March offers us the spring equinox, a freshness in the air, the smell of orange blossoms and fresh spring flowers- I love this time of year. While every single day is an opportunity to start fresh and new, I think that the spring time offers up a special time to examine old winter routines and find motivation to start something new.
That’s often where the challenge comes in. It can be really challenging to move our goals and intentions into fruition.
It’s probably safe to say that we all struggle with motivation to one degree or another. I know I do. It’s as though we know that we should be, we tell ourselves that we should be doing it, but when it comes to actually doing it our minds either forget or find something else to do, or we can’t get ourselves off the couch or internet to do the task.
Motivation was a hot topic at the treatment center in Malibu. I can think of dozens of times of when a client told me that they knew that they needed to do their step work, recovery work, or other self-growth work, stating: “But I’m lazy and I can’t get myself to do it.”
Good news, you aren’t “lazy.” If you’re in recovery, odds are that you’re probably overwhelmed because getting sober and healthy is a lot of work, learning how to do everything sober as well as deal with a whole lot of strong emotions that are no longer numbed out is a lot to deal with.
For the rest of us, life can also be overwhelming, between bills, emotional health, traffic, kids, and well…surviving life… it’s a whole lot to deal with. At least it is for me.
So how do we reach our goals? It actually has a lot less to do with being ‘motivated’ and way more to do with how our mind works. Which is good news, it means that we can train our minds to accomplish our goals.
Katie Milcman, a behavioral economist, coined the term “temptation bundling.” The idea is that we bundle things that have been either challenging to implement in our lives (meditation, exercise…) with something that we enjoy doing (our favorite tv show, music, etc.) and we can actually train our minds to couple the two together so that it makes it easier to be motivated and get things done.
What I love about temptation bundling is that it works with the subconscious mind. It’s the reason that talking to ourselves, logical reasoning doesn’t always work with motivation. I know that I should eat a salad because it’s healthy and my doctor said that I need to watch my cholesterol but I really want that mac and cheese… Temptation bundling works a step deeper, it uses coding (a hypnosis technique) to couple the two tasks together so you actually crave doing the activity. Like if you could only watch your favorite show series when you were working out at the gym, you’d want to know what’s up next so you’d crave going to the gym to watch it.
My husband and I love our morning coffee routine, but we’ve been talking about wanting to start our day by meditating together, but it always seems to slip our minds. Today we decided to bundle them together, we couldn’t have our coffee until after we meditated. And it worked! The first thing that went through my head when I woke up was coffee….and the second was meditate. Of course, a habit is a process to build, but it’s a wonderful tool to have in your toolbox!
Temptation bundling made simple
1. Choose what you want to start doing (i.e. meditate for 5 minutes every morning or going to the gym)
2. Determine something that you look forward to doing or that you love to do (i.e. morning coffee with my husband or watching a favorite TV show)
3. Bundle them together. That means that you only allow yourself to watch that TV show you love when you’re walking on the treadmill. Or only drinking your favorite cup of coffee after meditating. Or you have to clean your bathroom in order to go out with friends!
Here are a few Temptation Bundling Ideas:
10 minutes of Meditation + coffee
Working out + Growth work (step work, recovery related, self help, etc.)
Working out + favorite podcast, show, or audio book
Going to the doctor + spa day, massage, or pedicure
Putting money in savings + buying something new
Cleaning your house + going out with friends or for a nice meal
As you all know, I love Podcasts, and this blog post was inspired by the Freakonomics Podcast “When Willpower Isn’t Enough.”
This podcast couldn’t have been more perfect timing because I was just saying to my husband last week that part of me was missing my long commute to work because I missed listening to my podcasts. Which was surprising because my drive was often stressful and exhausting. But I loved the fact that I would put on a podcast and I would listen, learn, and be inspired. The drives were the only time that I would listen to the podcasts. So it makes sense that I would crave the drive because my mind had coupled the commute (something I loathed) with my podcasts (something I love!).
I would love to hear your thoughts about motivation and any ideas you have for temptation bundling!