Did 2020 feel a little bit like this? (Source: unsplash)
There is more and more talk about the world becoming increasingly polarised, and the world of life coaching in 2020 has been a prime example of that. On the one hand, we have those who have been advocating for change, personal growth and taking 2020 by the horns to get closer to who and where we want to be. At the other end of the spectrum, we have those saying it is crucial that we give ourselves some slack, that the simple act of still being around is enough to celebrate and that we should just learn to ease off.
Where do you situate yourself on this spectrum?
Personally, I’ve been through a rollercoaster touching both ends. Right after the first lockdown in March I took the situation in my stride and decided to slow down and relax. A few months later, however, as the situation was getting worse, I panicked and decided I really needed to get my act together. As you may have already read here, I hired a coach and launched a new business, Stuff Talks. And now that I am approaching the end of the year, I really feel the urge to give myself space to rest, a space where I don’t push myself and a space where there is no blame for not being “productive” (something very, very difficult to achieve in my world!).
Regardless of where you put yourself on the spectrum, I’d like to share with you something that radically transformed how I look at my energy, how I look at my goals, and how I look at how I treat myself when I fail to meet my goals.
[By the way, I’m saying this because the New Year is coming up and I’m a sucker for resolutions!]
The mind hack I want to share with you as we approach 2021 is that willpower functions like a muscle.
Willpower functions like a muscle.
Many of us (including myself) see (or pretend that) willpower is like this infinite source of energy that we can apply everywhere at the same time. For years, my resolutions used to look something like:
-do yoga every day
-go for a jog every other day (yeah, on top of yoga)
-finish the book I’ve been working on for years
-become fluent in Hindi
-buy a new camera to do more photography of the horses
You don’t need to be a wizard to figure out that this was just never going to happen. The willpower muscle equivalent to that would probably look like:
-get big like Schwarzenegger
-get flexible like a yogi
-never get tired
-never get strained
Beyond the fact that I realised that this was requiring my willpower muscle to apply itself in all directions straight away (a perfect recipe for injury!) I also realised that I didn’t put anything down to help take care of that muscle in the first place so that it can perform the way I want it to.
So now, as I prepare for my 2021 resolutions (sorry, I just can’t help myself), I will be asking myself a set of questions for each resolution / goal / target that I have looking forward.
#1 How realistic is it?
How feasible is this for my willpower muscle considering the situation I’m currently in? It’s not about whether a goal is impossible, most goals aren’t, it's about getting there gradually. So, if my goal is to do yoga every day and I’m currently not doing any yoga at all, that’s not a great goal. If I’m doing yoga, say, once a week, then it would make sense to up it to twice a week. Similarly, if my days are already packed, adding something more is going to be difficult. So I need to take my current situation into account to make the most appropriate goals.
#2 How can I set myself up for success?
This is something that I learned training horses. When introducing something new, or when increasing the intensity of something known (also referred to as “raising the fish”) it is important to put all our chances on the side of success. It might seem obvious, but we rarely do it. For example, if I don’t have a yoga centre near me and I hate doing stuff on videos, I’m not setting myself up for success. Maybe I can find another type of exercise or relaxation that is easier for me to access? If I make a resolution to speak to my family more often, but I hate being on the phone, this, too, is not setting myself up for success. But if I like to write, I can do this instead. We all know ourselves very well, we know what is easy for us and what isn’t, and we know where we get weaker, and where we get stronger. Taking all this knowledge together to set ourselves up for success can make the difference between success and failure.
#3 Where’s the good stuff?
Our brain hates changes very much! Even if it is for our own good, anything new is something that needs to be avoided at all costs. That’s why we’re so good at self-sabotage. So when we try to implement change, we must take this into account and try to set ourselves up for success (here I go again) by adding something familiar AND pleasant tied to the new thing. For example, I promise myself my favourite breakfast after my yoga work out. I can also combine my Hindi classes with sitting in my favourite coffee shop (or, in Covid-era style, at home with a beautiful mug and a nice coffee I treated myself too).
Asking these three questions for each of my goals (and dreams!) really helps me set a plan that is realistic, and thanks to which I am much more likely to succeed.
Another question you may want to ask is:
#4 Can someone help me achieve that goal?
Sometimes, having some help really makes a huge difference. I know this was the case for me, and for most of the people in my community of entrepreneurs and business owners. It’s not that we are not capable people, it’s rather that we want to use our energy, time and money the best possible way and that professional guidance helps us achieve this. This could be done through books, through online courses, and of course through one on one coaching. Personally, I read a lot and have done quite a few online courses that I have found very useful over the years. And last year I hired a coach for 6 months.
So there you have it, a simple mind hack requiring us to look at willpower in a new way, a way that can significantly boost our chances for success, whatever it is that we want to achieve.
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