One of the threads of my life is that I take too much on and promise too much. This is sad because I train people that they should say what they do. And most of the time, I do – at the last minute. I’ve become an expert at pulling off everything in a scrappy fashion. Not elegant – but it does the job.
That’s not to say that I don’t want to be better at how I lead my life, not just how much I cram into it. But at times, I hit a wall. I don’t want to do anything any more. I want to binge watch Netflix or maybe just nap. To get myself off the sofa takes a lot of effort – it takes willpower which, over the day, evaporates like a shallow puddle.
I recently read that there’s an easy way to increase your willpower. A blog I follow condensed the learning into three memorable terms which have resonated deeply with me.
The first word is Gratitude: Many of us beat ourselves up for wasting time watching TV or playing games instead of buckling down to work. With Gratitude, the idea is to keep a journal of what you are grateful for. Gratitude makes you feel better about your life, then it’s easier to approach your work with pleasure – not dread.
I thought I’d try a version of this after an argument with Amara. While on a business trip I started writing vignettes about moments in her life. Instead of focusing on my irritation with her as she spread her wings growing up, I focused on the positive attribute that showed while she set her boundaries and achieved her goals starting at an astonishingly young age. When I next saw her, I felt an overwhelming positive love for her that had been hidden under my anger. Thank you, Gratitude!
I have also done this for myself. I recently documented my life’s changes – year by year – over the last 6 years and was astounded at how much I had accomplished. Time to appreciate myself – be grateful for myself – instead of thinking about the negative.
The second word is compassion
To increase willpower using compassion, you have to do a bit of time travel. Imagine yourself in the future, struggling to complete a task at the last minute. To show compassion to your future-self, what would you do now to help out? It’s amazing that this little twist of thinking about my future-self has hauled me out of bed or off the sofa to complete a task not wanting to have my future-self suffer. Yeah. It’s weird – but it seems to work – and quite painlessly at that.
The last word is Pride. Yeah. I know, it’s one of the seven sins. However, looking over what you have accomplished and recognizing that you have done well is important, too. So, a dose of Pride in the mix rounds out the three ways of refocusing what I pay attention to so that I accomplish more with less stress. And definitely a lot more happiness.
The last part of my puzzle came with recent sermon on one of Frank Ostaseski’s Five Invitations. The first one is “Don’t Wait.” While the focus is on not waiting to engage in a spiritual sense, for me this sermon struck a very deep nerve in a more down-to-earth way. I have had a task I have been avoiding for many years. It goes back into my time in the UK and my ex and my feelings about him are wrapped like an octopus’s tentacles – very tightly around this pretty cut and dry task. Yes, it’s about accounts.
Miraculously after the service, I found myself able to write a 5-minute email I’ve stalled on for months. And respond promptly when the answer came. Within two days, I’d roped in my local bookkeeper who is now working to complete the last year’s accounts. After no more than 1-2 hours work, the entire project is moving forward at a rapid clip. And the best part, I realize I’m working with people I like to resolve this issue and put it on a firm basis moving on. I’d love to say there are no twinges of angst, but I’d be lying. However, my focus is on making good my responsibilities to the nice folks I am working with. Right now is my “damn the torpedoes, full steam ahead” moment. And I’m using the willpower techniques and a don’t wait attitude to keep moving.
My life now isn’t about making wishes, hoping I’ll get better at tasks, or hoping life gets better. It’s become about taking what I have – which I am very happy with – and making it better. Making it easier, less stressful and ultimately more satisfying.
My only wish is that others can find a similar peace for themselves.