Why is it so hard to do things I know are good for me?


Written by Judith Pinto

Judith Pinto is a Registered Occupational Therapist in Alberta, Canada with advanced training in emotionally focused therapy and sandplay therapy. She provides holistic mental health care for neurodiverse children, adults and their families through an integrated sensory, attachment & trauma-informed lens. For more information, visit her website: www.kyokanconnect.com

November 26, 2021

Often we know what we really want to do and what is good for us. For example, we want to exercise and do yoga, spend time doing what we enjoy such as listening to music, cooking, painting, etc. However, we find it so hard to do these things. Therapist Judith Pinto shares her thoughts on why is it so hard to do things that are good for us.

If you’re anything like me, you know what you really want to do. But somehow you struggle to just do it.

I used to write a daily blog. Yes. One blog post a day. Every day. For four months straight.

I was inspired by Seth Godin.

Unlike Seth, my blog was for parents of school-aged children.

At 9 p.m. each night, I would sit down with my laptop on my couch and just write. Stream of consciousness.

Inspiration seemed to come from thin air. I recalled something that I had read that day – something quite unrelated to parenting or parent-child relationships – and I would manage to find a link. Make a connection. Write an interesting, albeit short, note to the parents who subscribed to my blog.

I had a series on sleep. Another on mealtimes. And still another on helping kids get into school year routines. Play and the importance of it. And many others were simple reflections on motherhood and parenting. Those felt especially personal.

It seemed to come easily.

It even led me to a moment of “notoriety”. I was at a professional conference waiting in line to speak with a vendor when the woman in front of me turned around and expressed sheer delight at seeing me. She greeted me by name and hugged me. I didn’t know who she was. I was more than a little confused. And embarrassed! After all, how could I forget someone who clearly knew me well enough to hug me?

She introduced herself. Turns out, she was one of my blog subscribers.

I must have looked enough like my headshot because, though we had never met in person prior to this moment, she clearly recognized me and, more to the point, felt she knew me. Well enough to hug me. And, truth be told, given the personal reflections and style of writing, she likely did.

I like writing. I think I always have.

When I was on maternity leave, I took a freelance writing course by “distance”.

This was in the mid-1990’s, so “distance” meant postal mail. Large envelopes with assignments and many stamps would get mailed off to my writing coach. I would wait at two weeks for a package with her feedback and suggestions to come back to me. In the meanwhile, I would work on other lessons to submit. And on it went.

I recently found an envelope with the articles I had written for that course. The topics are no longer relevant – a review of special event at a museum, an interview with a much-loved musical theatre director in my rural community, a travel article from a summer vacation – but they inspired me yet again to ponder. What happened to writing?

I like writing. Enough to use my “down time” on maternity leave to study it. Enough to write a daily blog for over 4 months. And yet, it’s not something I do. At least not often enough to consider myself a “writer”.

There are other activities too.

Like making music (I own and can play several instruments), listening to music, yoga, cooking, and drawing. I’m no professional musician, music critic, exercise specialist, chef, or visual artist. But I have enough skills to do them. I have the tools and space I need. I enjoy doing them. And, doing them brings me joy.

But I don’t.

Even though I know I could likely up my “happiness quotient” if I did. Even during a pandemic.
I am reminded of the movie, “Groundhog Day”. It is one of my most loved movies. It’s up there with the Sound of Music, It’s a Wonderful Life and The Christmas Carol.

Bill Murray’s character, Phil Connors finds himself having to live the single day, in a community he clearly despises, over and over again. His resentment for what he sees as a dreadful existence with no chance of escape grows. He even tries to end his life – many times. Realizing there is no apparent way to change, let alone flee the circumstances he is in, he begins to use his time in the exact same daily circumstances, to master many skills. French poetry. Playing the piano. Ice sculpting. I don’t remember all the details, but for all I know, he became a gourmet chef and an analytic psychologist too!

He didn’t necessarily develop all those skills for noble reasons. He initially began with highly selfish reasons. Gradually, he became aware of the needs of those around him, almost to the point of not attending to his needs. Eventually, he found balance between pleasure and service.

Though he remains stuck, he finds a way to live – fully. Learning. Growing. Until, at the end of a very full day in which he did everything he chose to do – for himself, for others – he settled with a sense of acceptance of his circumstances. He expresses satisfaction with and appreciation for the moment. In that moment, he was happy and that was all that mattered.

It strikes me that it is highly likely that my remembering Groundhog Day while contemplating my sense of stagnation is not a coincidence. There’s something here, in this recollection, for me in my present circumstances.

Image Credit: Pablo Escobar (Unsplash)

What if I just did the things I love to do in the moments I had available to do them? With no concern for whether I “became” a writer, musician, gourmet cook or artist. What if I did them just for the joy of it? With no intention of mastery or even learning. Just for the joy of the moment. Balanced with continued time spent supporting my clients, family, friends, and wider community.

What if I could hold the intention of just wondering and noticing what might happen if I just did it? What could my life look like, feel like, live like then?

What do you love to do? And, if you had moments in time available to you, what would do every day? Are you doing it?

I think I may be taking up writing again…

Featured Image Credit: Vicky Hladynets (Unsplash)

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