I’m going to share with you a truth that change the way I think about issues. I’m sure it’ll have the same affect for you.

This profound thought has the power to cut through excuses and hold you accountable to any goal you claim to hold. At first it seems ridiculously simple, even elementary. But as it is with most profound thoughts, understanding them is simple, while  application proves tricky.

So what is this bald-headed nut-job going on about? Only this:

People only do what they want.

How is that profound in any way? Let me give you an example.

Let’s say you want to drop 15 pounds. That’s a good goal. You exercise and eat healthy, and you see progress after the first week. Great. This weight loss thing is easier than you thought. Until the cravings start.

You wake up in the middle of the night and can’t think about anything but M&M’s. You’re on a mission, and diet be damned, you’re going to get your chocolate fix. You get to the kitchen, tear open the bag with your teeth and dig in with both hands.

What just happened?

You still desire to lose 15 pounds. That desire hasn’t gone away. It hasn’t even diminished. What happened is this: it got trumped. It came in contact with a stronger desire. 99% of your day was spent with dropping the weight being your chief desire, but in that 1% of the day, it took a back seat, and you packed away 4 pounds of M&M’s in 12.7 seconds.

Congrats. You just saw the power of this simple truth in action.

You were just being human, and as humans, we only do what we want. The problem is what you wanted in that one moment was contrary to what you had wanted for the other 99% of the day. You see, we do what we want most in that moment. A new moment may bring about a new chief desire.

The Jekyll/Hyde Factor

If you knew every night you were going to change from your normal self to a murderous monster, ala Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, what would you do to prepare? You’d probably lock your family safely away, or ask them to lock you in a safe room each night so you couldn’t hurt them.

You know you want your family safe, but you also know that once you make the jump from Jekyll to Hyde, that won’t be your primary goal any longer. So to keep them safe, you make preparations. You plan for the shift in goals to avoid doing irreparable damage.

Only Two Solutions

Once we understand this two-people-in-one problem we’ve got going on, it’s easy to see we only have two options. We can control our actions, or our environment.

Going back to the M&M scenario, we want to keep Dr. Jekyll lean when Mr. Hyde insists on a binge. In your lucid moments, you could remove the things that you know will compete for your attention/affection. Get the M&M’s out of the house. If you can’t indulge, you don’t do damage to your goal. Don’t carry cash you’ll quickly drop into the snack machine. Don’t walk past the donut shop on your way to work. Don’t temp Hyde. He’ll come out in an instant if you let him.

The other option is self-control. I prefer this method, though it’s harder, takes longer, and isn’t a solo gig. It is, however, portable. It works in every situation, in any environment. When you find yourself away from your safe zone, that M&M free place you’ve created, this is your option.

There’s a whole host of tips for this sort of thing, but the real issue is to keep the primary goal in mind. That’s what separates success from failure.  Everyone reaches points when they want to quit because their goal isn’t as appealing in the moment as the comfort in front of them. Successful people push through by keeping that primary goal primary, no matter what that takes.

How that plays out depends on the details of your individual situations. It could include Carrying a picture of your pudgy self in your wallet, so you can’t buy the M&M’s without that powerful reminder that you have a primary goal of losing weight.