People crave fast solutions and quick fixes
- For diets – a pill
- For relationships -a gift
- For courage – a drink
- Even quick fixes for products that don’t function properly, aka ‘patches’.
This is a reasonable reaction to society’s demands – and to our own. But ‘patches’ are just that – temporary solutions.
It’s not a bad thing in and of itself and sometimes it works – a couple of beers does loosen the tongue and allow us to shed our inhibitions – for the moment.
And a dramatic diet might get you into the evening dress or bikini you want to wear in 2 weeks.
But neither action will move the needle long-term.
We wrote here about the principles and science behind mindfulness.
In this post we want to give some more concrete examples. We want to show you that by practicing self-reliance and mindfulness, you can hasten the achievement of your own goals, paradoxically, by learning to live better in the present.
Consider the Man with the Rock
A man is walking along a path in the woods. Suddenly in his way there appears a giant rock and he cannot pass. On the other side, a man is hitting the rock with a small hammer. ‘What a waste of time’ he thinks. ‘How foolish’. He takes a long detour and continues on his journey.
2 months later he makes the trip again. Still, the rock stands. He sees the same man coming down the path in the other direction with his hammer. He wants to say something, but only mutters to himself, ‘what an idiot’. There is no crack in the rock. But as he begins his detour, guess what happens?
He hears it. A small crack. And then suddenly a larger crack and the rock has split into 2.
A nice fable, eh? Consider the utterly amazing, jaw-dropping true story it may be based on (probably not).
Habits, self-discipline, and perseverance work!! We all know this, but often we don’t make the connection between this fact, the example set by star athletes for example, and ourselves.
How to Build And Maintain Self-discipline: the Power of Habit
1. Identify your purpose. Articulate a clear understanding of your goals and the tasks required to reach those goals.
If you understand your goals and how the tasks fit in with those goals, it’s much easier. If you don’t know what to do, just start practicing something you are interested in. Find compelling reasons and then commit to your tasks.
And then write this down: whether in a journal or giant sticky notes.
2. Build a practical plan of action to help you accomplish your goals. Commit to all the little actions involved in the pursuit of your goals. You must be fully committed to doing whatever it takes to get the job done, regardless of your physical and mental state.
Make effective deadlines and mini milestones that break your goal down into manageable chunks.. Keeping your tasks realistic and bite-sized is essential. If you feel overwhelmed, you will begin to make excuses. Procrastination leads to stagnation.
3. As Woody Allen said, 80% of success in life is ‘showing up’. Action by action. So many of us fail to achieve our goals, simply because we fail to be consistent.
- Build focus and come to terms with the hours required to achieve anything worthwhile.
- Immerse yourself in your tasks; consistency does wonders for mental endurance.
Remember: self-discipline is nothing more than the habit of consistency.
4. Try to steel yourself a bit more. If you headache, don’t curse and complain to everyone in earshot – or project grumpiness. Regularly test yourself. Can you skip a meal? Can you skip social media? See what you are accustomed to that you can live without.
5. Understand 1 critical point: You have power over your mind, and not outside events. Reinforce to yourself what is IN your control, what is NOT. Being distressed by external things derails you and is terrible for discipline. Reinforce what is in your control and accept it.
6. Never play the victim. ‘My parents did this, everyone else says that, I was born this way…’. Assume personal responsibility. Train yourself to frame things this way. Be the person who steps in to take action.
7. Practice delayed self-gratification. If you give up, you will derail your goals for the sake of the moment. We put off now for a better future.
8. Ignore naysayers.
These people are not worth the trouble of engaging. You will ALWAYS find these people, they are against everything. It is a waste of energy to argue. Don’t hand over your peace of mind / body toxic individuals.
9. Practice mindfulness: most important, but intimately connected to points 1-8
What might be a sample mindful evening?
1. Eliminate external stimuli. Unplug. External stimuli can be so alluring when living in and meeting the demands of modern society. It is absolutely inevitable that you feel stressed, equally inevitable that you crave the dopamine rush of tv and social media. But these are those ‘quick fixes’ – literally like drug addiction.
2. Physical exercise. A healthy mind cant exist without a healthy body. Sometimes we dread exercise. But exercise yields so many amazing benefits. Endorphins release stress and improve mood. You can even just incorporate the idea of a late night night’s walk. Better yet, follow the path of intuitive fitness.
3. Review your day. What happened? Recall each moment of day, meditate on choices made and actions taken. What did you do well? What brought you discomfort? What did you wish you had done? For example, let’s say you had an awkward or unpleasant interaction while buying your morning coffee. How do you wish you had handled the interaction differently?
4. Who is your personal hero? Contemplate him / her. This is a weirdly useful exercise and it doesn’t matter if your hero’s documented actions align with yours – you are imagining how you WANT and expect that person to be.
Are your actions consistent with this ideal? When you reflect on your day: what would your role model – real or imaginary – do? What traits does he have that you saw in yourself today.
5. Take view from above. Look at your life from the point of view of the cosmos.
Today there’s just so much noise, marketing, news, apps (‘essential’!), advertisements – it’s difficult to breathe. And so it’s difficult to work through issues of importance.
A view from above helps you with perspective. Start to think about others – what hopes, dreams, fears they have too. Zoom out again. Consider the hardships other people endure. Zoom out further. Consider the vast improbability of it all – but also the strange intimacy. We humans are, literally, stardust. We are part of a greater whole.
Don’t believe me? See here!
Looking from outside helps distance ourselves from our problems and makes it easier to see things in context, perspective. Many problems we obsess over just dissolve.
6. Spend time with family, if applicable. A common complaint of dying people is lack of time spent with family. There WILL be a day when you don’t wake up to the chaos of life 😀
7. Prepare for your morning. Make waking up as easy as possible. That may mean laying out your clothes in advance, jotting notes to your morning self, etc. A peaceful sleep is a must!
Oh, I almost forgot. What is THE most common complaint of dying people? See here