Willpower, Discipline, and what it really takes to change!
How many times have you given up because it felt too hard, or like it wasn’t working? Or maybe you said to yourself “I guess it’s just not meant to be…I don’t have the necessary willpower or discipline to make this work?” Or perhaps you’ve taken a lack of outward success as the universe trying to tell you something? As a sign?
If so you’re not alone.
But as I recognised this morning each time I noticed my lower back muscles were tight and released them (repeatedly) - it can take a lot of practice before your brain gets rewired and your actions become normal or habitual and serve you well.
Let me explain......
I’m a few months into a combined treatment of neuro-kinetic movement therapy and massage to try to tackle the root cause of a back problem, which has been around for years as a niggle, and has increasingly become more chronic. And although not debilitating, it’s an irritation, a distraction, and occasionally a barrier to doing what I want.
And as is constantly being reinforced for me, there is an unlearning of familiar patterns (muscle groups that have compensated and made adjustments to cope with the pain.) This unlearning necessarily occurs before a relearning takes place and a new normal is established. And if we apply this to our inner world, the process is exactly the same. We can’t and don’t expect to get fit simply because we’ve run up and down the stairs twice.
It takes practice. And practice takes time.
In addition, we don’t question when we’ve run up and down stairs, whether we’ve done it right, whether our breathing was normal, or whether we lifted our feet in the right way. We just do it. And we keep doing it. In the case of getting fit, until our breathing becomes less laboured and we can eventually do it many more times before getting out of breath.
So, we don’t give ourselves time to unlearn and then time to practise.
And that’s what we need to do with our inner world. With our thoughts and feelings. We need to notice and let go of the old, before we can practise the new. Not worry about whether we’re doing it right (whatever it is!) and keep practising until we no longer have to think about it and it becomes second nature.
So I wonder, how often are you doing this?
Do you start with gusto, then get disillusioned quite quickly? Because at first you can see or feel the benefit, but then progress slows. And you’re no longer even sure you’re making progress.
Does this sound familiar?
And what do you do at that point? Let your thoughts take control? Convince yourself you’re not doing it right? That you don’t have the same motivation or will power or discipline others obviously have?
Or, do you convince yourself it’s a sign? A sign that it’s not right for you? That you need to try something different? That you just haven’t found the right thing for you?
If so you’re not alone! I believe it’s part of the human condition. However we don’t need to pay it much attention because it’s generally not right! If you can see that what you think, say and feel at the moments you’re trying to unlearn less helpful behaviours and create more positive ones, is, in that moment unhelpful itself, and is simply the part of you that wants to keep you safe, save embarrassment or ridicule. Then you can simply not pay attention to it.
Or if you prefer, you can simply think the thought, thank the chatter, the mind monkey, inner gremlin, or whatever else you call that inner voice, and recommit.
Simply start from where you are now. Knowing that if it felt like the right course of action for you initially, the only thing that’s changed is your thinking.
And what you need to do in that moment is not to berate yourself, avoid for a while or stop altogether, but rather to congratulate yourself for noticing. To recommit to your practice. And to keep going.
What do you think? Worth a try?
In my experience, it’s the only way to stop changing your mind and driving yourself crazy; and the only way to real change.
Real change is not about willpower or discipline. It’s about recognising that our experience comes from thought, and that we live in the feeling of our thoughts.