Where There’s a Will, There’s a Fail

Written by on 17 Nov 2015

I have mimosas to thank for my lack of productivity.


But not in the way you might imagine.


A few months ago, several friends and I were enjoying brunch and decided to turn our causal meal into a Sunday Funday. Bloody Mary’s. Chicken and waffles. Gooey pecan and cinnamon rolls.


And, of course…




As you might already know, with mimosas comes morality. Not that mimosas cause you to make the best decisions with your day, but they definitely cause you to tell the truth as you see it.


Which could be blurry… but I digress.


So there we were, telling stories and holding nothing back, when my boyfriend decided to pipe up about, what he called, my “Netflix Set-Up”.


Now, I am not the kind of person who likes to have a TV in my bedroom. I firmly believe bedrooms were made for sleeping, and I have yet to learn how to sleep with my eyes open. However, on the rare occasion that I want to watch something in bed (and by something I clearly mean reruns of FRIENDS), I have to get creative.


At the time this story took place, I had developed the habit of watching Netflix on my laptop which I placed strategically on top of a chair which I then placed precariously on top of the bench at the foot of my bed.


Talk about a "House of Cards"…


Not only that, but my room was actually at the opposite end of the house from our cable modem and internet router, so “watching FRIENDS” really meant waiting to see how long I would put up with the feed cutting in-and-out about every 5 minutes.


I’ll tell you this—it wasn’t very long.


So all of my friends are rolling laughing and begging me to crawl into the 21st century and put a TV in my room or at the very least get a mobile hot-spot and stop complaining.


All of my friends, but one.


My friend Holly was head down working on something on her phone. Five minutes later, she handed me the phone and asked me for my shipping information. I was confused, but hey, the mimosas said it was probably ok.


A week later, a little box showed up on my doorstep.


In that box, was a Roku.


Now, if you’re not familiar with Roku, think Apple TV. If you’re not familiar with Apple TV, think laptop, but better. If you’re not familiar with your laptop, I can’t help you. The reality is you’re probably watching TV on Periscope, or something else that is completely beyond me.


A Roku is a device that allows you to stream different types of media, using the comfort and convenience of your pre-existing TV. All you do is plug that baby in, and you have an endless amount of movies, documentaries, TV shows, YouTube videos, Pandora stations… you name it, Roku has it.


And I can safely say that since the Roku has been installed in my apartment…


I bave become... completely and utterly... useless.


I watched all 10 seasons of FRIENDS (duh). I started watching Parks and Rec (at the request of Holly, of course). I’m currently in the middle of Season 3 of Gilmore Girls (because, why not).


My massive consumption of Netflix, and my resulting struggle to get anything done, got me to thinking.


Why is it that sometimes, despite all the passion and interest and calling and meaningfulness of the things we could be doing with our time, we choose to do nothing?


Why is it that when faced with the decision to write the next great American novel or pick up a new hobby or spend time with an old friend, we hit “continue watching” and mindlessly devour our 7th episode of Fixer Upper… in a row?


Why is it that it’s so hard to build up the urgency and momentum to do something different and so easy to just keep doing the same thing?


What’s really standing in our way when it comes to changing our behaviors?


I talk about this a lot in my day job, but it just occurred to me that the same hard-wiring that prevents us from making nice with an estranged coworker or learning to use that new software at the office is the same reason that we can’t help but binge watch Orange is the New Black or Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt when we’d really like to be volunteering or starting a business.


That premise my friends, is a simple one.


There is a difference between what you can do and what you will do.


That's it. There is a difference between what you can do and what you will do.


In behavioral psychology, we explain it like this:


Human behaviors are the things we do, day in and day out, with our time. All of our behaviors are simply a response to stimuli in our environment.


Example: The stove is hot. You pull your hand away.


Seems simple, but becomes more complicated. We combine our responses to stimuli to add on to these basic behaviors. The way you brush your teeth. The method with which you shower. The route you take to work. All of these things are behaviors.


Most importantly, they are observable behaviors.


In psychology, once something is observable, it becomes measurable. I can see, for instance, how long you brush your teeth or how thoroughly you shower or how many times you turn right or left to get to the office.


Over time, our behaviors have a tendency to become habits. The way you brush your teeth, shower or drive today is probably the way you’ll brush your teeth, shower or drive tomorrow. We do this because it’s easy. Our brain doesn’t have to think about brushing our teeth, getting clean or choosing a route so it’s free to think of other (hopefully higher level) things.


Then, the consistency of our behavior lends itself to predictability.


You know those friends you can “set your watch by” because they are always on time? Or even those friends you can “set your watch by” because they are always 15 minutes late?


(ahem, me)


You’ve learned over time to expect that habit of behavior from your friends, and without realizing it, you’ve accurately predicted what your friends will do. Myself, for instance—I’m infinitely capable of being on time or turning the TV off. Those are things I can do. However, because being late and (unfortunately, now) watching Netflix have become habits of behavior for me, I rarely change. Those are the things I will do.


In life, there will be lots of things you will want, wish, hope, dream, or pray to do.


Get a new job. Travel around the world. Find someone you love.


There are lots of things you can do.


But how often do you find yourself doing other things?


Making excuses. Sitting on the couch. Complaining about your life.


All too often, those are the things you will do.


My job is to get you to do more of what you’re capable of doing—live more in the can do and less in the will do, so to speak.


You do not have to be a slave to your habits of behavior, but it won’t all change at once. You can’t end a Netflix streak like mine cold turkey. You have to start with baby steps.


Making a plan. Carving out 1 hour a day to do something new. Charting your progress. Having someone else keep you accountable.


Behavioral change is not easy. In fact, it’s one of the hardest things in the world. But if we don’t appreciate that and learn to work with it, then nothing will ever change. Get it?


Remember, there are things you can do and there are things you will do.


What matters most is what you choose to do.


Now, I want to hear from you!

Do you have an example of a bad habit you're struggling to shake?

How did you beat it, and what have you chosen to do with your time, instead?

Leave a comment below.

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