Look Within: Energetic Solutions to Increase Success
We all pursue success - but why are some of us better at achieving our goals than others?
This was a question I asked myself as a competitive athlete, then as a coach, and finally, as a therapist. Some of my teammates and clients relentlessly pursued their ambitions until they achieved what they wanted. Others - many others - struggled. A few even quit. Often the outcome wasn't correlated with the person's natural talent or ambition. I began to wonder: why are some people great tennis players while others are just mediocre? Why do some people stick to living healthily while others struggle with their weight and fitness? Why do some people climb mountains while others sit on the couch?
The answer is much simpler than I expected. I learned, after thousands of hours coaching and working with my clients in therapy, that success isn't about skill or biology. Success comes down to one thing: training. The quantity and quality of practice, separates the beginners from the intermediates from the experts. Everyone from Malcolm Gladwell to your fourth grade soccer coach has told you that practice makes perfect. Just because they were trite doesn't mean they were wrong. I hate to add to the chorus but here goes: you must practice your dreams before you get to live them.
Mastering an instrument or a language requires endless practice. So does reaching the pinnacle of your career, communicating with your partner vulnerably, or getting into that yoga pose where you balance on your head. Most of us fail not because we lack the ability, but because we lack the motivation and energy. Our willingness to keep chipping at a goal, our patience to see long-term results, and our resilience to stick with it through the pain are always being tested.
Having the energy to sustain action towards a long-term goal isn't easy. Here are three tips that will fire you up for your toughest and lengthiest missions:
1. ONE-WORD MINDSET: Studies show that our brains focus better when we have less dialogue flowing through them. This is why many sports coaches rely on one-word cues for their athletes (I know from experience, this is true). I believe in this concept so strongly that I even started a clothing line with simple phrases like BREATHE and BELIEVE printed on the clothes in bold, upside-down letters to help keep people centered on their objective.
At the start of your day, choose a simple slogan for yourself that resonates with you deeply. It could be DISCIPLINE or COMPASSION or even JUST DO IT™. Write it on your mirror. Write it on your hand. Make it the background on your phone. The more you see it, the better. This is your cue to your brain that you have a mission you are actively working towards.
2. BODYFULNESS: I was speaking with someone recently who told me she is trying to get into meditation to help her focus. "I sit alone in my bedroom for twenty minutes and try to think of nothing," she said, "I'm not sure it's working." What's working? I thought. I appreciate the current movement towards mindfulness, but I agree - it's not working. We already feel disconnected - mostly from ourselves - and spending twenty minutes in a room alone trying to repress your racing mind isn't going to help you be a better person.
Instead, embrace your active mind and remember that the best part of being present is that you live in a body. The key to better living is not in suppressing your mind but embracing your sensuality. Use your twenty minutes to take a walk. Feel the wind on your face. Smell the newly-bloomed roses. Bask in the sunshine. Feel your muscles engage and propel you. Use your senses - sight, smell, taste, hearing, touch - to fully experience the world around you.
The goal of mindfulness is to put us back into our body. It makes sense to start with your body rather than your mind. It is when we are 100% engaged with our sensuality that anxiety loses its grip on us.
Our mind quiets and is at peace with the body, when lost in enjoying a moment. Choose a physical activity you love - whether it's running trails or drinking wine out of beautiful glasses - and make time for it. Instead of mindfulness, choose bodyfulness, or living a sensual life that reconnects you with your physical self and the joy of living. Your community will then get the best of you - and that can change the world.
3. BACK POCKET, GUARANTEED EMOTIONAL WINS: Emotion by definition is energy pumping through your veins. It's as much physiology as feelings. If you want to sustain your motivation to train, you have to learn how to crank those physiological impulses in your brain to your advantage.
To access the energy stored in your body, you must find a way to build emotional victories into your day, even when you're on autopilot. Wins produce positive emotion and positive emotion creates more energy.
One of my clients is a CEO who wants to come home to her kids reenergized after a long day in the office. Rather than spending her commute making business calls and stressing about traffic, we developed rituals for her: she throws her phone in the trunk, rolls down her windows, puts on her favorite pair of sunglasses, and blasts Enya all the way home. It works.
It isn't enough to feel good about yourself and energized about your life once a day. Create one small, achievable victory for yourself in every part of your day. Maybe it's putting on your running shoes in the morning. Not going for a run - just lacing up the shoes - but hey, you did it! That's a win.
Send a gratitude text each day at 2 p.m. to someone you love. Find another positive ritual for sunset and another for the evening as you go to bed. Building these small but critical wins into your day will shift your emotions into a positive, energetic state.
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