In the acclaimed poem My Autobiography in 5 Short Chapters by Portia Nelson a person is walking down a street and falls into a deep hole. Struggles to get out. Then does it again and again and again.
You might think, “How stupid!” Yet isn’t this a very realistic depiction of what so many of us do?
Actually, ALL of us do this to some extent or another.
You’ve experienced it.
You make a mistake, tell yourself you’ll NEVER do that again and before you know it you’re doing it again!
You make excuses and beat yourself up over it.
It’s your Goliath. It’s that one challenge you can never seem to fully conquer.
Maybe it’s not EXACTLY the same mistake each time, but it’s a weakness in a certain area.
I have a couple of Goliaths.
One huge one for me is finances. One minute I’m telling myself I’m going to save X amount of dollars this month. The next minute I’m online buying that jacket I’ve been eyeing because “it’s an extra 50% off!”
I spend the money I just told myself I was going to save.
I do this repeatedly. Over and over again.
I wonder when I will ever have the willpower to stick to my plans.
Another one of my Goliaths is healthy eating.
I love a good salad, grilled veggies and all kinds of different healthy foods.
But I also enjoy some not so healthy foods.
I have finally come to grips with the fact that I LOVE homemade cookies, ice cream and pizza.
I know these foods have kept me from reaching some of my fitness goals this summer, but can I stay away from them? No! If they are anywhere in the vicinity I will eat them.
Last night I pounded out a good long hour on the treadmill then turned around and ate a big cold chocolaty ice cream cone.
Again, why don’t I have any willpower?! I get so mad at myself.
NO SUCH THING AS WILLPOWER
Dr. Phil McGraw says there’s no such thing as willpower, if there’s a cookie in the kitchen you’re going to eat it. Get the cookies out of the kitchen! He says willpower is about programming yourself to do something. It’s not about motivating yourself to do something.
Motivation is linked to emotions. One minute you can be very excited about doing something and then turn around and not want to do it at all the next minute.
This is why programming works better than willpower.
PROGRAMMING TAKES THE EMOTION OUT OF WILLPOWER
Emotions can be so up and down. You can’t depend on them to keep you motivated.
When you struggle with the same thing over and over again it takes a toll on your mental state.
You may feel like you’ll never overcome your challenges.
You beat yourself up mentally.
Negative thinking can make your chances for success even lower.
Because you negate any progress you make.
When you negate your progress, you feel bad about yourself.
You think less of yourself for not succeeding.
You feel like all your efforts have been for nothing.
Thinking like this, you are sabotaging your own hard work.
Self-esteem goes down.
Each time you trip up you have less confidence that you are capable of making real progress.
Confidence goes down.
You may even tell yourself it’s not worth the effort trying.
What takes you down this same road again and again?
Why do you do something that you don’t want to do?
You know you don’t want to but you do it without even blinking an eye.
According to Steven Stosny, PhD of Psychology Today we repeat past mistakes because “under stress, we tend to retreat to habits of emotion regulation formed in toddlerhood. Habits rule under stress and when the regulatory processes of the prefrontal cortex (the Adult brain) are overtaxed from physical or mental exhaustion.”
You know you do this. That’s no big secret.
Now you know the science behind WHY you do this. The big question is…
HOW DO YOU STOP THIS VICIOUS CYCLE?
Here are 8 things that have helped me as I’ve struggled to overcome my Goliaths:
- Give yourself permission to fail. Starting over doesn’t mean you are not successful. It’s actually the opposite. It means that you are successful because you didn’t give up.
- Learn from your mistakes. Evaluate your failures and think of good habits that you can use to prevent the same thing from happening again.
- Keep up your enthusiasm. So what if you didn’t go to the gym last night?! Stick to your goal and go tonight! As you do this, sticking to your gym routine will eventually just become a part of your day. You will be programmed to go without even thinking about it. Give yourself credit for the progress that you do make. Track your successes so when you feel like you fail you can look back and see what you’ve actually accomplished. This will help keep your enthusiasm up.
- Learn from others. If someone shares their experience with you, listen! We can learn a lot from other people without having to go through some of the pain they did.
- Be Kind. No negative self-talk. Instead substitute that negative self-talk with positive self-talk. Surely you can find something positive in the situation.
- Don’t rely on willpower for motivation. It doesn’t last.
- Evaluate what you would like to improve upon. How can you change your behavior if you don’t know what you need to change?!
- Program yourself. Make yourself get into the habit of doing whatever it is you need to do to be successful.
I cannot emphasize enough just how effective training yourself to form a habit can be.
For 6 years I have had a vanilla protein shake with a banana blended into it almost every single day for breakfast.
My body now craves it.
If for some reason I don’t have one for breakfast, I’m hungry the entire day.
I automatically make a shake for breakfast. I don’t even think about it. There’s no decision to be made.
I am programmed to have that shake for breakfast.
Now I just need to program myself to say no to the cookies, ice cream and pizza!
What is it that you need to program yourself to do?
Exercise, save money, get up early, go to bed early?
Whatever you need to change, don’t stop trying.
The harder you have to work to achieve something, the sweeter the success will be.
Decide today to conquer your Goliath by forming new habits that will be long-lasting!
What things are you working to overcome and how have you been successful as you’ve worked on these challenges in your life?
Leave a comment and share what works best for you.
Our successes (and failures) can help others who are faced with similar challenges.
Stay H.i.P friends!