The Secret To Getting What You NEED

None of us likes to be told what to do.

You “should” diet.
 You “should” exercise.

We might not say it aloud, but our response to things we “should” do is:

F*ck that shit.

Why do we react this way?

Our problem with “shoulds” is they are expectations imposed by others.

But what really motivates us are things WE are interested in and value.

You can prove this to yourself very simply. Do this:

  • Convert “shoulds” into “needs”.
  • This reveals which values are interesting and motivating FOR YOU.

Let’s look at some simple examples:

  • You should diet” becomes
  • I need to feel good about the way I look”.
  • You should exercise” becomes
  • I need to stop feeling tired all the time”.

So what about SMART goals and “knowledge is power”?

Bitch please.

If SMART goals really work, why can’t you keep your News Years Resolutions past February? If knowledge is power, why are you still overweight and tired?

I get it. I’ve been fat and exhausted many times in my life. Too many times to count.

I failed at doing what I “should” do for a long time.

But failure and pain are patient teachers, and eventually I learned their lessons (see below).

I also mastered “the missing secret ingredient” (also below).

One other thing I learned the hard way:

It’s important discern between what “we need” and what “we want”. They are two different things.

  • Needs get prioritized to the top of our list.
  • Wants get attention after we meet our Needs.

Needs “crowd out” Wants in terms of our priorities, motivation, attention, time, effort, and money.

This is why New Year’s Resolutions never last.

We tack our resolutions onto the end of list of our “Needs”. But the end-of-the-list is where things we “Should Do” or “Want To Do” compete for left-over attention. Here they die due to starvation and neglect, usually by March (if not sooner).

Usually we can tease apart a Need and a Want and tackle them using different themes (see below)

Notice the obvious difference:

  • I NEED to feel good about the way I look vs:
  • I “should” diet.
  • I “want” to lose a few pounds.
  • I NEED to feel energetic and productive vs:
  • I “should” exercise more.
  • I “want” to be more fit.

So for 2018 forget about New Years Resolutions, forget about “shoulds” and “wants”, forget about SMART goals, and forget about ”knowledge is power”.

Try this instead.

  1. Pick a THEME based on what you “need”, something important to YOU.
  2. Pick any BEHAVIOR that moves you in the direction of your theme.
  3. Modify your ENVIRONMENT to enable your new behavior.

Pay careful attention here:

  • New habits and behaviors don’t just materialize out of thin air or through sheer willpower.
  • You MUST CHANGE YOUR ENVIRONMENT in order to form a new habit.

I’ll discuss this in detail shortly.

But first let’s look at some common themes and behaviors and environment changes that work in the real-world as seen in my client results.


  1. Stop Doing Stupid Shit
  2. Reach For The Stars
  3. Hold The Fort

Themes act as a compass to “point the way”. But themes also give us the flexibility to navigate real-time changes in our external situation.

We may be trying to sail North, but unfavorable headwinds may require tacking the boat East or West to get there. We can’t change the wind, but we can adjust the sails.

Theme 1 “Stop Doing Stupid Shit”

Sometimes the name of the game is “damage control”.

If you’ve dug yourself into a hole (i.e. you are overweight, or stress-eating, or tired all the time, or maybe all of the above) the key behavior for Theme 1 is to stop digging.

Example: I will never forget the day I woke up exhausted and 55 lbs overweight. I realized I had dug myself into a deep hole. At the bottom of that hole a heart attack or diabetes awaited me. With perfect clarity, I saw that if I didn’t stop digging, that hole would soon become my grave.

I NEEDED to stop doing stupid shit.

Theme 2 “Reach For The Stars”

If you feel inspired to look younger or feel stronger, then harness your burst of motivation (which typically lasts for about 6 weeks) into forming 1 or 2 new habits that will move you in the right direction.

Example: As a team-building event, I once took my employees indoor rock climbing to boost morale. Naturally they insisted the boss “lead by example” and that I go first. I got stuck at the second set of holds (about 1 foot off the floor). My arms were trembling and and legs too weak to haul my carcass another inch up the wall. Despite encouragement from my team, I was stuck and embarrassed and demoralized. I vowed then and there to become leaner and stronger.

For my own self-respect I NEEDED to lose fat and build muscle. This meant getting rid of junk food from my pantry and stocking my refrigerator at home and at work with more protein.

Theme 3 “Hold The Fort”

After digging yourself out of a hole, it would be pretty stupid to fall back in.
 If you are reaching for the stars, it would be pretty stupid to fall back to earth.

The bad news: Gravity is relentlessly pulling us down.

Usually ‘gravity’ takes the form of disruptions in our environment or routine. A sick child. A work crises. Relationship problems. Business travel.

In these circumstances, a useful behavior is to simply resist gravity and maintain your hard won progress (Theme 3, Hold The Fort).

The good news: Holding the fort is easier than climbing out of a hole or reaching for the stars. If you don’t change the oil, you’re going to have to replace the engine. Maintenance is 90% cheaper than repairs. And yet strangely most men maintain their cars better than their bodies.

Example: I’ve had a few difficult mornings where I was tempted to skip the coffee pot and head to the liquor cabinet. Due to unexpected problems in business or personal relationships, I was ready, willing, and able to fall back into the hole of stress-eating.

When my day starts to resemble a 4-alarm dumpster fire I NEED to HOLD THE FORT and protect my health and wealth. Experience has taught me it’s crucial to maintain my food log to prevent weight gain and to get at least 10 minutes of exercise to de-stress.

The Secret Ingredient Is Propinquity

Astute readers will realize that my Themes & Behaviors are similar to “Process Goals” and not “Outcome Goals”.

You would be half right but missing something crucial.

  • Outcome Goals focus on what you lack.
  • Process Goals focus on how to get it.
  • Themes & Behaviors focus what you NEED and value.

But my “secret ingredient” for long term success is something called propinquity.

Propinquity is defined as a “proximate relationship in our environment”.

Propinquity could be simple physical environment hacks like adding fiber to your breakfast, buying protein shakes for work, putting your gym bag by the front door, or keeping a tape measure in your suitcase. How do time things — do you workout before a holiday meal? After? Do you know you can lose weight in 40 minutes a week or get fit in 20? Are you aware that fitness trackers and apps don’t really work as avertised? Are you copping out by blaming your genetics?

Or propinquity could be more sophisticated relationship hacks like enlisting your social network to lose weight or using a health coach for guidance and accountability. Does your network contains people who actually have lost weight or got fit? Is someone close to you a health role model? Do you know Executive Health Programs don’t really work?

The above examples are of “meatspace” propinquity. But propinquity exists in cyberspace too.

You also have your smartphone with you 24 hours a day 7 days a week.

Your smartphone is the exact reason why I became an online health coach.

You and I are instantly proximate via voice, video, txt, chat, apps, newsfeeds, or social media. Online Propinquity!

Now that you know the ‘secret’, consider putting it to work for you in 2018.

Do you NEED to stop doing stupid shit or NEED to reach for the stars or just NEED to hold the fort?

If so, drop me a line about working together next year.

Originally published at The Healthy Executive.