Tiny Wisdom: Do You Talk Yourself Out of Doing Things You Want to Do?

“Begin doing what you want to do now. We are not living in eternity. We have only this moment, sparkling like a star in our hand-and melting like a snowflake.” –Francis Bacon, Sr.

The other day I planned to work out in my apartment community’s fitness center after I finished writing. But when I left the coffee shop, and walked straight into a bright, sunny day, I felt the last thing I wanted to do was stare at a magazine on an elliptical machine.

What I really wanted to do was pull out my bike from where it had been resting for months and do a little exploring.

Immediately, I began making excuses in my head as to why I shouldn’t do this.

I’d get a better work out on the elliptical. That’s what I’d planned to do—and it’s good to stick with plans (a weak argument, I know). It would be hard to get my bike out of the closet under my stairs, where it was wedged in with other stored items.

Suddenly I realized I was talking myself out of doing something I really wanted to do.

This may seem like a little thing, but I believe the little things are the big things.

It’s the tiny choices we make about how we spend our hours that dictate how we spend our lives—whether we get out and enjoy what’s in front of us, or make excuses to do what we always do, or what we planned to do.

And this type of thinking can obviously impact the things we traditionally consider big—the choices we make and the risks we take in our personal and professional lives.

If we’re not self-aware, we can end up making all kinds of excuses to not do what we want. We can tell ourselves it’s unwise, or impractical, or unrealistic, or pointless, or laughable, or risky, or inadequate.

We can tell ourselves we’re unsure, or unprepared, or uncommitted, or untalented, or incompetent, or too busy, or too distracted.

We can rationalize that it’s too late, or we’re too old, or it’s too soon, or we’re too young. And we can convince ourselves it doesn’t really matter.

Except it does. Whether it’s a tiny choice or a big decision, if it’s something we want to do, it matters.

Happiness is when we recognize that, dispute our own defeatist excuses, and then get out there and enjoy instead of holding ourselves back.

Photo by Shadowgate

About Lori Deschene

Lori Deschene is the founder of Tiny Buddha and Recreate Your Life Story, an online course that helps you let go of the past and live a life you love. Her latest bookTiny Buddha's Gratitude Journal, which includes 15 coloring pages, is now available for purchase. For daily wisdom, follow Tiny Buddha on Twitter, Facebook & Instagram..

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  • Well Lori,

    I can’t deny I fall into your description of avoiding what I want to do…like exercise.

    But then I ask myself – is running a mile what I really WANT to do? Or is that heart boost what I think I SHOULD do?

    What are my CORE INTENTIONS? Really!

    My core intentions always
    steer me toward pleasure and away from pain. Unfortunately, “pleasure”
    and “pain” are not necessarily the best or the worst things for me.
    “Pleasure” might be a double cholesterol bowl of ice cream and pain
    might be muscle ache from a good work out. These pleasure-pain,
    seeking-avoidance paths are based on my habits, and also my IDEA of what
    pleasure and pain IS for me.

    After the start, what’s my gain?

    The secret of growth,I think, is
    to recognize what truly IS beneficial, and then to REEVALUATE and
    RELABEL what is a rewarding goal.

    If I can convince myself that a workout’s sweat and pain is worth a
    healthy life, more years and more productivity, then this sense of
    reward will override the old intention of coach-potato peace. Seems
    simple enough.

    Now if I can only take my own advice.


  • My challenge is discerning between spontaneous desires and long-term desires. Using your example, am I interested in riding my bike today because I’m feeling resistance to going to the gym? Or, am I going to spend quality time with my sisters today because I’m feeling resistance to writing? It’s so hard figuring out whether my heart is urging me to do something out of its own needs or if it’s being a tricking me with some sneaky form of Resistance!

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  • Cooljo76

    Your post really hit home, at times I feel as though I put others needs ahead of my own, and end up talking myself out of doing something I may really want to do. I dont see this as entirely bad, but your post made me question my reasons for doing certain things. 

  • I think, to respond to the comments below, that the message here is to follow your heart’s desires. When you’re trying to talk yourself INTO something (like running, when your preferred form of exercise is yoga in my case), you’re simultaneously talking yourself OUT of something– following your truth. Yes. Sometimes my heart says “Screw it, let’s move to Costa Rica and eat coconuts on the beach.”  And there is definitely some discernment that must be used.  But in Lori’s case.. ride the bike!  Break the rules. Allow spontaneity to be your playmate.  It keeps things spicy. And in the long term… internal guides refuse to be ignored, and when they are, they throw temper tantrums.  Listen to them, too 😉

  • dirk

    so did you ride or not? need to know.

  • I know what you mean Jenna. I find self-awareness can be both the most important thing and the most difficult thing! In that particular instance, for me, I realized bike riding was the way to go. Either way, I was getting exercise, and one would be much more enjoyable. Especially since I spend a lot of time indoors as a writer, getting outside for me is always a good choice!

  • Yes, that was my thought exactly Heather! Breaking the rules in that way can be so freeing…and much more fun. =)

  • Great insight Irving! I think ultimately, it comes down to making healthy choices, and reconciling short-term and long-term wants (as Heather wrote above). If there’s something that allows us to satisfy both, then that’s a win-win, I think. =)

  • Absolutely! And I loved every minute of it. =)

  • I’m glad it helped! I’ve done that same thing at times. It’s a balance, for sure–being there for other people, without losing track of our own needs.

  • Sally Branch

    Two thoughts – first, going back to the difficulty in knowing whether it is our intuition or our gremlins speaking (an old tussle for me), I’ve found that one thing that helps is to ask how I feel about the decided outcome.  Physically relaxed yet alert and at peace? Probably intuition. Physically relaxed yet dull or mentally a bit squirmy?  Probably those gremlins.  Longer term, meditation helps as we need to sit quietly and listen to what our intuition (or spirit, or whatever) is saying so we can learn to trust it.  Number two, I read recently a great way to build willpower is to do all the little tiny things we think of as soon as we think of them – not later on.  But start with the really tiny things

  • This is so helpful Sally! This has been a big one for me as well, and I think tuning into our feelings about the outcome is great advice. I also love your suggestion about the tiny things. I believed that the key to doing anything is to focus on one tiny step a time.