Smart self-discipline

Attaining our goals with more savvy and less effort

Have you ever intended to do something then found yourself doing the opposite? Maybe you were determined to stop the late night snacking, get back on the exercise bike, quit smoking or not be angry with your partner. You felt motivated and determined to succeed. Yet in spite of your initial energetic efforts, you failed to accomplish your goal and may even have ended up doing the opposite. Like many of us, you found yourself coming up against a formidable foe – your die-hard automatic habits that seem to have a life of their own.

To make matters worse, when we fail to accomplish a desired goal, the common tendency amongst many of us is to harshly criticize ourselves. “I’m such a glutton.”, “I’m so weak-willed.”, “I failed yet again.” “I’m such a jerk.” This negative self-talk consumes valuable energy that we could be applying more wisely to examine our situation.

Smart self-discipline begins with self-awareness

far_side_school_for_the_giftedA Far Side cartoon shows a young boy with one arm holding a stack of books and his free hand pushing frantically on the front door of his school. A sign on the door reads “Pull” as he keeps pushing with all his might. Understanding how we operate on the inside – what kinds of thoughts habitually run through our minds, how we react emotionally, and the way we make decisions is like being the young boy who finally stops struggling to see what the problem is and can then use only the required effort to open the door.

The creator of the Feldenkrais technique, an awareness through movement discipline, once said: “You can’t do what you want until you know what you’re doing.” This is one of the foundations of smart self-discipline – self-awareness leading to informed effort. For example, we may indulge in overeating because of stress, anxiety or other emotional issue. We rush in to stop the overeating without a full understanding of its roots and without being able to attend to the real problem.

We only have so much energy on any given day

Each night during sleep, we recharge our inner batteries. When we awaken, we have a fresh supply of energy to live the day, assuming of course that we had a normal nights’ sleep. How we expend that energy will determine the quality of our lives.

Energy flows where attention goes

Drawing upon the wisdom of indigenous cultures can help us in our quest to attain our goals with less effort. The Huna, the traditional healers of Hawaii, understand essential principles about life energy, health and well-being. According to their philosophy, (as well as those of traditional Eastern healing traditions) all life is animated by a subtle energy force and this energy behaves according to certain principles.

One of the first principles is: “Energy flows where attention goes.” If we place our attention on our right arm, for example, energy will flow into it. It follows that the quality of attention affects the quality of energy. If I feel frustrated that my arm is not getting better quicker, the energy I place into my arm has a negative, constricting quality. If I instead practice patience with the healing process, the quality of my attitude is positive and supportive and I am actually accelerating the healing of my arm.

The quality of our self-attitudes

Our attitude towards ourselves will have a most significant impact on our process of attaining goals. Thomas Edison once said: “I have not failed, I have simply found a thousand ways that don’t work.” A helpful variation of his quote for our purposes might be: “I have not failed, I have simply discovered my limitations and what I need to address first.”

To be continued …. Part 2:

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