If you want to stop quitting it helps to realize many of us have made it a lifetime habit to quit. If we have our brains on autopilot this is where we will end up – quitting. The subconscious part of our brain is focused on survival. It’s job is to tell us to seek pleasure, avoid pain and conserve energy. These are great guiding principles if I find myself in the middle of the desert struggling for survival. It requires the use of the pre-frontal cortex part of our brain to make decisions beyond mere survival and to produce awesomeness in the world. We must develop our thinking in order to meet goals that are uncomfortable. Goals like losing weight, learning something new, becoming a top athlete, homeschooling children.
If I practice quitting I will become a better quitter. I spent many years practicing procrastination and it made me a great procrastinator. I also had a great deal of practice as an over-eater. What do you practice on a daily basis that may be taking you away from achieving your goals?
What excuses have you made for quitting something? Here are some of the favorites I’ve used:
I am learning to wrap my mind about the idea of fully committing. When you are fully committed you are no longer worried about failure. The only way to truly fail is by quitting. Quitting, in the moment, feels like relief.
When we commit to accomplishing something it feels great at first. We’re motivated and gung ho. If you have a goal to lose weight this is the stage where you’re making grocery lists, menus and diving into meal planning. As time goes by the discomfort sets in.
Then your survival brain kicks in and you may get scared that this will be one more diet that doesn’t work out. When you stop reaching for food for comfort you may find that you experience more negative emotions and thoughts. It gets tough trying to figure out how to do all this in the real world – lunch meetings with food, family functions, vacations, friends who just don’t get it. This is where you start to justify quitting. Once you quit you are relieved and temporarily happy with the decision. If may feel like peace or self-care. But later, regret and despair set in when you realize you are stuck back in your same old situation. Eventually you commit to trying again or to trying something new. And in the end you never reach your goal. It’s a vicious cycle. This is the exact cycle I was stuck in with dieting.
The key is to do work on your thinking at the level of discomfort. I encourage you to get help with changing your thinking and learn to manage difficult emotions. This is the work I have been doing and, oh, how I wish I had known how to do this stuff sooner. Dive into your Bible and do some studying on the mind and on thinking. Get a counselor to work through some of this with a trained guide. Feel free to jump in our Facebook Nutrition Encouragement and Support group.
In my next post I will be writing about grit. Grit is a key ingredient in pushing past discomfort and learning to stop quitting on yourself. I just finished the book Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance. I will link it here as soon as I finish it. You can also sign up for my email newsletter so you don’t miss a post.
This small, easy-to-read book is deceptive. The concepts are simple to understand and the examples are compelling. But the power of “small, smart choices, completed consistently over time” can be the key to whether or not you achieve your goals. The compound effect is at work in your life whether you realize it or not. The question is whether you will use it to your advantage or if you will let it gradually drift you off course. Imagine an airplane on taking off from the west coast on autopilot. If the plane is pointed one degree off course and continues across the country, it can put you 50 miles off course by the time it arrives on the west coast. If you wonder why you keep missing your targets, I encourage you to get this book.
The Compound Effect is one of the best personal development books I’ve read. I read it the first time a couple of years ago and I just read through it again this month as I am refocusing on my goals. I originally chose the book as a business book but I quickly realized that the concepts in the book can apply to ANY area in my life that I want to improve. The subtitle is Jumpstart Your Income, Your Life, Your Success. I read the book quickly the first time because I couldn’t put it down. But it’s not the type of book that you should just read and move on to the next book. This book is filled with actionable steps that will change you if you take the steps. Each chapter gives you steps you can implement in your life to begin to make those small actions that add up to big results over time. There are free worksheets to go along with the book that you can download online. If you’re needing a kick start to achieving your goals, get this book!
Daily disciplines are not fun and they are not always easy. That’s why they are called disciplines. You have to purpose in your heart to complete these mundane habits. But if you stay with them long enough they will make a difference in your life that builds over time. Anyone who has been successful in their lives has implemented daily disciplines. These could be physical, financial, or mental habits.
Momentum is one of the key concepts to the book. Whenever you start to develop is a new habit it is difficult and tedious. It takes more effort in the beginning. But as you are consistent, the momentum builds and builds until it takes very little effort to continue with the momentum. The gains grow larger and larger.
Another key point of the book is to bookend your day with great habits to set yourself up for success. Read more about how to design a morning makeover to get your day off to a great start. In general your morning and your evening are the parts of your day you can control. By using these times to focus on good habits you can be better prepared for the more unpredictable parts of your day.
I am an Amazon affiliate so if you purchase using the link below I make a small amount that helps me run this blog. Feel free to purchase the book through any avenue you choose. Just read it and put the steps into action. You won’t regret it. Stop living your life on autopilot. The compound effect is active in your life already.
We are bombarded with distraction every day: busyness, stress, social media, and an abundance of information. Our minds are a torrent of thoughts. A meditation practice can help us train our minds to move beyond the superficial noise and practice inner contemplation. I have often felt that one reason I don’t hear the still small voice of God is that I am not quiet long enough to listen.
The Bible mentions meditation more than 50 times. The Hebrew words for meditation meant listening to God’s words, reflecting on His work, reviewing what He has done. Meditation is a practice of hearing God’s voice so that we can obey His words. We live in a physical world and many times we forget that we live in a spiritual world as well. Meditation is taking time to connect with the Divine and enjoy communion with Him. Jesus frequently drew away from the crowds to spend time in prayer and meditation.
The key is to commit to the practice. We get good at it by doing it. Simply stated, we learn meditation by meditating. Put it on your calendar daily. Over time it will be a habit that you don’t have to think about it. You will just do it. Download my free weekly habit tracker printable at the bottom of this post.
Start small and be consistent. Keep it simple.
Establish a regular time to do it. Tie it to another routine to remind you to do it in the beginning. I am building a habit of doing it as part of my morning routine. After my alarm goes off I get up and take care of pets and get a big glass of water. I spend time studying my Bible and then I go into my workout room for my meditation and prayer time.
The purpose of meditation is not to get good at meditation. The purpose is to impact the rest of your day. It can help you to feel more grounded, centered, and conscientious. It can reduce anxiety and improve your memory. That sets you up for a day of feeling and being awesome!
Ideally you will set up a place to meditate that is somewhat quiet and free of distractions. It doesn’t have to be completely silent but away from television and other noisy distractors. Another great place to meditate is outside, in nature.
In reality you can meditate anywhere, any time. Susanna Wesley was the mother of well-known hymn writer Charles Wesley and John the founder of the Methodist church. She had 19 children (10 survived into adulthood) and there was no place or time for quiet solitude. So she developed a practice of pulling her apron over her head to spend time in prayer and meditation. Her children knew that when she was in this posture she was not to be disturbed.
Sit in a position of comfort but not slouched. Sit straight – on the floor or in a chair but sit up straight and tall. Your posture affects your mental state.
You can also practice meditation on your knees. Some days I get out my yoga mat and assume the position of Child’s Pose. It is comfortable to maintain and conveys a sense of surrender.
Take deep rhythmic breaths (example: inhale for 6, hold for 2, exhale for 7). This helps to clear the mind and quiet the noise. Pay attention only to your breathing. Do this for a cycle of 5 repetitions.
When the mind drifts, bring it back. Your mind will wander. This is not about turning off your brain; it’s just about bringing it back when it does. In the normal course of our days we are bombarded with thoughts. It’s natural that it will return to this pattern. Observe that you drifted and bring your mind back to the task at hand. This practice is like doing repetitions in an exercise program. You get better and better at it as you practice.
As you meditate you will notice multiple irritations. Train your mind not to respond to every irritation or urge. This is fantastic training for your mind. Itchy nose? Buzzing fly? Urge to open your eyes? Work on increasing the amount of time that you can notice the irritation and not respond to it.
There are many ways to meditate but here are some common versions:
Ponder it in your heart. Imagine yourself in the “scene.” Use your senses. Imagine how it would have felt listening to Jesus’ words as He taught the Beatitudes. What does it sound like, what would it feel like to sit on a grassy hill with thousands of others who had come to hear this teacher? Are there any particular smells? What hope do you feel as you sit there listening and realizing that this man could truly be the Messiah? Let the verses take root in your heart.
This is a type of meditation that gives you space to be still and center your mind. Allow God to commune with you. Give Him your concerns and surrender to whatever He has for you. Release the things that are burdening you. He knows our needs but He still wants to hear about them from you. Philippians 4: 8 says, “…let your requests be known to God.”
If you are meditating outside or have a view of the outside, really look at nature. Be in wonder of what God has created. Ask God what He is saying through His creation.
One definition of willpower is doing what you need to do, when you need to do it, whether you feel like it or not. The bad news is willpower can be exhausted like an over-used muscle. The good news is that you can cultivate willpower and strengthen it.
Because your willpower can be depleted, it’s best to use it wisely and not squander it. An example of wasting your willpower is using it on emergencies such as temptation. Another example is trying to tackle 100 things at once and fatiguing your brain. The best way to use your willpower is in building habits that will make your life easier. Once these habits are ingrained in your life they will happen on autopilot. Here is one example of how this works in my life: I prepare food on Sundays that I can use for my lunches. That way when I’m in a rush in the morning I’m not grabbing just any old thing to pack in my lunch. And I don’t end up at work with no food and fall into the trap of fast food or junk food for lunch. Food prep has become a habit for me and I don’t have to think about it anymore, it’s just part of my routine.
Put systems in place to help move you towards success. Pre-commit to difficult decisions ahead of time. Here are some of my examples:
Businesses know these principles when they market to us. Just go to a Starbucks on a busy day. You may start out with the best intentions to only buy a small skinny latte. But you have to walk past all the shelves with many different, delicious snacks on them. Once you’re in line there are more choices to resist in the food case. At the register there are even more yummy snacks. Chocolate-covered coffee beans, anyone? By the time you get to the register your brain wants to reward you for being so good and resisting all those temptations and you give in and get “just one small treat.” Your willpower wore out.
Breathe – In moments where you need a boost of willpower, take the time to take some deliberate, deep breaths. This action can create some space between your thoughts and emotions and give you time to plan a course of action that is in line with your goals. Just one minute of deep breathing provides a disconnect between an impulse and your reaction to give you time to make a better decision.
Nutrition – Good nutrition is vital. Your brain doesn’t function as effectively on junk fuel. Sugar and flour are very ineffective brain fuel.
Get Moving – Exercise is known to increase willpower and is good for your overall health.
Sleep – Adequate sleep improves your ability to make good decisions.
Meditation – Taking the time to quiet your mind has been shown to increase blood flow to the pre-frontal cortex. This is the thinking/processing/willpower part of the brain. I have started taking 10 minutes in the morning to practice mediation.
Stress Relief – Increased stress decreases willpower. We tend to turn to ineffective stress relief methods. These are things like scrolling through Facebook, surfing the internet, binging on TV shows, drinking, eating, video games, etc. We think these things are helpful because we get a boost of dopamine that feels good in the moment. But it doesn’t actually allow you to recover your willpower. More effective strategies include things like meditation and exercise, petting your dog or cat, time with loved ones or taking a walk.