. I had to do it… or else.

Therefore, I made my bed every damn day. And I always thought it was stupid.

I have always held the belief that making the bed was absurdly impractical. The benefits are mostly cosmetic. Sure, a nicely made bed is a little easier to get cozy in, but blankets are blankets. If you’re under them they’ll keep you warm.

When I moved out I stopped making my bed. Despite the fact that I had been consistently making my bed for 17 years, the habit didn’t stick.

Why?

Because I don’t give two shits about how my bed looks. It’s not something that lines up with my values and priorities.

Building habits isn’t only about repetition. For a habit to stick, it has to be something we want to do. Or at the very least, the outcome of the habit needs to be something we want.

The repetitive practice of a behavior is important of course. However, if we aren’t making the choice ourselves to practice that behavior, it won’t become a habit.

Habits need to come from a place of autonomy, not of authority. Surprisingly, we can become our own authority figures. As an example let’s look at the following statements:

“I HAVE to eat vegetables”

“I MUST workout 3 times a week”

“I HAVE to stop eating cupcakes”

Says who? These all describe rules we make for ourselves.

The nature of rules is that we’re meant to follow them whether we like it or not. If we make up the rules ourselves, we have effectively created our own internal authority structure.

And when we do things because we’re being forced to, by ourselves or others, we don’t build habits. We don’t build behaviors that will stick for the long term.

We might end up following the rules so long as they are in place. But we’re being obedient, we aren’t making the choice for ourselves.

This is a big reason why we gain weight back after dieting.

Once we let go of those rules, so goes the behavior along with the results.

The trick here is to build behaviors that we want to build. We also ought to realize that the rules are all made up.

We ALWAYS have a choice.

We can see this in the example of legality. People steal all the time, regardless of the potential physical repercussions. They have chosen to take that risk.

When we realize we’re making a choice for ourselves, with no coercion, we’re more likely to make that choice again in the future. Because we do actually want to make that choice, which is why we make rules for ourselves to begin with.

If you may, imagine your Fitness Coach says one of these two sentences to you:

A: You have to workout 3 times a week

B: Working out 3 times a week is a great way to move forward, but it’s really up to you

How do you feel after each one? Which one leaves you wanting to workout more?

I clearly hate being told what I can and can’t do. You don’t know my life! You’re not my real Father!

step ladder

Naturally I find option B more favorable. The point is, we don’t have to do anything. If my coach says option A and I don’t work out 3 times a week, I clearly didn’t HAVE to work out 3 times a week. I chose not to.

If we’re being realistic, we always have a choice, to our success or detriment. That’s just the truth of it.

By making rules for ourselves, we lessen our chances of building lasting, healthy behaviors.

We deny ourselves the option of doing things for ourselves.

Not only does the bed not get made, but we turn into our own mothers, which is just weird.

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