Full disclosure: I am not yet very good at this. But I know it has to be done.
I have a friend whom I admire very much and for the purposes of this entry will be named Melissa. Maybe two years ago ago, she decided that she wanted to eat healthier, get in shape and lose weight, and she has definitely accomplished all three goals.
Here is how: Sometimes, after work, I will say, “Hey, Melissa, do you want to go get a drink with me?” And she will usually say, “I wish I could, but I have to go to the gym.” This, obviously, is super annoying, because she doesn’t have to go to the gym, she wants to go to the gym.
But this friend has mastered a super-important grown-up skill, which is to treat optional but important things as though they are non-optional. If she had skipped the gym every time someone asked her to do something more fun, or she didn’t feel like it, then she would not have effected the change in her life that she decided was important.
This can be a variety of things: Cleaning your house is optional. Making a lot of time to spend with your family is optional. Going above and beyond at work is optional. Making sure to treat those around you kindly even when you are feeling super cranky is optional. But if those things are important to you, then figure out how to trick your brain into putting them right up there with breathing.
So every now and again, when there is something I really should do but don’t want to, I will actually say to myself, out loud: “This is not optional. Go do it.”
NOTE: I picked Melissa’s example because I admire her commitment and ability to follow through even when it’s hard. I’m not holding her up because she lost weight; I’m holding her up because there was something really tough she wanted to do, and then she did it.