Feeling Good Will Never Be Good Enough

man waking up and snoozing the alarm

This year, you need to think twice before you hit the snooze button.

Nothing ever goes away until it has taught us what we need to know.” -Pema Chodron

Happy New Year!

Isn’t it great? Once the calendar turned from 2015 to 2016, everything became fresh and new again. The slate is wiped clean, old drama has disappeared, and all that was wrong with 2015 is now a distant memory in 2016.

Yeah, if it were only that easy.

I love the start of a new year as much as anyone, but thinking that our lives will positively change due solely to the calendar changing, is crazy talk.

As always, our world will only change if we do.

That’s why the above quote from Pema Chodron is so important.

If we choose to avoid changing in 2016, then we’ll be scheduled to get more of the painful lessons that we were running from, fighting against, or being overwhelmed by in 2015. Even worse, since we didn’t learn the lessons we needed to learn last year, we’ll have to deal with the advanced curriculum this time around (which predictably, will suck.)

Yes, nothing ever goes away until it has taught us what we need to know, new year or not.

On a positive note, we can break this tired, re-run cycle in 2016, but it will start by doing something very counter-intuitive:

We need to forget about feeling good.

Why Feeling Good Isn’t Enough

Recently, I was listening to Brian Johnson’s podcast Optimize, and he was interviewing Tony Schwartz, the author of the New York Times bestseller, The Way We’re Working Isn’t Working.

During the interview, Tony said something that hit me hard.

He said that there is a big difference between feeling good and feeling good about yourself.

Man, this is so true. In my opinion, this is the key between ensuring that this year is much different than 2015. Let’s use a simple example to illustrate this point.

Let’s say that you decided that you’re going to write a book in 2016 (even if you’re not, just play along with me.)

In order to make this dream of yours a reality, you have decided to wake up an hour earlier than normal to get some uninterrupted writing done before you have to get ready for work. On the night of December 31st, you confidently set the alarm before going to bed for the night.

Seven hours later, the moment of truth arrives–your alarm goes off.

Here are the two obvious options that you’re faced with as the clock/smartphone is buzzing on your bedside table:

A) Hit the snooze button and stay in your cozy bed.

B) Get out of bed, and start writing.

Don’t be fooled into thinking that this is a meaningless, isolated decision. What you choose to do next has much bigger implications on your life than you might think.

If you choose Option A, you have chosen to feel good. If you made this choice, you’re not alone. Most people want to feel good, and there are few things that feel better than staying in your warm bed in the middle of winter, especially when you’re tired.

Here’s the problem though–that “good” feeling will evaporate the moment that you’re finally fully awake and out of bed.

Worse than that–chances are that you will emotionally beat yourself up all day knowing that you broke a promise to yourself, and that you let yourself down.

Again.

This is a self-esteem killer.

But what if you chose Option B, instead?

Why Feeling Good About Yourself is the Answer

If the alarm went off and you dragged yourself out of bed (even if you didn’t feel like it), you made a life-altering choice:

You decided to do something that will make you feel good about yourself. And unlike Option A, this good feeling isn’t a temporary one.

Does it feel good to get out of bed when you’re tired and cold? Probably not, but who cares? By simply getting out of bed to write, you’re now playing for a much bigger prize than temporarily feeling good.

The feelings of accomplishment, keeping a promise to yourself, and getting one step closer to your dream will give you something much more meaningful than a warm blanket and an extra few minutes of sleep ever could.

It makes you feel good about yourself–aka, genuine self-esteem.

Even better, the feeling that you will have once your book is completed will be unlike any positive emotion that you have ever experienced in your life. Knowing that you were able to overcome your desire to temporarily feel good in exchange for creating something that will make you feel permanently good about yourself, is a game-changing choice.

This is the fastest–and most effective way–to build self-esteem.

That’s Great, But I’m Not Writing a Book

Okay, let’s set aside the book example for a minute, and apply the Feel Good/Feel Good About Yourself choice to three common challenges you might be facing in 2016.

1. Losing Weight and/or Getting Healthier

(Feel Good): Binge eating the same comfort foods that you ate in 2015, or skipping out on the gym and watching DVR’ed shows instead.

(Feel Good About Yourself): Finally reaching your target weight, completing your first 5K race, having your physician compliment you on all of the positive changes you’ve made, or simply having more energy everyday.

2. Getting out of an Unhealthy Relationship

(Feel Good): Bury yourself in different, but equally unhealthy, distractions (excessive social media usage, booze/drugs, constant shopping, sleeping nonstop, etc.) to numb you from realizing how terrible your relationship really is.

(Feel Good About Yourself): Take action to deal with the problems in your relationship, and if that doesn’t work, leave to find the love you deserve.

3. Completing the Project That Appears on Our New Year’s Resolution List Every January

(Feel Good): Procrastinate, lie to yourself that the project doesn’t really mean that much to you anyway, justify that you have all of the time in the world to do it later (even though you definitely don’t), and focus on things that are much easier and require much less effort.

(Feel Good About Yourself): Finally complete the project, and create something that you can be proud of forever.

I’m sure that you can see the difference.

Regardless of what you’re trying to do in 2016, you will be presented with the choice of either settling for what feels good in the moment, or working toward what will make you feel good about yourself for a lifetime.

Choose wisely.

What Choice Will You Make in 2016?

Nothing ever goes away until it has taught us what we need to know.” -Pema Chodron

I had to include Pema Chodron’s quote again, because we must remember the truth in her words.

If we consistently choose to take action that makes us feel good about ourselves, instead of merely feeling good, then almost any meaningful positive change in life can be ours.

You know this is true, because you’ve already done this.

I am willing to bet that you have accomplished something huge in your life where you had to put “feeling good” on the backburner in order to achieve something so much bigger than temporary satisfaction.

And in doing so, not only did you feel better about yourself and put a stop to repeating the same painful lesson year after year, but chances are that you positively changed your life in the process.

Well, it’s time to do it again. 

Happy New Year, my friend–I know that you’re ready for it.

Your Turn

Have you ever chosen to “feel good” in the moment instead of making the choice to do what’s necessary to make you feel good about yourself in the long term? Have you had an experience where you chose to do whatever was necessary to reach a difficult goal? If so, how did it affect your self-esteem? Jump into the comments below and make your voice heard!

Shola

Shola

Founder of The Positivity Solution
Author, keynote speaker, and kindness extremist who is committed to changing the world by helping as many people as possible to live and work with more positivity.
Shola
Shola
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Comments

  1. Fantastic!!! What an awesome message for the New Year!

    I have a similar quote hanging up at my desk.

    “The truth will set you free, but not until it is finished with you.” — David Foster Wallace

    No matter how much we want to rush things along so we can be free from whatever it is, we will not be able to do so until we have learned whatever it is we are supposed to learn.

    Such a good lesson! Happy 2016, Shola! I hope you feel rested and re-connected with your family!

    Kathy 🙂

  2. I went to work three hours early today… by accident. They said “Go home and take a nap.” I was going to then I read this! I think I put away the rest of the holiday décor and if I have time… I’ll get cozy with my blanket for awhile before my new job frosting cakes at a cool bakery. 😀
    Positivity rocks!!!

  3. Nice to see you back Shola and happy new year!

    I didn’t even think about what I was going to change this year, I just started doing things (small things) differently. I wake up at my usual 5:00 am and instead of falling back to sleep an hour or so later, I work on my art or accomplish something I’ve been putting off. Amazing how energized I feel after I’m done when it’s time to go to work. You are so right that feeling good about yourself makes all the difference in the world. All I have to do now is keep it going and be grateful for what I have.

    Thanks for the boost!
    Kat

    • Happy New Year to you, Kat! Props to you for sticking with your wake-up time and not hitting the snooze button for an extra hour. Your art deserves that time and your energy. And you’re right–it does feel amazing to start the day by doing something that makes you feel good about yourself. Congrats again, and here’s to your continued success!

  4. Happy 2016, Shola!…and community. 🙂

    Thank you for the post.

    I particularly love the thought that the move from 2015 to 2016 isn’t this magic ‘reset button’ that sets us back at ‘zero’- erases our past actions or inaction for that matter. I had this very thought on the 31st…as I sat in the office. (Don’t worry, I took some time off over the holidays to spend with my family and friends) I feel that any and every moment- this minute, the next- is a chance to start towards that much desired goal. It’s very easy for us to put our goals off until the next ‘new’ moment- a new hour, a new day, a new year…yes procrastinate. Almost blinded by the allure of the ‘new’- equalling it to better- better circumstances, better equipped, etc.
    I certainly can’t ignore the ‘refreshing’ feeling that comes with a new day, year etc…and I embrace it. But may I always remember that in a larger sense all these moments are connected- and a not separated by a date change. Therefore I should work on my goals in this moment…and the next and the next..domino effect anyone?

    • Happy 2016 to you too, Nyma! I’m with you–I love the “new-ness” that comes with a new year, new job, new day, new…anything, really. It symbolizes a fresh start, and it can be a great boost in order to get started. But you said it best, all of these moments are connected, so truthfully any moment is an opportunity to begin again. I love it. Thanks for sharing!

  5. Hi Shola,

    First, Happy New Year! Second, I saw/heard you on the morning show (I think it was the Today show) while I was on vacation, and I was in my living room saying: “Hey Shola!”. And finally, I LOVE this topic and it is so aligned with how I would like to approach this year. You are so right, two years ago I made a commitment to get up 1.5 hrs. early for work so that I would have time for my spiritual devotion everyday. And whenever I get sucked into hitting the snooze button everything is impacted by that decision for the day.
    So glad to still be connected to The Positivity Solution in 2016!
    Sincerely,
    Lisa

    • Happy New Year Lisa! Believe it or not, that was my twin brother on the Today Show (he’s a Today Show contributor), and I got a lot of calls that morning from people saying that they saw me on TV. We both got a kick out of it :).

      Waking up 90 minutes early to devote to your spiritual practice is an excellent idea, and I’m glad that you’ve been able to stick with it for the past two years. Hitting the snooze button might temporarily feel good, but I’m willing to bet that it doesn’t compare to how you feel about yourself when you wake up on time and keep the commitment to yourself. Here’s to keeping those commitments (and more) in 2016!

  6. It’s important message for the start of new year. Thanks!

  7. Charlotte Orth says:

    You referred to Pema Chodron as he. She is a Buddhist nun and female I believe. Thanks for the insightful article.

  8. Happy New Year Shola, and I hope you and your family really enjoyed the holidays. I am for once NOT saying, oooh this has been so hard for me. I get to do my happy dance today! I have mentioned before, life as a child was hard. Yet somehow, I think this was a gift from heaven, I could observe the insane adults around me, decide to be different, and figure out how to do that. So I entered adulthood severely dysfunctional, yet understanding that I could use my discomfort to continue learning and build a decent life. I was “uncomfortable” so long, I think my pain tolerance is high; I do what needs to be done. I hope folks who need to learn this will hear you on this topic. Frequently, when I tell others what I’m doing that doesn’t necessarily feel good, like get up early, work out, make nice to crazy family members, etc. I am told “That sounds so oppressive”, or in a patronizing tone, “My aren’t you industrious”. Another frequent (rude) comment I get is “That may be ok for you, but my time is too valuable to waste like that”. I want to be sure to make clear: I only talk about what I’m doing to make my life better if someone ASKS me, “how are you staying in such good shape, what is the secret to your 25+ years happy marriage, how do you get along so well with everyone at work”, etc. I don’t argue. I let them get back to what they were doing (bitching and moaning) so I can get back to what I was doing (generally something productive). Shola, I am grateful to have a few little bits of grey matter that grasp this concept, it has been a life-saver for me, and for everyone who decides to suck it up and get moving. Your message as usual is crucial to positivity and well-being, and God Bless You for coming back this year ready to continue spreading the word!

    • Thanks Donna! I’m so glad to hear that this philosophy has been useful to you in your life, because it has also been an absolute game-changer for me too. You’re right–there are definitely some patronizing comments that get slung at us along the way, but as far as I’m concerned, that’s just more proof that we’re on the right track :). Thanks for continuing on this positivity journey with me, my friend!

  9. Awesome way of putting it!

    I guess it’s really just a question of short-term pleasure VS. long-term rewards. As you say, getting up an hour early will always be in competition with hitting that snooze-button!

    From what I’ve seen, most of our success is determined by how much temporary discomfort we’re prepared to face in order to reap those long-term rewards.

    • That’s it, Mathias! Short-term pleasure vs. long-term rewards–that’s battle we all have to deal with. And you are 100% on-point–our success is often determined by how much temporary discomfort we’re prepared to face along the way. I can’t speak for everyone, but every time I chose long-term reward over short-term pleasure, it has been a life-enhancing decision.

  10. PS Fan Girl says:

    Spot on, Shola! It’s easy to set goals and plan all the things we will do to accomplish them. Sometimes just thinking so much about those steps (like waking up early to write or working out) tricks our mind into thinking we are accomplishing something simply because we’re spending so much mental energy on it. I definitely got caught up in that cycle last year—I would think so much about meditating and working out that when it came time to actually do it, I would flake because subconsciously I already spent so much time THINKING about it that I didn’t feel like I had to actually DO it!! And nothing starts the vicious guilt cycle faster than not following through.

    It’s so important to cultivate mindset, vision, and intention, but nothing can propel you forward like consistent action.

    I loved this quote from a recent Tim Ferriss episode: “discipline is freedom”. Taking action is definitely going to be a huge focus for me in 2016! Thank you for sharing!!

    • PS Fan Girl–long time no talk! I almost thought that you forgot about me!

      I completely agree–more times than I’m willing to admit, I’ve fallen into the trap of believing that thinking about doing something was a good substitute for actually doing something. And like you said, not keeping a commitment to ourselves is the most surefire way to feel guilt and destroy self-esteem. Action is the key to changing that.

      I’m a big Tim Ferriss fan, and I actually share that quote with others often. People usually think that discipline is constricting, but it actually the gateway to experiencing true freedom.

      Happy 2016, and I’m looking forward to catching up again at our next lunch date!

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