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 – Revenge and Anger

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.

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Find Happiness In The Moment

As the wise saying goes. . .

It isn’t designed to put Life into a negative light, nor to add a sense of morbid urgency. . .but the idea is that Life – truly – is a gift.

The people we love, the blessings we have. . .most of all, our own breath, are gifts.

To recognize the temporal confines of this “go ’round” is to bring our awareness to the beauty, the good, the positive, the happy.

We have no control over how much time we are – or are not – given, nor the time given those we cherish. . .

We can, however, find joy in each present moment.  We have the choice.

If you find you cannot. . .endeavor to seek it out – fervently – lest time march past before you discover you had the power all along.

Strange Jewels

FB Elizabeth Gilbert Jewels Within Us

I think a lot of people feel that they need someone to push them to work harder, but the reality is, they have so much strength inside already.  I love the Elizabeth Gilbert quotation about the Universe burying strange jewels within us – in my own mind, it serves as a reminder that each of us harbors precious, priceless gifts deep inside.  We are capable of anything put our minds to.  We are incredible. . .and beautiful. . .and divine.

Some days we feel down, exhausted, like we aren’t doing enough…

Others, we guilt ourselves for taking a break, eating something less healthy when we are usually so good…

We give ourselves a hard time and allow a self-dialogue that’s negative, hurtful, unsupportive.

But if we take a moment to breathe…to step back and see the larger picture, we will find that we are really pretty remarkable.

We manage to work hard, stay dedicated to our families, keep moving even when we aren’t feeling our best.  We find ways to be there for others when they need support or a helping hand.  We balance exercise with deadlines and lovers and friends… We do quite a LOT, actually…and we often keep a smile on while doing it!

No human being is perfect, but that’s the beauty in it – we all have something special.  We all harbor these multi-faceted, flowing jewels of grace and wisdom and goodness within us that sometimes gets buried in the dust of day to day drudgery and stress.  

But those parts of us are ALWAYS there – like fractures of starlight all our own, to take with us through Life. They are infinite, and utterly extraordinary.

YOU are extraordinary…

You Chance Of Success

There is one thing that can make or break you in Life.  It can alter the reality of your circumstances when the hand has already been dealt…

Your ATTITUDE.

Attitude is everything.  

Human beings are flawed and fragile – some days will be tougher than others, rendering us ill-tempered and apprehensive.  Negative emotions can easily spiral into the doom-and-gloom of the spectrum, inciting a wave of debilitating self-doubt, unhealthy anger, or worse…  

But if we take a step back (no, it isn’t always easy, but it IS possible), we might just find our breath.  That peaceful cadence, which we can control when everything else feels unpredictable.  After a few controlled ins and outs, it’s just possible that you will find yourself a great deal calmer and grounded (you know, less likely to go bananas at the person in front of you at the supermarket taking out the pennies one by one…or the guy in front of you going half the speed limit (I can always do with some improvement myself!) 😉 )

When we ground ourselves, we have a greater capacity to change our thought patterns – being in tune with our breath is being in tune with our rhythm, and that’s exactly where you need to be.  Our mindfulness can take crippling self-skepticism and turn it into curiosity, excitement, faith even!  

My skating coach used to say “can’t is a four letter word” and she was SO correct – we manifest the way we speak to ourselves, so there is NOTHING more important than the conversation we are having WITH ourselves or PROJECTING about ourselves. 

There are plenty of skeptics out there, and certainly they are entitled… But I’d challenge those people to try something a little different…

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Changing the words we use is like walking around with a magic wand – you really DO have that power.  

CAN And The Four Letter Derivative

When I was growing up the rooster of “four letter words” included a few more than ones that come to mind as an adult.  Things like “hate” and “can’t” were as much a taboo as the commonly know “bad words,” not so much from the harsher or inappropriate sound of them, but the damage they could inherently cause.  (And that damage runs deep in the psychological veins, make no mistake!)

My skating coach would correct me immediately if ever I made the grave mistake of uttering the dreaded “can’t” – because it was so drilled into me, I think about it every single time I hear someone say it – even at 37!  And I NEVER, ever use it with respect to myself.

I tend to get very frustrated when I am unable to do something – sadly even with activities I am new to (and therefore have no reason to be, nor expectation of being, an expert!) I had a ton of pressure on me growing up, particularly in sports.  As a young athlete, I was under the spotlight (literally when it came to dance and figure skating), and because I learned quickly, my bar was raised that much higher.

I’m nigh “unteachable” sometimes, because my frustration gets the better of me – I don’t know if it is fear of failure, embarrassment, disappointment, or a combination of the three, but it CAN be debilitating.

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At times like that I have to consciously take a deep breath and LET GO.  I have to remind myself that I CAN do anything I put my mind to – if I am new to it, it will take some time and that’s okay.  It has nothing whatever to do with can or can’t, but everything to do with letting go and trying – giving myself a chance!

It’s important that we stay mindful of the conversation we have with ourselves.  As they say, our self talk is a reflection of the conversation we are holding with the Universe.  And…the ever-famous, “whether you think you can, or think you can’t, you’re right.”

Give yourself a CHANCE.

Take a deep breath, let go of the fears and embarrassment…or at least TRY.  Trying is the first step!

And mind the words you use, and the way you say it… You CAN do anything you put your mind to.  

You CAN.  

That other variation of the word…the one with “‘t” in it?  That doesn’t exist in my vocabulary anymore and I’m definitely the better for it.  Losing that word opens up a whole slew of avenues for success, learning and love.

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