Why Do We Do The Stuff We Do?

An eternity ago, I fractured my lumbar spine in a failed attempt at dunking a basketball.

Yeah, I know. You can save the commentary.

Now, you would think, with me being a physical therapist with a long history in orthopedics, that I would know how to handle this situation.

And you would be correct. I do.

But knowing and doing are not the same thing.

One afternoon, not too long after the injury, I decided that I needed to go for a run. Around the neighborhood.

I think the internal dialogue was something like this –

EGOME: “Don’t be a wimp. You’re overweight, out of shape. Get off your butt and go for a run. Don’t let a little pain get in the way.”

ME: “I should not do this. I have a fracture. The loads will hammer it to death. I could make it worse. Probably will make it worse.”

EGOME:”You’re fat and weak minded. Go for a damn run. It’s just a little pain. Big deal.”

ME: “Well, I suppose a little pain is okay and the endorphins I get from the run will dampen it anyway. Yeah, I’ll go for a run.”

When I returned home, Ellen greeted me at the door with a concerned look on her face.

“You know, driving into the neighborhood, I swear I saw you running. Please tell me it was someone else. Not you running. Not with a fracture,” Ellen said.


We all do things that are not in our best interest, that likely will have negative consequences.

This is sometimes referred to as First Order Positive, Second Order Negative thinking1.

We want what we want when we want it and push the consequences off into the future.

New diets, workout plans, organization, spending, punctuality or for that matter the entirety of New Year’s resolutions start out First Order Negative, Second Order Positive (also known as delayed gratification).

We are so determined to change for …at least a week or two.

Then things shift.

It’s not just the EGO that gets in the way. There are all sorts of reasons people ditch First Order Negative thinking.

Change is hard work.

I’ve found that to change almost anything you first have to be more self-aware. By me telling you about First Order Negative, Second Order Positive thinking, you now are more aware.

If we want to be different than we are now, we want something new in our life, that means, by definition, we must be extraordinary.  If we think like everyone else thinks, well, how can expect results that differ from anyone else? This means we must think deeper, more completely about our choices. We must be Second Order thinkers.

It’s up to you though. I’m pulling for you.

That’s all I have for now.

Thanks for reading.



PS – If you’re interested in what I do for exercise and training, go here. For my books, go here

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  1. Howard Marks – The Most Important Thing