One of the really valuable things I’ve learned in recent years is to negotiate with others, in order to get what I want by also helping them get what they want.
But what may be even more valuable than learning to negotiate with others is learning to negotiate with myself.
I experienced a good example of this today: I didn’t want to go workout at the gym. It was really early (6 AM)…I was tired and groggy…I’ve been back to working 15- to 16-hour days the last two weeks and was run down and just didn’t feel like going…wasn’t in the mood…thinking about all the work I needed to get done at home…yada yada yada…
But long ago, I made an agreement with myself, taking the advice of Scott Adams (creator of Dilbert), in his book How To Fail At Nearly Everything And Still Win Big: he said he made an agreement with himself that whenever he didn’t feel like working out, he still went to the gym…the agreement was that he had to drive there, park, and go inside with his gym bag in tow. But then, once inside, standing there looking around, if he STILL didn’t want to workout, he was then allowed to turn around and go back home. The result? Over 99% of the time, he goes ahead and works out, since he’s already there.
I liked that idea, and adopted it myself—and have had similar results. I can think of only twice, in over two years, that I ended up going home instead of staying and working out (and those two times were long ago, back when I was first starting out and wasn’t in such an entrenched routine as I am now).
So this morning, sticking to my agreement with myself, I went ahead and drove to the gym. Then, upon arrival, I found that all the close parking spaces around the facility were occupied; not a single parking space available. This almost clinched it—I about turned around right then and went home—but I stuck to my agreement, and drove around behind the building and parked in the rear parking garage, then walked all the way back, across the street and around the building to the front doors of the gym.
But once inside, I STILL didn’t really want to workout. MAN I was tired!
And that’s when the negotiations began…
On the days that I do strength training (like today), I start out doing a ten minute warmup on the elliptical, then head over to the strength training area. So this morning I told myself I could just do that: ten minutes on the elliptical—elevate my heart rate, get oxygenated—and then go home. I agreed with myself; I could do that, no problem.
So I did the ten-minute elliptical and afterward felt slightly more energized, so I negotiated further: I could go over to the strength training area, and just do abs…just a few sets, no biggie…then go home.
But when I got over there, I discovered that the abs machine was down for repairs….so I decided to do chest presses instead, which was nearby.
Well, turns out it wasn’t long before I forgot all about the compromise, the deal(s), and just started working out, just sort of fell into my routine. And (since abs were out), I ended up doing around 95% of my total workout—and even increased the weights a little on the leg press!
So, I ended up having a completely successful workout, when I started out incredibly tempted to just stay home—simply because first, I kept my initial agreement with myself—to drive there, park, and go inside—and was then willing to negotiate my way through the workout, one step at a time.
Negotiating with yourself, in all areas of life, is a valuable practice to learn because if you overly tyrannize yourself—as most of us do (I know I did, and badly)—you could end up rebelling against yourself, and as a result not get much of anything done that you set out to do.
Instead, negotiate with yourself, just as if you were negotiating with someone else—a coworker, a business associate, a boss or employee—by offering yourself a quid pro quo.
And don’t forget to give yourself small rewards along the way (when working at home, one of mine is a short, relaxing coffee break outside on the front patio).
By implementing these simple practices—making prior agreements with yourself (and keeping them), negotiating with yourself during the work process, avoiding tyrannizing yourself, and rewarding yourself at various points along the way—you’ll likely experience much more progress and see much better results overall than if you drive yourself too hard or beat yourself up when you fail (and we all fail, all the time)—or for merely not meeting your own lofty standards or excessive expectations of yourself.
And now, a side note:
Coincidentally, upon returning home from the gym today, I had a Facebook memory surface in my newsfeed, which happened to dovetail nicely with this article about negotiating with yourself. So I shared the memory on FB, along with some added commentary:
The following memory still holds true…though today I’d add that I’ve also developed the habit of comparing where I am today to where I once was, rather than where I wish I could be. We don’t need to see success to stay motivated, just progress; so judging ourselves by our progress, rather than our ideal, helps keep us motivated instead of frustrated…
One thing I’ve learned in my old age is to push forward, even when I don’t much feel like it—because any progress at all is always better than no progress at all…
Today has been tough; I’m exhausted (after the last three days working outside in the heat), I’m crabby, in a bad mood, and my bad mood has my brain trying to slip into a downward spiral of self-defeatest thinking (luckily, these days I tend to recognize when I slip into that groove, and can take steps to turn it around before I get drawn in too far).
So, I went to the gym…but was SO tired, too tired for strength training—but hey! I got 20 minutes in on the stair-master, maintaining my ideal heart rate (75% of max), and I definitely felt better afterward. So that’s something…
Then, when I got home, I completely failed at the new business card design I was attempting, a slight improvement over the last sample I sent to my client—but hey! We both agreed the last sample was the best of the bunch, so we’re running with that, I just need to develop the final artwork front/back. So that’s something….
Then, I’m working on my novel, and the words are coming hard and slow, and the creative juices just ain’t flowing at all—but hey! I’ve cranked out 300 words so far, maybe squeeze out another couple hundred before calling it quits for the day—so that’ll be 500 or so words for the day, a helluva lot better than zero words for the day, which it could’ve been just because I was tired, crabby, and not in the mood. So that’s something….
And all this after running all my errands this morning, and knocking out my laundry while working…
It’s common to believe you can only perform when you’re “in the mood”—and it’s really easy to blow it off when you’re not, or when you think you’re just too tired; but fact is, even when you’re not in the mood, or you’re tired, or frustrated, or whatever—you can still “Do The Work”, in the words of Steven Pressfield (author of three of my favorite books on writing: Do The Work, The War of Art, and Turning Pro) if you can just manage to get your butt into the gym, or into your chair at your graphics computer, or into your chair at your writing station….go fix a big fucking mug of coffee, or whatever’s your drink of choice, and get started, even it’s slow, and grueling, and your productivity is lame compared to your good days—because any progress at all is always better than no progress at all!
And finally, all of this reminds me of the old adage, which I like to remind myself of regularly, almost like an affirmation:
“If you can’t do what you want, then do what you can.”