The Coach's Corner

What’s that thing you don’t want to do?

The Coach’s Corner Newsletter #35

Before the sun comes up, you can hear me in the backyard jumping rope. And every (single) morning I remind myself of the benefits: a full-body workout in 10 minutes, better balance, increased bone density and better heart health. That’s because when it’s cold or wet or hot or whatever, the draw for another cup of coffee could easily entice me back inside.

But this thing, that I don’t necessarily want to do, has transformed my cardio health and given me stamina for all sorts of other activities I like to do.

I would love to tell you I’ve got amazing willpower. Actually, I only got to this place because I broke down the exercise into manageable pieces. I started with 100 jumps, moved it up in increments until my current pace of 1,000 jumps.

Turns out there’s research that when I do something I don’t want to do, my brain also benefits. According to Andrew Huberman, PH.d.,

“the Anterior Mid-Cingulate Cortex can grow throughout the lifespan by regularly doing undesired things*, that are hard. *Do not make these psychologically or physically damaging, of course.”

What’s the thing you don’t want to do?



What’s the thing you don’t want to do?

Six months ago, Philip acquired a new team. Within a few weeks, he had the unenviable task of putting one of his direct reports on a performance improvement plan, or PIP. He agonized, had trouble sleeping, worried about how his message was being communicated and lost considerable time for his ‘real’ work dealing with this difficult situation. He also began to doubt himself.

I wonder if I’m cut out to be a manager. I loathe having to do this. It doesn’t feel good.

Fast forward to his current team – every member hired by him. One of his high functioning team members wasn’t hitting his deadlines or submitting work. Philip met with him trying to understand the situation, coached him, offered support – and still, the results remained stagnant. In our sessions, he explored how to prepare for a PIP with a fresh mindset: clear communication.

This week, he arrived at our session beaming.

I’ve just had a PIP! While it was a bit contentious, I stuck to my preparation. It’s done. Now it’s up to him and we’ll see if he really wants this job. I hope so.

Noting how relaxed he appeared, I wondered what was so different this time.

Looking at what is required of the position, I broke down each element and when the work wasn’t being done, the situation was pretty obvious.

I asked him if he’s changed how he thinks about managing people.

I don’t think I’ll ever like this part of my job, but I know what I need to do. And you know what? My confidence about leading my team has increased dramatically!



Break that thing down into smaller steps.

When you see what appears to be an insurmountable obstacle: a new workout, a performance plan for a direct report, following a strict diet after a medical diagnosis – that thing you don’t want to do is huge.

Let’s say your doctor just prescribed lifestyle changes for a significant health issue. What’s that thing you don’t want to do? Form a new health habit!

Given this is a serious matter – I’ve extracted three ways to break apart this daunting task, thanks to Ashley Abramson, writing on

  1. Get involved in your care.

The diagnosis disrupts your sense of control over your own wellbeing, especially when your doctor hands you a list of eating rules that appear daunting. Instead of blowing it off, how about asking the doctor how you might make this new health regimen work for you? Asking questions opens the way to clear communication and a better opportunity to reach your goals.

  1. Be kind to yourself.

If you miss a workout or fail to eat what you know is best for your diet, cut yourself some slack and move on. Show compassion, as you would a friend in your situation. It might help to keep a journal of this new process or talk to a friend, family member or coach about how to incorporate more self-compassion into your routine.

  1. Focus on the right rewards.

When it comes to promoting healthy behaviors, focusing on inward improvement will actually take you closer to your goal. If your doctor suggests more cardio – focus on the long term benefits of better health rather than dropping a pant size. That kind of reward provides a sense of meaning by contributing to your overall sense of wellbeing.

My takeaway

If you had to make a list of things you don’t want to do, you could probably rattle off several items without having to think. Because I’ve been challenged to consider that some of those things might actually stretch me and benefit my brain health, I’ve decided to think again about the things I don’t want to do.

In my work as a coach, the engagement in the session is what I enjoy most. In my partnership with clients the highlights include listening, inquiring, learning, offering direct communication and observing shifts in perspective.

What I don’t want to do? Log my hours. Track business transactions. Update my website. Create documents for future opportunities.

While I SAY I don’t like to do those things, something happens when I dive into any of those elements. I immediately recognize that these things matter, they get me excited about my craft and even prompt me to explore new tools, new areas of engagement and ideas for coaching beyond my present state.

So the next time you say you don’t want to do something, see what happens when you do it anyway – your brain will thank you.

Do something everyday that you don’t want to do; this is the golden rule for acquiring the habit of doing your duty without pain.

Mark Twain, “Following the Equator: A Journey Around the World”


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