How to Get What You Want

Using the power of habit to achieve happiness.

Since we are constantly pleasure seeking, our daily desires can undermine our long-term goals. As we are also pain-avoiding we put off the things that would benefit us most. Add to this the need of the ego (mind) to constantly judge, ruminate, and project onto situations things that just aren’t there and you have a recipe for short-term pleasure and long-term pain. Welcome to the human condition.

So, what are we to do? How do we get what we want?

Recently I was talking to my son who is a college freshman. He was struggling with his sense of place, to get his footing. Not only was he overwhelmed with his new environment, but he didn’t know how to ‘be.’ “There’s so much to do. I can hang out with people all the time and always be busy, but I’m still so unhappy. I don’t know what I’m supposed to do.”

My advice to him was this: Everyone talks about how much fun they had in college. They want you to have fun in college and want to relive their glory days. But the truth is, having fun is easy. There’s always a party. There’s always something to do. But the true satisfaction comes from pushing yourself, from overcoming a challenge and pushing through adversity.

To do this- to push through adversity- you first must take care of the fundamentals. As boring as this sounds, you must sleep well, eat well to feed your body and mind, exercise, meditate, and engage with others in-person, preferably outside. This is the same advice I give myself by the way. When I am feeling lethargic or depressed, it’s because I am not honoring my body or procrastinating on important tasks.

The trick is to make the next right decision. How you got to this moment is irrelevant. Do the next right thing for yourself to course correct and get back on track.

Regarding this idea of pleasure seeking and pain avoiding, this never changes. This is how we’re wired, and this is why there is so much power in routine and building habits. This is why 30-day commitments work so well. They entrain new behaviors to get us the results we desire.

Ultimately, both health and happiness come from delayed gratification.  I have spent the last twenty years advising my patients on all aspects of health and I can assure you that no medicine is as powerful as one’s own commitment to achieve a desired goal.

If you want to feel better, be more successful, and make a significant shift in your life, return to the fundamentals. Create habits that allow you to get what you want and commit to them in an unwavering manner. Then you will have both the personal satisfaction of achievement and the results of your efforts.

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