You Can Lead a Horse to Water, or Change is Hard

“You can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make him drink.”

Continuing to pound on the themes of showing up, relaxing, letting go, and just letting it come, let’s think about someone. Who? Someone you know who needs…something. What do they need? I don’t know, this is your someone, not mine.

You know what they need. To quit smoking. To lose weight. To get in shape. You know why they need it. You know exactly how they can get it. You give advice, encouragement, provide evidence, argue, cajole reason and…nothing. They don’t do anything. Why?

Because they don’t have the motivation.

Wait, wut?

Andrew, you’ve been jabbering on, and on, and on about how motivation won’t get it done. That goals are for suckers, you need a system, and you need to show up. I stand by that. But before you can create a system, create a schedule and show up, you have to have motivation. My wife has a friend who:

  • Needs to exercise
  • Needs to lose weight
  • Needs to destress her life
  • Has expressed an interest in yoga

Cool, great, no problem. It’s entirely possible I’ve written about yoga as a solution to all three of those things. So my wife, who does even more yoga than I, is a member of a club that would make a perfect fit for her friend, and which offers “bring a friend for free” classes. All her friend has to do is show up. No money, no risk, no commitment, so they make a girls night yoga date.

And as the class draws near (name redacted) begins to make excuses. And more excuses. And more excuses. And finally bails.

My wife countered the excuses, each and every one, but it didn’t matter, her friend wasn’t ready. She lacked the critical mass of motivation to get started. And that, dear friends, is the utility of the goal, of motivation, of inspiration; it gets you started. Let me bold that:

Motivation is what gets you started.

But that’s it. That’s all it can do, get you started. After that, routine must take over, because motivation drains away.

We’ve all gone through it. We started out inspired to do something, to learn something, to make a change, but change is hard. And as we lost inspiration, as we ran out of motivation, we quit. We failed.

How many smokers do you know who have quit 10 times?

How many times have you failed to lose 10 lbs?

How many gym memberships have seen:

  • Weeks one and two, 3 workouts
  • Week two, two workouts
  • Week three, one workout
  • Week four, no workout
  • Week five, hey, I paid for this, two workouts, followed by, damn, I’m sore
  • Week six…nothing?

I taught karate for 10 years. I could not even guess how many students signed up for a year, and didn’t make it through the first month. I’ve been going to the same yoga club for 11 years. Same thing, I could not begin to guess the number of new students I’ve seen drift by over the years. Something motivated them to sign up for class one. Something stopped them from sticking it out long enough to make the desired change.

All of the arguing, cajoling, begging, pleading and convincing in the world will not provide enough to make a change. Motivation alone will not provide enough to make a change.

In karate we were told, “In order to make change, you must first be ashamed” and I’m absolutely convinced that it is true. I wrote yesterday of the changes I had to make to become the daddy that my kids deserve. I was motivated to make that change because I was ashamed of myself.

But although you must first be ashamed, it’s not enough. People have a great capacity to settle for “just good enough,” rather than going for “getting the best.” When this willingness to settle runs into something hard a conflict ensues, a battle between what we want, and what we’ll accept.

This is the heart of the problem. Our shame, our desire for change, brings us to the water. But we take a sip and find the water cold and dirty and gross and, “Yech, I’m not drinking that” and our capacity to settle takes over. “You know, I don’t really need (desire), I’m okay without it.”

Are you? Are you really okay without it? Then what sparked your desire for the change in the first place?

If you truly desire change, you must commit. You can’t allow yourself to think,

  • I’ll work on it when I have time
  • I’ll do it when I feel good
  • I’ll go when it’s convenient

You have the shame, you have the desire for change. Make a plan. Make a schedule. Arrange your life to accommodate the schedule. Commit. And show up. And keep showing up until you manifest the change you desire. Your life will be better for it, and you will be better for it.