When you are having one of those days, an audible shout-out *might* help get you back on track, and with a little jolt of humor…
Always worth a shot! 🙂
MOST of the time I *try* to be a decent human being. I try to reflect on my behaviors – good, bad, and ugly – and to conduct myself in an upstanding way as much as I can.
I ALSO fall short plenty!
As human beings, we are subject to more influences than I think we ever want to admit (hell, even the moon has me all off kilter when it’s full!) We are subject to changes in mood, for so many reasons that it would be nigh impossible to list them all. But that’s okay. We are allowed to ebb and flow, because that is just the nature of life. We don’t have to be perfect all the time, and even if we have some grandiose notion that we’d like to be. . .it doesn’t always play out that way.
But the other day a thought came to mind that stopped me right in the middle of my “if-the-car-in-front-of-me-doesn’t-speed-up-I’m-going-to-go-nuts!” rant. It was such a jarring thought that my attitude shifted. Instantaneously.
I have the wonderful fortune of volunteering with children with disabilities with two organizations – I’ve never found something that lit my heart quite as much (and that’s saying a LOT, as I am a truly passionate person about my life, my activities, and the careers I have had.) I love the kids, and I love meeting their parents – learning about them, their individualities, and what makes them happy, is an overwhelming joy.
So as I was having this moment of “can’t stand anyone” (and I think it was in reaction to a woman tailgating on the highway and giving me the middle finger, despite that I had no idea what I did to warrant it) I thought to myself. . .
What if the person in that car who I’m getting all flustered because of, or at, was one of the parents of the kids I get to work with? Would I act the same way?
I wasn’t *trying* to give myself a guilt trip, or make myself feel badly. When my behavior deviates – and I think it’s fair to say, as adults, we generally know when we are being unreasonable and inappropriate with our reactions (should we choose to be honest with ourselves!) – I am aware of it. I do try to correct myself and in effort to curb poor actions, I have said to myself everything from “you never know who has a weapon!” “you can’t take back what you say,” to “that really doesn’t make me a good person to flip someone off”…!
Doesn’t always seem to calm me down, though!
But. . .the thought that it *could be* someone in a situation such as the families whose children I work with shut me down pronto.
I would never want to behave that way with one of them. And when I think about it, I can’t imagine I really want to act that way with ANYone. What does reacting poorly say about me anyway? Nothing grand, I assure you!
When I think about it, it makes me feel sad that I would allow temporary emotions to overcome me in such a way that I lash out – in any regard. As a human being, I know it is bound to happen, and that expecting myself to be Miss. Goody Twoshoes is NOT realistic. But because I don’t know what other people are facing, and because I also know how blessed I am, I appreciated the supernal reminder. . .which stopped me from getting angry, or for the woman who flipped me off to ruin more than the few seconds of my day during which she did so.
I know I’m going to fall short sometimes, but that moment was one I know I will remember. . .
I have the blessing to work with those who have a journey fraught with challenges, and I LOVE the work because I have the opportunity to make lives better. To behave poorly as a result of flared emotions is to contribute in a negative way, and I will suffer personally when I choose that route. The only thing that would make it worse is to also hurt someone else who didn’t deserve it to begin with…and I’d say I don’t really want to decide that someone deserves any of that.
Every so often I’m asked what I do, or how I stick to my guns, in order to reach the goals I’ve set for myself. Some of my friends have said I stick to my routine like my life depends on it. While it’s *generally* true that I color in the lines, it doesn’t mean it’s a piece of cake all the time. Cake? Where?! Is it chocolate!? (See what I mean…?)
Some days it’s a challenge to keep myself on track, but I do have a few tried-and-true tricks to help me stay on the bandwagon when I want nothing more than to hurl myself off it!
Now it may be I’m already that crazy personality type that pushes myself extra hard…in everything…(and boy, is that exhausting!) It could be that I like routine. Or maybe it’s because I’ve seen other people succeed, and I want to get there too. Either way, these tricks do come in handy, and are worth a shot if you are having some difficulty motivating. . . They have helped me enormously, and continue to.
What is willpower, though, anyway? Willpower is typically used to refer to that miraculous, supernal compass that allows us to abstain from whatever it is that ISN’T so good for us… Or, as the dictionary puts it:
For me, that would be eating whatever I want, not getting up and exercising most days, and not following through with the things that will help me grow as a person, or in a field I’m interested in. I’ve admitted to myself full-on how much easier that life would be…but when I think about the implications of walking that path, I’ve rerouted very quickly…
So there’s tip #1 right there…
This trick works for me the majority of the time. I don’t really consider it as guilting myself into things, it’s more that I focus on the implications of NOT doing the action I’m struggling with, OR staying where I am…which is not where I want to be. I know that if I decide to abandon my dietary habits, I skip my physical activities, give up on something I really want to learn (which I almost did recently!)…I’m going to suffer on a number of levels. I’ll feel more exhausted, depressed about how I feel / look / not achieving, my skin will probably freak out, the doctors (I’m sure) will be on my case, and I’ll very likely be in a shitty mood all around. Bad for everyone!
Then there’s tip #2…which is similar to the first, but it puts things in a positive light (which, frankly, is where I personally prefer to be.)
When I focus on my goals, I get the most bang for my buck – more so than #1 because, again, I’m making this positive. I focus on what I want most – whether to maintain my current condition, learn more about a subject I’m new to, achieve the next rank in my Martial Art… Whatever the goal is, I focus on HOW I WILL FEEL once I HAVE IT. That’s how the magic begins. How to keep it going? Picture it as if you ALREADY HAVE IT. Once you get there, you’re golden. There are mornings that getting up and spinning is the last thing I want to do. But I focus on the feeling of “that felt great – I did it, and I worked hard, and now I’m ready for the day!” Focusing on the feeling I’ll have in accomplishing that goal makes all the difference.
Progress snapshots can take a lot of forms – it really depends on what the goal is. If it’s with regard to my Martial Arts, I’ll make sure to take periodic photos of my attendance card to see just how far I’ve come, and how close my next test is. If it’s with regard to physical condition, photos go a LONG way. Photos help us to keep track of how we are doing in the most real sense – I’ve caught myself being off track from pictures plenty of times! It’s not easy to see ourselves as we really are sometimes – photos keep us honest.
Life is a challenging journey any way you slice it. There will be ups and downs, and days you don’t damn well feel like “making a gratitude list!” That’s okay. What’s important is that you are gentle with yourself in understanding we all get a little sidetracked from time to time. Allow yourself to feel what you’re feeling fully. Then dust yourself off, remind yourself how far you’ve come / that you have made it through successfully before (and I guarantee that you have!), and get to it! Wallowing in our shortcomings is incredibly dangerous, and a surefire way to keep the negative cycle going. Chin up – you can do it!
Don’t forget to share your progress with those you trust and love – I assure you that they will want to share in your joy, encourage your continued journey, and would be willing to help you in any way they can. That’s what loved ones are there for! You aren’t alone, and you don’t have to go it alone. If you are having a tougher day, it’s okay to ask a loved one for help, to vent, or to ask for a proper kick in the ass – like being brutally honest! – when you need it.
I’m as guilty of the next person of putting myself down, and putting road blocks in my own way with negative thoughts or language. It’s vital that we work on using positive language, such as “I can!”…and using it all the time. When we are stuck in a rut, or feeling miserable about past failures, that’s when using positive language (and / or replacing negative language) is the most important. We must remember that there is always a new opportunity waiting – there is no better time than the present to get back on track, and we can do that at any moment. Forget four letter words like “can’t” as they serve only to derail. Make sure your language is positive, and you are on your way!
Willpower can be hard to come by all the time…but it is NOT an impossibly-achieved, elusive superpower. The more we work at it, the more we will have.
So. . .
TIP #1 – Internalizing / Visualizing / Owning the Implications
TIP #2 – Internalizing / Visualizing / Owning…and FEELING…the Goals
TIP #3 – Progress Snapshots
TIP #4 – Be Gentle With Yourself
TIP #5 – Share the Joy…AND the Challenges!
TIP #6 – Change Your Inner Dialogue
You’ve GOT THIS!
As an athlete, I’m often in environments where people have a heightened awareness of their appearance – in ballroom dancing, the focus was so intense it sometimes made me uncomfortable! In figure skating it wasn’t as much of a big deal, but it did matter. At the gym, I’m used to people checking in on themselves in the mirror… And even when I’m doing my own thing, I sometimes am interrupted by someone making a comment as well.
We all have different goals and what should matter the MOST is how WE feel…not what someone else thinks of us. I remember someone saying “you know you look good” and it actually gave me pause. I wasn’t ungrateful at all, and I certainly truly appreciated what I believe they intended to be a supportive comment – but my thoughts stopped for a moment to examine the idea. . .
To some people, we are going to look great. But to others, not so much! And that’s more than okay. I’m thankful to have a husband who is supportive of my mesomorphic body type. My family is also incredibly supportive, even though they don’t all “like” a muscular physique. It makes me feel good because “mesomorph / endomorph” is what I am working with – I can’t change that, and I appreciate that the people closest to me always back me up in what feels best to me.
I *could* lose weight, gain weight, or stay where I am, but fundamentally, my structure is what it is. As a lifetime athlete, I identify with feeling and being strong – I love having muscle, I love the feeling that I can move my own furniture, or roll my own car. That doesn’t, however, necessarily mean OTHER people like that. Fortunately, I ascribe to the following:
#1.) I don’t really bother myself with what someone else thinks about which condition feels – again – best to me, and…
#2.) I have ZERO misconceptions that I am perfect to everyone out there (or that any of us have to live up to that impossible standard)
As Dita once phrased it…
We could be the most gorgeous thing to one person, and not at all attractive to another. That doesn’t mean we are too skinny, too full, too muscular, too tall, too short… Someone else’s idea of beauty is his or her own. What matters most is how WE FEEL about ourselves, and in our own skin.
WE need to feel good about ourselves – we deserve to feel healthy, and able, and happy. Period. If something in that picture is falling short, we also have the power to change it! But we mustn’t confuse what others think, because that reality isn’t our reality.
I always encourage people to be honest with themselves – are they wanting a change because HE or SHE FEELS that a change would bring about positive outcomes for themselves (feeling healthier, having more energy, feeling sexy, fitting into older clothes etc…) or is it because someone else is forcing that idea on them..?
The ball is always in our court – we have the power to decide what makes us feel our best, to have that, and to feel great in our own skin.
In spite of things that may not go your way, or things you wish you had…there are a thousand more things that, if you looked closely, you’d realize were blessings beyond measure.
To remain within the present moment is to appreciate, to the fullest, the gifts we have been given. In so doing, we tap into the deeper magic of abundance, allowing more of the “good” to come into our lives and consciousness.
Life is bound to time, and time will wait for no one…but in each moment is the opportunity and promise of love, life, joy, breath, health…should we choose to stay within the present, and recognize that which we do have.
In Martial Arts we say we hope we never have to use what we learn – the idea isn’t about trying to prove something, nor to assert any kind of feigned dominance.
Along those lines, we are taught that ideas like “revenge” and “anger” serve only as injurious deviations from our true paths. The Universe finds a way to right things without the heavier, shall we say, karmic repercussions of going down that road.
To seek revenge or harbor ill will is, as Buddha says, holding the proverbial hot coals and assuming both that they will burn another…and also that we are impervious.
The truth is the reverse – to seek such things is to diminish our own self-worth. It is a disservice to ourselves as willfully negative actions and thoughts hinder the flow of “good” that has the potential to continually manifest in our lives. It is far wiser to let go of resentment, and to be as the Martial Artist aspires to be – free of the burdens that come with animosity and bad blood.
It isn’t always an easy pursuit, but it is a noble one and worth the aspiration. Neither human being nor circumstance has the right to turn us from the higher road.