How To Show Up Even When You Don’t Feel Like It

Don't Feel Like It

Showing up is 80% of life. Sometimes it’s easier to hide at home in bed. I’ve done both. – Woody Allen

It’s Monday morning at 6:30am, and I’m sitting at my laptop in my office writing this post. Nobody told me I needed to be here right now. I’m self-employed, so I don’t have to clock in or start at any given time each day.

If I were being honest, I’d actually prefer to be in bed right now. It’s cold this morning and just staying curled up under a blanket actually sounds really nice right about now. But I don’t want to let myself do that.

Why? Because I’ve got to show up. And you do too.

I’ve Included a PDF breakdown of this post so you can always reference back to the key points, and show up even when you don’t feel like it.
Download the PDF breakdown!

Years ago I was having lunch with my brother and he used the analogy of life being like a photo album. At the end of each day, imagine you put a photograph summarizing that day into your album. What would each picture look like? Would yesterday be any different than today? Or tomorrow different from any given day next week?

Most of us settle into routines and ruts in life that allow us to take the path of least resistance. It’s easier that way. It’s easier to stay in bed. It’s easier to not do the work. It’s easier to just hope and wish it all works out.

But doing so will only reproduce the same picture of what your life has already given you.

Let’s be honest…Anything worth doing in life is never easy. If it were, everyone would do it.

If you only did meaningful work when you felt like it, you would rarely accomplish anything.

Often times when you say, “I just can’t make myself get up early,” or “I just can’t make myself exercise,” what you’re really saying is the outcome that the action will produce just isn’t worth it to you.

“If we wait for the moment when everything, absolutely everything is ready, we shall never begin.” ― Ivan Turgenev

One of my favorite comedians John Mulaney sums it up well here when he talks about how much easier it is to do nothing than it is to do something…

We can all agree that it’s easier to do nothing than it is to do something. It reminds of the song “Gravity” by John Mayer. Some of the lyrics are…

Gravity is working against me
And gravity wants to bring me down

There is the physical force of gravity that keeps us pinned to the earth, but there’s also an internal gravity that wants to bring you down. And while it is easier to do nothing than it is to do something, if you only did something when you felt like it, you would rarely accomplish anything.

My buddy Thomas Frank summarized it well in this post by saying, “‘Not feeling like it’ doesn’t actually change your options.”

Meaningful work won’t happen on it’s own.

Just because you want some kind of outcome in work or life doesn’t mean it’s going to suddenly happen on it’s own. Spoiler alert: speaking something into the universe and waiting for it to magically appear is about as effective as closing your eyes really tight, clicking your heels together and wishing to lose 10 pounds while downing a gallon of ice cream.

There’s nothing wrong with speaking some kind of affirmation of what you want your life to become. But in reality, that’s the easy part. You can say whatever the heck you want. The hard part is actually taking action to make that a reality.

How do you become a better writer? You write.

How do you become a runner? You run.

How do you become successful? You show up every day whether you feel like it or not.

Because the hard work won’t do itself.

You’ll never regret doing meaningful work.

I’m not the most physically fit guy on the planet, but I do make an effort to either run or bike a few times per week. Some days I really feel like running or biking. Other days, not so much.

But after I do the work, I never regret what I just did.

Because even though it may have been painful or unpleasant at times, I know I won’t regret it. I’ll be proud of not only accomplishing something but for pushing through the resistance to actually do it.

I’m sure there are days that Stephen King doesn’t feel like writing or Steve Jobs didn’t feel like creating or Lebron James doesn’t feel like practicing or the Chicago Cubs don’t feel like losing, but they do it anyway!

Your impact will happen in the work you do, not in the work you thought about doing.

Doing anything valuable for your work/life only when you feel like it won’t improve your situation.

We’re at the start of a new year and a lot of people like to make goals or resolutions about losing weight, exercising more, or just improving their overall health. And that sounds really nice on January 1st.

But in order to actually accomplish any of those goals, you’ve actually got to show up. And the deeper into January and the rest of the year you get, the more the excitement wears off, and the harder it is to just show up.

Why?

Because you don’t feel like it.

Starting is easier than continuing.

It’s much easier to start a new project, goal or task than seeing it through to completion.

That’s why so many of us have half-finished projects lying around that we know we need to get to or at least wrap up. But what’s the fun in finishing that when there’s this new shiny toy you could unwrap and start playing with!

Here’s an example (that is far too common online) from a blog I used to follow. When this blog started, they were posting almost everyday. At least 4-5 times each week. They were showing up and doing the work.

Then the posts started coming less and less frequently. I just checked their blog and here are the dates for their last four posts:

  • November 22
  • September 12
  • June 22
  • April 6

If you’re keeping score at home, that’s four posts in 230 days. They used to do four posts in a week. They stopped showing up and began writing only when they felt like it.


So how do you actually show up even when you don’t feel like it? Here are some steps…

1. Identify the outcome of the goal.

Why do you want to accomplish this goal in the first place? This question requires a little more digging than a surface answer. Answering with any variation of “to be happy” or “to make more money” is adorable but take it a step further.

Why do you want to be happy and why do you think this goal will make you happy? Or why do you want to make more money and what do you hope that will do for you?

If you want to know the real answer, ask “why” at least five times.

I want to lose 10 pounds this year.

Why?

Because I want to be in better shape.

Why?

Because I want to live a long and happy life.

Why?

Because I’m tired of being unhappy.

Why?

Because I know I’m capable of a better life than what I’m living now.

Why?

By continually asking “why,” you get to the root of the issue and find out why you actually want to accomplish the goal.

2. Determine what’s holding you back.

Alright, so you’ve identified the goal and why you want to get there. But you keep hitting this roadblock that makes you say or think, “I don’t feel like it.”

It’s really easy to make a million different little excuses for why we can’t do something. With running, I’ve been guilty of coming up with those excuses…

  • It’s too cold outside.
  • It’s too hot outside.
  • I don’t have enough time.
  • I think it might rain.
  • My feet hurt.
  • This bed feels warm and needs me.

So what is it that’s holding you back that you can remove from your path?

If I think it’s too cold or too hot, then I could get a day pass at a gym to run on their treadmill. If I don’t think I have the time, I can just run a shorter distance so I do have the time.

You have to not only figure out what’s in your way, but determine how you’re going to remove that obstacle or just go around it.

3. Decide on the smallest possible next step of action.

Sometimes we don’t want to start something or take any next step because either…

1) The magnitude of the situation overwhelms us.
2) We get stuck in our heads and can’t get out.

So instead of thinking about losing 10 pounds or even 1 pound, let’s just talk about the next possible thing you’ll eat. That’s it. That’s all you need to be concerned with.

Instead of me coming up with a million excuses for why I can’t run or allowing the magnitude of running a long distance to mess with me, my next step is just to put on my running shoes. That’s it. We’re not thinking about anything else except just putting on those shoes.

A friend told me a funny story about convincing his girlfriend to get certified for scuba diving. To get certified, you have to actually get in the water and have an instructor test you on several different tasks. But the day they were supposed to take their test, it was bitterly cold outside…basically, less than ideal for getting in a lake for an extended period of time.

Initially, she refused to even go to the lake where the testing would take place, but eventually he got her to do it. How?

By saying things like, “Let’s not do the test. But let’s at least drive to the lake to see where it would be. That’s it. Just a drive to the lake.”

And by the time they got to the lake, it became, “Let’s just get out of the car and watch. That’s it. Just get out of the car.”

You can see where the story goes and eventually he convinced her to get in the water and take the test (and they both passed). But instead of thinking about the freezing water or the cold air or any other of a number of reasons not to do it, he figured out what’s the next smallest step of action.

Then do that.

4. Put accountability in place.

Left to her own accord, my buddy’s girlfriend would not have got scuba certified that day. We all have those days when we need people around us who love and care about us enough to kick us in the pants and help us get going.

Whatever your goal is, who can help you get there? Who can call you out and keep you in check? Who loves you enough to encourage you when you’re down or punch you in the face when you need to be motivated? (Just a heads up though, if they do punch you in the face, you might reevaluate that relationship.)

It’s always so much easier to do something you don’t want to do if either…

1) You know someone you care about is doing it too.
2) You know someone you care about is going to ask you about it later.

When I ran my first half marathon, I did it with my brother-in-law. We both spent months training for the race, but actually only did a few runs together. We were both busy and had a lot going on, so we trained individually but did the race together.

There were certainly days I didn’t want to run, but I knew he was, and I couldn’t let him down. We would even text each other how many miles we did that day to motivate (and perhaps harass) the other one. Having this in place made doing the work a lot easier even on days I didn’t feel like it.

If you are looking for someone to hold you accountable, I can be that person. Check out my coaching page for more information.

5. Do the work

You’ve figured out why you’re doing this in the first place….determined what’s holding you back….identified the smallest possible next step of action…and put some accountability in place.

Now you just have to do the freakin’ work.

You’ve been set up for success by putting yourself in the best possible situation and environment.

But now you have to actually do the work.

And when it all comes down to it, no one can make you do that except for you. No one else can make you write or run or lose 10 pounds.

You can do this. You got it.

So stop reading this and just freakin’ do the work.

I’ve Included a PDF breakdown of this post so you can always reference back to the key points, and show up even when you don’t feel like it.
Download the PDF breakdown!

Image via: Steve Koukoulas

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6 Comments

  1. Sincerely appreciate the post Grant! When you know someone you care about is going to ask you about something you had planned that day you absolutely feel stronger about knocking it out!

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