6 Personal Tricks To Maintaining Willpower

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…

TIP #1 – Internalizing / Visualizing / Owning the Implications

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.)

TIP #2 – Internalizing / Visualizing / Owning…and FEELING…the Goals

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.

TIP #3 – Progress Snapshots

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.

TIP #4 – Staying Gentle with Ourselves

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!

TIP #5 – Sharing Our Progress

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. 

TIP #6 – Changing Our Language and Inner Dialogue

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.

You have everything it takes to get back on – and stay on – track, so long as you really want whatever that goal is.

So. . .

In SUMMARY:

TIP #1 – Internalizing / Visualizing / Owning the Implications

  • DO stay honest with yourself about the full implications of staying where you are 
  • DO visualize, and own up to that result (of not following through)
  • DON’T throw in the towel!  You have what it takes!

TIP #2 – Internalizing / Visualizing / Owning…and FEELING…the Goals

  • DO focus on how you will FEEL once you attain your goal
  • DO picture yourself already achieving that goal (this is the key to the miracle!)

TIP #3 – Progress Snapshots

  • DO take periodic “snapshots” to keep you honest with your progress
  • DO take photos, as they are the more true picture of reality than we sometimes like to pretend
  • DO be creative! Taking a picture of a school report card, or positive e-mail from the boss counts!

TIP #4 – Be Gentle With Yourself

  • DO praise yourself with affirmations when you do a great job of making benchmarks
  • DO share your joy with those you love, as they will be proud of you also!
  • DON’T beat yourself up if you had a tough day

TIP #5 – Share the Joy…AND the Challenges!

  • DO share your successes with your loved ones
  • DO share your struggles if you need or want to
  • DON’T isolate yourself.  You don’t have to brave the journey alone!

TIP #6 – Change Your Inner Dialogue 

  • DO use positive language, and try to use it all the time
  • DO believe in yourself and say it aloud if necessary
  • DON’T wallow past failure
  • DON’T give in just because you are in a bad place.  Without change, it’s going to stay that way.
  • DON’T use “I can’t” or “it’s too hard” or I’ll never _____”

You’ve GOT THIS!

Martial Arts Wisdom – Thankful and Present

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.

Sekai Karate Kyokai image

 

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The Art Of Communication

This week a lot of friends have seemed to have had their share of communication breakdowns – on their side, or on the part of another person….parents, children, instructors, training partners. . .and it prompted me to think about it.  You’d think Mercury was in retrograde! (Don’t worry, it isn’t for some weeks 😉 ) 

It never ceases to amaze me, though, how similar situations can be, even when involving vastly different topics, completely different areas of Life, and totally different players.  Communication, however, is the underlying thread weaving it all together. . .

Communication isn’t relegated to one type of relationship, nor to specific people – it isn’t just about friendship, or marriage, or work, or family. . .  Communication is what sets us apart – it’s what binds our species, allows us to function at high levels, to accomplish collective goals, to learn, to love, and to live. Communication isn’t in and of itself horribly complicated, but humans ARE. . .and that’s where it gets tricky. (Modern life does bring a few challenges as well…)

shoeboxblog.com Chuck & Beans

Emotions, preconceived notions, previous experiences and conditioning. . .it all plays a part in how we respond to stimulus.  While humans are capable of incredible strength, that doesn’t mean we aren’t also highly sensitive (I know I am!) – the way in which we communicate is therefore as important as the words we are using.  Words, keep in mind are defined differently, even among those were are most similar to – in this case, the nonverbal, the tone, and the delivery makes a difference.

A HUGE one.

 

Everyone has had their fair share of “stuff” – we’ve all been marred by life’s rough edges, nature’s unpredictability, and lessons we needed to struggle through in order to fully learn (I’m still learning quite a few, including the topic at hand.)  As a result, most of us walk around with what I call “walls-at-the-ready” – we are kind of like collapsible fortresses just waiting for the moment to erect our barricades, and employ our moats.  

Seriously…

So communication then can become a very delicate – and powerful – affair.  

There is a true art to navigating what could easily become choppy seas (at our own hands – or our chosen communication.) There are tons of articles, books, seminars out there (such as this one) but no matter which relationships they are intended to better, they speak to the same key principles.  So it doesn’t matter if it’s your child, a new co-worker, a parent, a friend, a spouse, a sibling – the keys to communicating well focus on the same fundamental ideas, and can apply across the board.

LISTEN

Listening matters – listening with the intent to reply is not the same thing.  We need to listen to hear and understand from the other person’s perspective. Whether or not we agree, feelings are just that – as such, they are valid even if we don’t “get it.” 

EMPATHIZE

Everyone wants empathy and to be understood – no matter how much you may disagree, recognizing that the person speaking has a valid and true reality – for them – helps to bring them down a notch. Or several. 

MAINTAIN CALM CONVERSATION

People are open and responsive to calm conversation – the second the heat of anger is turned up, or promise of threat implied . . .POOF! . . .Barricades!

AVOID ATTACKING, BLAMING, SHAMING

People are (at least generally) open and responsive to discussion provided they aren’t in a corner – the slightest attack, criticism, blame, there go those walls again.  What you want to convey will be shut out like an enemy coming in full force. No bueno, as they say…

STAY FOCUSED

Keeping the focus on the issue at hand makes for a cleaner conversation – muddling the mix with outlying topics that really have no part to play make a mess, quickly.  Not to mention a full suit of armor on the other side!

Usually communication is only difficult when it’s controversial – when it may cause discomfort (like embarrassment, anxiety, self doubt etc), when it’s about a touchy subject, (embarrassment, shame, etc), or it provokes a fear-based response (as in “fright or flight” – resulting from directed anger, frustration, for example.) At those times, that’s when we LEAST want to be gentle and “follow guidelines of effective communication”!!  

But, as they say, a moment of patience can make a lifetime’s worth of difference.

Adorable! Seven Deadly Sins Cartoon: Anger
Written by Bearman Cartoons

Listen to the other person and, whether you agree or not, make the effort to recognize their view.  Keep yourself calm, avoid blame and attacking, and stick to discussion mode – people will be far more able (and willing!) to receive, and are less likely to block you out. If you feel like you can’t contain the disappointment, anger, frustration etc, do something else until you can be calm. 

People are complicated, and so is Life.  Even your best friends and closest family members meet discord from time to time (if they didn’t they wouldn’t be breathing!) that’s okay – it happens!  We aren’t always going to see eye to eye, we aren’t always going to define terms the same way, and people aren’t always going to behave exactly the way we want all the time.

You say you’re a Martial Artist and I might take you at your “word.” (schoolofdisney.com image)

One of my favorite expressions is “how important is it?” It’s one I heard growing up, and it’s one I hear frequently today.  As spoken at a dear friend’s wedding recently – in fact, by a very wise and learned woman – you can be right, or you can be happy.  Again, this applies to all areas of life, and to all kinds of relationships…

For example, I’ve seen a marked change in my own relationships with family members over the years, and every so often I catch myself really thinking about how our interactions have (or haven’t!) evolved since childhood – sometimes it’s difficult, sometimes it feels down-right painful. . .but Life doesn’t stop because I don’t agree with something, or I feel hurt. 

The more I can communicate effectively and in a kind way, the healthier all my interactions will be, and the better I – and others – will feel.  That means learning to do things that maybe I’m not so great at, or challenging my mood at that moment, or, even tougher, changing things I’ve done my whole life – sometimes what used to work for us doesn’t anymore! I know I’m a work in progress…but I am working at it, because there are areas in which I know I can do better.

I loved this excerpt, read by a friend recently, as it captures the essence of the idea perfectly:

” Today being aware of the words I use, I am learning to communicate more responsibly.  I not only share in a more straightforward manner, but I also argue in a healthier way.  There are better was to express myself than to say ‘you did such and such to me.’ I can talk about myself and my feelings.  I can explain the way I experienced something rather than telling the person how he or she made me feel… 

“…We learn in time that it is not the subjects which are controversial, but the manner in which we communicate about them and the elements of personal blame we add to them in anger.”

CTC by AFG p 176.

Effective, healthy, and happy communication can be accomplished, but it does take a little work.  We are thrown to the wolves in many ways, and learn to swim in the deep end by trial and error – there aren’t structured courses in school about interpersonal relationships, and workplaces don’t exactly help you along either! Unless we seek out our own kind of learning, it feels a lot like a shot in the dark, especially when we meet new people, are navigating a new job etc… Even when it comes to parents and children who’ve been together for a lifetime – life changes!  I recently was reflecting on how I could do a better job of understanding, as well as responding to a parent differently.

If things aren’t being communicated as smoothly as you’d like, or you feel it’s complicated and overwhelming, know it is NOT a lost cause. The phrase “DO UNTO OTHERS AS YOU WOULD HAVE DONE TO YOU” works really nicely – that’s basically the gist of it.  So if all else fails, just think about how you’d want to hear criticism, or how you would want someone to convey some tough news.  When we are in that kind of a mindset, we usually are off to a great start.

Here’s to the journey of Life! ❤ 

 

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Respect

Martial Arts are a way of Life, no matter their origins, their focus, their techniques. At their core, they are – heroically and with grace – brimming with precious words of wisdom. . .ones which transcend all temporal confines.

That everything begins, and ends, with respect is not relegated to the Arts, but to Life, our relationships, our interactions, and ourselves.

To maintain respect in the face of adversity and calm alike is at the heart of being a warrior. . .and a solid human being.  Like integrity and honesty it is a key pillar of a fulfilled, happy, and healthy Life.

Stress – We Always Have A Choice

I’m still working on this one, and I am certain I’ll be at it for a while.  But deep down, I fully believe in this concept, and I am getting better about stopping myself when my thoughts *try* to sabotage my mind, emotions, and body.  Like I said...*working on.*

The key is consistency – the efforts we make to apply it to ourselves, every…single…day, regardless of what’s going on around us.  In my mind it isn’t necessarily a lofty goal, so much as a slow-and-setady one.  It also happens to be an incredibly noble one and – should we truly desire peace in our lives – wholly achievable.

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Fitness Humor – The Magic Pill

There’s definitely some humor in this at first glance, but the quote also suggests that nutrition is vital to our health – what we take in to fuel our bodies matters, and it’s almost amazing that it isn’t one of the first things many doctors look into for chronic illness.  

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I think a lot of folks assume “clean eating” is bland, boring, and flat-out awful…but it ISN’T.  I’ve never heard someone say that they tried eating healthier foods and found themselves to be more lethargic, or that they suddenly were getting sick all the time, or that they gained weight… It has always been the TOTAL opposite – people have more energy, they feel refreshed and stronger physically, they sleep better, get sick less, have more mental clarity…and they often lose some stubborn pounds while they’re at it.

Sautéing your spinach in a cup of olive oil isn’t going to help…but let’s say you added a dash of oil (healthy fats) and some salt and pepper.  You’d be amazed how great that can taste!  Veggies, fruits, lean proteins…they’re absolutely DELICIOUS and they certainly don’t have to be devoid of flavor.  Spices can make a marked difference, and what’s really great is that no sauce = you can actually taste THE FOOD.  

If, however, we just reach for sugar, products with more ingredients that you can’t pronounce than you can, fried foods (the list goes on), it may taste and feel good in the short term…but it will kick your butt later.  You might find that you are dragging a lot, or that your skin has become dull or temperamental.  It may be that you are even feeling more depressed than normal, heading to the doctor more frequently, or that your clothes have started to feel too snug.  The side effects of a poor diet are doing as much damage to your internal organs too – they heart, brain, blood, ALL of you, needs clean sources of fuel to keep it functioning optimally.  Imagine putting the lowest-end fuel in the Ferrari – it’s not going to do what it is capable of, period.

Challenge yourself – even if in small doses, or for a short, manageable time frame – to try more whole foods, and start to lessen the processed ones.  Being creative with cooking isn’t hard these days with all of the apps and recipes you can find online.  There are also tons of recommendations out there about spices to use, or lower-calorie condiments if necessary, to keep your meals tasting as delicious as you deserve them to be.  

Cutting out the junky stuff might be tricky at first – withdrawal is a real phenomenon.  But stick it through and give your body a chance to adjust – you will find that you had the “magic pill” all along.  Caring about what you put in your fuel tank can make ALL the difference.

The Gratitude In Overcoming Difficulty

I can be far too hard on myself at times.  It’s landed me in precarious and damaging situations, so much so that I am not only more aware of it – all this time later in Life! – but, despite slipping, I am also more willing to work hard to get to the root of it.  (I’m blessed to have the support in so doing also – that makes a world of difference.) Doing so, however, means being more vulnerable, but it’s a necessary part of growth and overcoming hardship – it takes (often uncomfortable) work to get to the other side!  

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I’ve come a long way, and weathered storms like most human beings (after the age of three!) and it’s important I remember that… It’s important for all of us to remember where we have been, what we have accomplished, and that we have more strength than we think – because it’s so easy to forget and beat ourselves up. 

It’s also important to remember that we are works in progress. Recovery is a journey – It doesn’t happen overnight. Sometimes you can sail through the day, and others requires a moment at a time. 

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What NEVER slips my mind, though, is how grateful I am.  No matter my flaws, my moods, my “humanness”…not a day goes by that I am unaware of how blessed I am to be healthy, and to be alive.  

I remember that time I fell down the stairs, and had trouble with my legs buckling every so often – my body was eating the muscle from the inside out and I could no longer support my weight at times. 

I remember waking up with eyes so swollen – one of many effects of hyponatremia – that I actually staggered back, not recognizing the stranger staring back at me.  I stared into a reflective abyss confused, terrified, and wholly unable to see myself.  What HAPPENED..?

I remember when getting coffee and adding something to it – even a drop of skim milk – felt like an impossible hurdle. 15 extra calories? Not then

So when someone offers a kind word – whether of support of my lifestyle or some result of it…or simply asks for health or fitness advice – I feel it profoundly.  At times I even want to cry because I am not only touched and honored, but I know what it’s like to NOT have health, to watch myself dying a slow and painful death. . .and what it took to get where I am today.  (I am, incidentally, choked up with tears even writing this now…all this time later.)

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To be active and fit is a gift I will NEVER take for granted. Not only in remembering my own experiences, but knowing those without the fortune to walk or speak or see. . .my eyes have been opened in a such a way that I cannot UNsee.

I am thankful to each and every person who takes the time to encourage, to ask for help, to offer a kind word – you motivate and inspire me just as much, if not more so.  I work incredibly hard at it, and try my best…but I fail plenty too.  

To know I’ve potentially lifted one other person – even if only temporarily – is an honor.  It reminds me that my suffering was not in vain, and that I can give so much more having known it.

With gratitude. . .