(From the program: “Becoming a Hero”)
It has been long time since the last time we shared something in writing with you, but we are back and with a lot of energy and good vibes, ready to blog 😊
Today we will talk about something really important when we want to change things in our lives: “The power of determination”. This is part of a five-week program we developed to help people to reconnect with and nurture their inner qualities, so that they can start building the life they so much wish.
Coming to matter, let me ask you, how many times have you wished to change some situation in your life or in yourself for the better? how many times have you promised to yourself, I will start eating healthier, or tomorrow I will start exercising or from next week I will sleep more hours, or I will stop binging C-drama (yes, they are so addictive!). Great intentions behind, but no action, because, either something happens that makes you delay the decision or, you start with it with a lot of energy and excitement, but then, it turns out to be “a flash in the pan”.
But, why does it happen?
As you have probably noticed this is very common and depending on the circumstances, making even small modifications can feel very demanding, like if to achieve that, the strength or the super powers of a super hero were required (btw, my favourite superhero is Wanda Maximoff, which one is yours? 😊 hi-hi).
A brief explanation of why you are not able to start o maintain your planned changes may be the quality and level of your motivation.
What!!! I really want to lose weight; how can this be? (This is me, talking to my old self)
Well, obviously eating that delicious brownie for breakfast, that extra-large portion of red velvet cake for lunch and white chocolate cookies for dinner, overrides your intention to eat in a healthy manner.
But notice that here, not only your motivation but also your will power are key!
Let’s see the truthfulness of your motivation, select a, b or c:
a. I really need, want, crave this change.
b. I think it is ok, but I am actually motivated by external situations, social norms.
c. Although I am not fully on board, people I respect are suggesting this change.
If you answered b or c, most likely your going into action is going to fail or will be short-lived.
Notice though, that b and c are quite different, because, it is not necessarily bad to allow people valuable to us to incite us to make positive changes, however for it to work, it is key that we fully embrace their reasons as if they were ours: to internalize it, to make it ours! The good news is that often we allow people important to us to inspire us and their advice does not go into waste, which means that although selecting option c is not ideal, has great potential, and the success will depend on how deep you let it grow in you.
When your reasons to make changes are external to you, your unconscious will be reminding you that although it is a good idea, it is not your idea, and that it can wait. The change is seen as important but deep down is not felt as necessary. The previous statements may seem like blah, blah but are actually science. So, where your motivation
Ok, let’s say you have the right motivation, now, I ask you, how rewarding is the process ahead? (How pleasant is to wake up at 6 am to exercise, or to eat veggies rather than fatty fast food?) Is this change going to give you an immediate pleasant experience or on the contrary the immediate compensation for your efforts will cause discomfort?
Each time we talk about this, we are referring to will-power, yes, and that is a very real cognitive process, that has a clear representation in our brain when we are making use of it. Research has shown that our will-power depends on our beliefs of how much will-power we have and it can be depleted when we are under strenuous. Of course, knowing this, we can adjust the conditions to make good use of our will-power to achieve our goals.
And, what is will-power?
Will-power is your capacity to endure the process of making uncomfortable changes, resisting the temptation to go back to old patterns (which give you an apparent immediate reward), despite the delay in being rewarded for your effort. And as I mentioned before, your will-power does not come from an eternal source and as with your energy throughout the day, it is affected if you “use it a lot”. How is that? Yes, its “availability” is impaired if we make use of it during times where many challenging changes are taking place. Let’s say you want to lose weight and stop smoking, but at the same time you are under pressure at work due to a project you need to deliver. The whole thing together, may be too much, so if you want to be successful in all of them, maybe is better to attend each of them one by one. That will be easier on you and will give you better results, because each time you receive positive inputs derived from your decisions and actions will feed your energy levels, self-confidence and motivation.
So, let’s summarize what I have said in a way that it can be applicable to your everyday life:
6 tips to start making changes in your life:
Once you have detected something you want to improve
- Select. First you need to detect something you want to improve, psychologically it is better than saying “to change”, it sounds to radical, but actually, you can see it as part of a continuum. Which means, we usually know how to do things better, but choose not to do it that way. And in case you don’t know how to do it better, that is not a problem as you can always learn. I am sure you have heard about brain plasticity, yes, your brain is extraordinary!
- Accept. Clearly, this is not an easy thing to do, otherwise you would have already done it long ago. Then, recognizing and accepting that the process may be difficult will help you to see things from a more realistic point of view and plan better (taking into account the obstacles and difficulties). We tend to focus on the final product and get all excited about that, but when we see that that result does not come (getting fit after 2 days of exercising), we get discourage and abandon our quest. It is better to stay connected to the process, of course without forgetting the goal.
- Check your motivation. Why are you doing this? Is it for you? Is it for someone else? Is it to be fashionable? Having this clear, will definitely tell you the viability of your goal and the time it will last. If your motivation is internal, most likely you will not only achieve the change you want but it may stay with you for a long period of time.
- One thing at a time and self-compassion. This point is crucial to keep your will-power strong. Are you being very ambitious or impatient wanting to achieve many things at a time? If that is the case reflect on what is more important: to show yourself that you have the capacity to do all those things asap and fail or to act wisely and with compassion, focusing on just one thing at a time, enjoying the process that will take you to each of the final goals.
- Consider the timing. if you are going through difficult times which require a lot from you and the thing you want to improve is not vital it is best to re-schedule. Once more, self-compassion is key, because if you insist in starting changes during stressful times you will be giving yourself unnecessary suffering.
- Start small. This is very related to the previous point, but here it refers to starting to build the new behaviour you selected slowly. This is a very powerful practice, because small steps are more likely to be performed, achieved and become permanent than big steps. And this small but significant triumphs will give you a positive the reward that will become a great motivator to continue making changes.
There are many other things you can do, but remember to keep the essentials we mentioned above clear. To help you start the process, I am sharing with you a practice I made during the course. (see link below). The idea behind this exercise is to facilitate your decision-making process, boost your motivation and energize your willpower. This practice can be done as a paper and pencil exercise.
Link to Youtube:
Link to Insight Timer app:
I hope this has been helpful for you,
See you soon!