To the one-who-resembles-a-puppy-staring-at-a-treat,
Time can play many tricks, and here I am. You might not recognize me, but I am your reflection. Just an older one. Look at my greys, and wrinkles, and all. I still look beautiful, just 25 years older. I see you going about your work, your day with the energy that a 25-year-old should have. There are some lessons which I learnt. I don’t want you to go through the same learning curve – so here are a few words from me.
Willpower is often regarded as something that only a few possess. While it is something that is present in the spirit of every living being. It’s there even in a toddler learning to take the first steps of life, or an elderly who challenges the rhythm of aging and does an unexpected feat. Though this is not a philosophical take on willpower, it is enough to say that willpower is a characteristic of every living being – both great and small. It makes you believe in the impossible. That you can change the course of your life, even if it means just changing a habit at a time. (Go on, have a sip of that latte you promised you wouldn’t!)
So, how does one increase willpower if one already has it? It’s simple. It’s merely an act of becoming aware of this quality and putting it to use. The more one uses this quality, the better it becomes, almost like exercising a muscle.
People use their willpower differently. Perhaps resisting an ice cream on a hot summer’s day might be natural for some people, while for others, it could be a test of their willpower. Waking up at daybreak everyday could be routine for some people, while for others, it could imply a remarkable feat. Willpower is not something to compare each other with. So don’t ever think about doing that. But there are some things that I’ve done and observed over the years, which would really help you as well.
Sleep is a vital habit. I didn’t realize it earlier. I prided myself on getting just five hours of sleep and going to the office the next morning, happy, energetic, and looking fresh. I thought I could go on doing this forever. I didn’t realize that every machine comes with an expiry date, and requires regular servicing. I started observing myself: more irritability, the urge to reach out for more cups of tea, falling asleep during meetings, and coming home with zero energy.
It was then that I realized I couldn’t go on like this. I slowly started ensuring I got to bed at a regular time, planned work to avoid last minute deadlines, ate early… this one commitment to getting at least seven hours of sleep changed the routine of my day. And also ensured that I had enough energy to stay mentally alert, and could say ‘no’ when required. I didn’t need to demand more from myself, and people thought, my willpower had increased!
Along with sleep, I changed my food habits. I was prone to having 6-8 cups of tea or coffee. Sometimes even having a few of both! I would snack on biscuits or samosas in the evening, left with no appetite for a proper dinner at night. I slowly began with having a fresh, warm breakfast (instead of toast) every morning, and carried an assortment of snacks with me to the office. Fruits, dry fruits, some home goodies.
This really helped me to be aware of what I was eating, not wait till I was ravenous to begin a meal, and provide myself with healthier options. I saw a change in my food preferences, almost immediately – with a ‘no’ to many cups of tea.
A diary. It soon became my best friend. How does keeping a journal help to improve willpower? Am not sure. I just know it worked for me. I started planning my days, began prioritizing my tasks, putting down even the smallest of responsibility on the list. This helped me to move faster with my day with a sense of purpose.
If some temptation came up, like checking a friend’s social media update of her holiday, I knew where to draw the line. The watch became my friend, not something I began dreading. Planning also helped to make room for unexpected things that come up. So even if you do get a call from an old friend, remember you have a plan!
I found meditation also helping me. Though initially I was skeptical and wondered how keeping my eyes closed could increase my willpower. But it did. After every meditation session, my mind feels wiped clean. With lesser burden of stress and clearer thinking, I find myself more aware of things that could tempt me yet, have the strength to say, ‘no.’
Get friends and family to rally around. I would rather save myself the embarrassment of not doing something I ceremoniously announced at a family do. Enjoy the sense of achievement when I did do it. This one really does help to increase the willpower voltage.
I also often take a break when I’m racing between things. I would just sit down on the college steps, and watch the world go by. Catch a few breaths on the building terrace. Watch the sunset before running to catch the bus home. Just a quick break has been enough to replenish my energy levels and get me going again.
Again, this might sound a little unrelated, yet it’s important. I optimize my morning with the most important tasks. It’s really too much strain on my mind and energy levels to keep up with a plethora of difficult works/changing demands all day. Talk about work-life imbalance! Just putting the most difficult tasks for the morning, gives my willpower enough time to ramp up before the next attack.
And finally, my friend gave me this advice which I simply love:
- Establish a routine with plenty of space for innovation! Routine is reinforcing a memory. With that foundation laid, one has the freedom and joy to build anything and everything on it, not around it. Vertical growth affords more space than horizontal growth!
- One has to develop a deep love and even passion for doing – whatever it maybe. That love and passion alone will become the driving force for the inner will to manifest.
- Happiness and will-power are mutually interdependent. When one is in a happy frame of mind, the power of the will translates itself into effortless manifestation. And the manifestation of the power of our inner will increase the happiness quotient!
- Thing big and wide. Life is meant to be lived in the forward mode. A strong determination and resolve will prevent us from regressing. Strong will power will ensure growth and success.
So you can see, willpower is not such a strenuous thing. It’s an excellent quality. How you increase or improve willpower is an individual journey. However, it’s something we can become aware of.
Now, where was that ice cream tub, again? I just ate my willpower.
We have received permission to share the contents of this letter. This is a letter from a young lady who thought it would be a good idea to celebrate whatever she learned in a letter to her younger self.
Some points are based on Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s wisdom talks
Special inputs by Dr. Prema Seshadri, Faculty, The Art of Living.
This article first appeared on The Art of Living website.
Picture credit: The Awkward Yeti