“Mastering others is strength. Mastering yourself is true power.” – Lao Tzu
When it comes to achieving our big goals, whether it’s at work, in bettering health, in managing finances, or even pursuing an unlikely dream, we sometimes find them elusive for one reason or another. These challenging goals test our resolve and stretch our comfort zone. When you prepare for a presentation rather binge on a weekend, save money rather than spend it, or eat broccoli rather than candy, what you are really doing is ensuring that future you will be better off. But to make this happen or achieving your other big goals is easier said than done. It requires right motivation, self-control, and a great deal of effort or will power to achieve them. Like, to accomplish a goal of losing weight, following a low-fat diet and regular exercise is the best way, but how do we ‘just do’ what we know is best? to eat healthy and to stick with an exercise program, you need to have strong self-control. And especially, when it comes to avoiding temptations, you require focused effort to get consistent results.
We all have this perfect vision of ourselves at some point off into the future once we attain our goals. But getting from where we are today to our desired destination requires consistent self-control, focused effort and strong will. We search for shortcuts, techniques, methods, and easy ways to motivate ourselves to get there. But on the way, we become impatient, impulsive, and give into the desire for immediate gratification, be it impulsive spending, or distracting our attention to games or social media rather than learning or hoaning skills we need, or giving into momentary eating at a cost to our well-being. This results in impatience and we get biased towards pleasure in the moment. The result is that most of us fail to stick with our daily goals by giving into desires for short-term pleasure.
Most of the times, we don’t feel the effects of our decisions immediately. What you choose to eat and how you choose to invest or spend your free time. These decisions often have different gains or losses in long-run. Eating that extra piece of cake might feel great in the moment but will result in weight gain later. Even though our minds come equipped with necessary tools to succeed, we foresake them and face problems when it comes ṭo delaying gratification, developing strong self-control, and cultivating perseverance. So how would you choose between working on your goals or giving into your immediate gratifications? The ability ṭo control your impulses matter in life. Whether it is studying, practicing, saving, exercising, or persevering in your goals, a willingness to sacrifice in the moment to gain greater rewards in the future can make all the difference.
Why you cannot rely only on your will power?
Most of the times, the value derived from achieving your desirable goal is mostly far off into the future that working on this goal just doesn’t bring you as much pleasure as spending time on other things that give you instant gratification. All the things that bring you instant pleasure makes you struggle to resist leaving you feeling conflicted between the big goal you want to achieve and these small pleasures you so desperately want to indulge in. The choice lies with you to choose either to move down the path of instant gratification or to choose to resist and focus on your goal. Resisting seems to be a rational choice, so you choose to muster up the will power needed to overcome your pleasurable urges in preference of your long-term rewards.
But relying only on your willpower doesn’t take you far as you only have one reserve of it, if you don’t agree, pick up an object and hold it up in the air. Now keep holding it there-forever, ofcourse you can’t do it. And yet, most of us try to do the same with willpower – keep exerting forever. Focusing on your work drains your will power, as does resisting the urge to eat junk food, as does making yourself get out of bed in the morning when you want to sleep. Each time you tap into your will power reserves for difficult tasks, or to maintain healthy habits, you end up depleting your will power reserves. And the more difficult the goal, the faster the rate it gets depleted.
Also using will power will help you only in the short-term as it fails to deal with the source of the problem. Most of the times, we also use techniques such as reason, distraction to keep ourselves from reaching back to what is tempting us to overcome cravings for immediate pleasure. Such habits can help you delay gratification without stress but in limited ways. And when your desires and values are in conflict, you will eventually get caught up on these temptations. So, instead of using willpower as the only source of fuel, it would be better off learning the art of self-control and applying it to goal achievement in a focused way. In an age of instant gratification, self-control seems to be an unusual and undervalued quality, but it is an important one to strive for to achieve your long-term goals.
So, what exactly is self-control?
Self-control is the ability to subdue or resist your impulsive urges, emotions, and behaviours for immediate gratification in order to achieve your long-term goals. Self-control is different from grit where grit is the ability to pursue long-term goals over years, self-control is the ability to resist temptation in the moment. It is the ability to say ‘no’ to yourself in tempting and challenging circumstances and also is the ability to know the difference between a need and a want. Self-control comes from a rational understanding of the consequences of your behavior so that you can sacrifice short-term pleasure for long-term gain.
Why you need to have greater self-control?
The famous marshmallow experiment conducted back in 60’s reveals a clear correlation between self-control and the quality of our life. During experiment, kids were offered a choice between one marshmallow immediately or two marshmallows if they waited alone in the room for up to 20 minutes, during which the researcher left the room and returned. Some kids couldn’t resist the temptation and had the single marshmallow, other kids, however, waited for the researcher to come back into the room and received the second marshmallow as a reward to their patience. In the follow up studies, they found that the kids who were able to wait longer for the bigger rewards fared better in their lives. Those who couldn’t resist had shown more behavioral problems and tended to struggle with stressful situations.
Therefore, by practicing self-control, you can overcome unwanted impulses, thoughts, fears, obsessive, addictive or unsuitable behaviors. You will be better equipped to handle your emotions and can cope with stressful situations far more effectively. It improves your focus and brings a sense of balance into your life. By strengthening your self-control, you can improve your self-esteem and confidence. Lack of willingness to change and improve, or lack of self-discipline and lack of faith in yourself or in your abilities can weaken your ability to develop self-control. Sticking to your goals and to follow through your plans, you need to have strong control on your emotions to resist short-term desire and temptation.
So, How do you develop greater self-control?
Delayed gratification or self-control is a skill better learned as children, but for those of us who did not receive this form of guidance, it can be still learnt and can be improved with practice and persistence. Here are some ways to enhance your self-control.
1. Gain clarity and set specific goals that you want to control. Set concrete and specific goals like in which areas of your life you would like to enforce more self-control. For example, what goal do you have and what is your intent for accomplishing it? is it regarding health or time management ? would you like to spend less time on your distractions so you can use that time to work or study? or Do you want to follow a healthy diet? You can make an inner commitment by understanding the benefits once you implement those changes and plan ahead on how to go about achieving those changes. Think of how you are going to adapt in case things don’t workout as expected. Gaining clarity keeps you disciplined and focused.
2. Increase the value of your purposeful tasks. Being purposeful in your tasks makes your life more meaningful and significant and you will be driven intrinsically to give it your best. Since such purposeful action has an intrinsic reward tied to it, you see immediate benefit in taking that action. You will be also motivated by the long-term rewards that will result in future if your tasks remain purposeful. All temptations and distractions come with immediate gratification and draw you away from tasks that have no immediate reward attached with it. So, our minds have a tendency of discounting the value of future rewards. So by keeping your tasks more purposeful and meaningful, you can over-ride momentary impulses and can reduce the habit of discounting the value of future.
3. Find the balance. Having self-control is not about total abstinence. It is more to do with finding the right balance. Denying yourself or suppressing what you need is as bad as over-indulging. You can do so by asking yourself these questions. Do you often over-indulge in things you like? As soon as you get something, are you looking for the next? If you want something in large quantities, isn’t it going to affect your health or well-being? How far would you go to get what you want? Do you enjoy it enough to make it worthwhile or simply move on to wanting some more of it or something else? By knowing the difference between your need and want, you can strive for balance.
4. Use your emotions to achieve a challenging goal. Cognitive strategies such as will power, distraction, reasoning and the like do work at times, but they are not optimal. Using these mechanisms to suppress your desires for immediate satisfaction can work, but it gets stressful and requires much effort that can affect your well-being. Instead, using your emotions can be powerful for developing self-control. Emotions such as desire, sadness, or anger push you towards short-term concerns. But if you rely on emotions such as gratitude, compassion, persistence, cooperation or perseverence when temptations arise, you will be able to have a long-term view and these right emotions can nudge your mind to favorable future gains over immediate ones.
5. Gratitude boosts self-control . Feelings of gratitude encourage you to resist and overcome selfish temptations when dealing with others. Gratitude stems from recognising that others have offered us something of value. We feel grateful when we feel others have invested in us, which makes us willing ṭo return the favor in future. Whether you’re paying people back for their investment in you with money, time or effort, gratitude nudges you to sacrifice your own gains in the moment to build better relationships for the long term. Gratitude not only builds self-control but also in helping others you also help yourselves down the line.
6. Practice compassion. Like gratitude, compassion motivates you to care for about others. It starts a virtuous cycle by encouraging people to take that first step to sacrifice time, money or some other resource to benefit another even if other is their own future self. Care and compassion towards others and towards your future self drives your willingness to sacrifice in the moment and produces an effortless self-control. It decreases the value we attach to objects and events that offer immediate gratification and this makes it easier to persevere in ways that pay off in future.
7. Meditate regularly. Reflect on thoughts and beliefs that push you to behave in an uncontrolled manner. Practice forgiving and empathizing with yourself for failures as opposed to criticizing yourself. Set some affirmations to act with self-restraint and self-control. Even taking a little as ten minutes a day to focus on your breathing can improve your ability to resist disruptive impulses. By recognising your self-talk and reflecting on past-failures and writing your internal dialogue makes you less vulnerable to impulsive actions.
“Meditation and mindfulness training are essentially exercises in self-control. From controlling the focal point of one’s attention… to a controlled awareness of whatever is going on internally or externally at that particular moment”
Mastering self-control in various situations in your day to day activities takes consistent practice in small ways. It is important to gradually increase your ability to resist larger temptations over time.
The following questions can help you assess your self-control. What has been your biggest challenge when it comes to having self-control and what can you do to overcome it? Can you recall a time you demonstrated strong self-control? Can you recall a time you gave into your temptations or instant gratifications? How much self-control do you have when it comes to your diet or exercise? Does your spending and buying reflect self-restraint? What habits would you like ṭo change to strengthen your self-control?
Recognise the areas where you are struggling with self-control and, rather than giving into those impulses, use the above strategies to work your way up to resist them and strengthen your resolve. Also it is important to remember that to resist immediate gratification, do not ignore or suppress certain emotions. Find ways to embrace gratitude, perseverence, compassion, forgiving and empathizing with your future self. The more self-control you exercise, the more freedom you experience from the irrational impulses that could take you away from your goals.
“Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible”. – Francis of Assisi
Whenever we try to make changes in our life, or include a new habit, or change unhelpful habits, or want to learn a new skill, or start a certain project, we need a lot of motivation. Sometimes it is easy to keep yourself motivated, other times, it is nearly impossible to figure out how to motivate yourself and you either end up procrastinating, or deferring or giving up on your new habits or behaviour. It is also tough to stay motivated all the time. There are bound to be days when you don’t feel like working towards your personal and professional goals and there will be off days where your energy and enthusiasm are in downward spiral. Often our motivation and enthusiasm tends to be very high after starting something new, but after a while, it fades away. As a result, we fail to maintain that level of enthusiasm through the action phase and we stop doing what we started to do. When you lack motivation, your great ideas almost seem impossible and impractical.
When we are motivated, it becomes easier to bear the inconvenience of action than the discomfort of remaining same and we come up with inspiring ideas. Motivation is important to become successful in your pursuit of goal-striving. You may want to set the best goals and establish right rewards to motivate yourself or your team or those around you. There are plenty of ways to get motivated. But certain permanent habit changes or to attain certain of your goals or objectives requires consistency. To achieve this, you need to stay motivated for long periods of time.
So, what can you do to be motivated on a consistent basis? To build lasting motivation, it is important that we understand what motivation really is, what factors guide and direct our motivation and types of motivation.
Understanding Motivation ..
Motivation is the process that initiates, guides and maintains goal-oriented behaviours. It makes you to act on your plans be it gaining a skill or working towards your fitness goals or work goals.
Motivation indicates motives or whys of our behaviour like our needs or wants or desires that make us do what we do. It is an inner force that pushes you to do and accomplish things, but by simply having the desire to accomplish something is not good enough to motivate yourself. It also involves initiation of behaviour, ability to persist through obstacles and focus to pursue the goal or desire.
Many factors lead to motivation that can activate, direct and help you in sustaining your goal-oriented behaviour. It is important to understand these factors behind motivation. Sometimes, our behaviour is motivated by certain basic human instincts like anger, survival, safety, fear, and love. Some are motivated to do things because of external rewards like money, fame, and compliments or for future expectations. But many of our behaviours are motivated to fulfil our biological needs and drives like need to eat, drink and sleep. According to Dr. Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. our most basic needs must be met before we become motivated to achieve higher level needs. First we are motivated to fulfil basic physiological needs like food and shelter, then the safety needs, then those of belongingness & love needs, and then esteem needs like feeling of accomplishment. Once these needs have been met. The primary motivator becomes the self-actualisation or achieving one’s full potential.
“To become motivated on a daily basis, you must be able to identify the factors that influence motivation and any thoughts that are moving you away from it.”
Types of Motivation
When it comes to motivating yourself for health or fitness or career goals being motivated ‘intrinsically’ or ‘extrinsic’ can make all the difference. If you are intrinsically motivated, you do something because you find it inherently satisfying. May be you take up to a sport because you enjoy the challenge, or eat healthy food because you prefer the taste. Intrinsic motivation is more powerful as it involves emphasising on your values, and processes for achieving goals that are relevant to your life in the present and not based on some distant future rewards. But the downside is that there is not always an obvious way to create intrinsic motivation.
Extrinsic motivation takes the form of a reward or punishment. Some intentionally pursue certain actions in order to gain rewards. External rewards like compliments or fame or winning can get you started but it only lasts as long as there is an external reward and there are chances that it might decrease your intrinsic motivation. Researchers have found that when people are given external rewards for activities that they already find intrinsically motivating, they became less interested in participating in those activities in the future. Sometimes there can be extrinsic-intrinsic motivational factors like for instance, from desire to help others or support a cause you care about, you would want to create something that will benefit others.
Use of external rewards to motivate desired behaviours can be useful in some cases as they can be easily created to get you started, but intrinsic factors like desire for achieving and willingness to put in your effort can be even more important to build lasting motivation. Your intrinsic motivation can be improved by making your activities sufficiently challenging and interesting.
Short-term vs long-term motivation
Maintaining motivation over the long run is difficult as your drive to achieve your objectives is constantly obstructed by negative thoughts and your anxiety about the future. Some people seem to have all the motivation in the world, while others in spite of having all the goals, remain unmotivated and stuck. Every one faces self-doubt. But what separates high achievers and highly successful is their ability to keep themselves motivated to go after their goals and aspirations. Sometimes we get motivated after reading an inspirational book or when we listen or watch a motivational video, but it doesn’t last long as learning and hearing about others’ success can only motivate you for short-term. Whereas by gaining self-awareness, creating your own ideas and applying them to achieve your goals can result in long-term passion and momentum that lasts long.
You have all these goals you would desperately want to achieve and feel as though you have so much potential, yet there are times when you feel unmotivated. There are some valid reasons for lacking motivation. May be it is your emotional reasoning, or negative thoughts and beliefs, or fear of failure, lack of focus or confidence that is making you demotivated. The key is to understand these reasons to help you become aware of how you got yourself into this demotivated state.
So, how to stay motivated in the long-term?
Without enough motivation, you will fall back to indulging in unhelpful and limiting habits that will only keep you stuck and unmotivated. With the right kind of motivation, you will always find reasons to keep going no matter what obstacles you might face. There isn’t a single method that fits all when it comes to motivation. But if you decide to take the initiative to make necessary changes in your pursuit of achieving your personal or professional goals, you can build right momentum to stay motivated. Here are some strategies to help you build lasting motivation.
Find your motivation
Set achievable goals to work on and spend time to think why these goals are important to you. Identify your motivations for pursuing these goals, either motivations you already have that is intrinsic or sources of extrinsic motivation you could create for yourself. Write down both the goal and the motivation. Always build your habits and set personal standards that supports your desired goals and objectives. If your motivation is extrinsic, don’t overrely on extrinsic rewards. Choose a reward or punishment that will reinforce your intrinsic motivation and try them only during initial learning period or when you have no intrinsic interest in the activity and phase out once you develop interest.
“The secret of getting ahead is getting started” – Mark Twain
By building routines, you can follow through your work or goals regardless of your motivation levels. Routine building makes your activity repeatable and easy to do. It gets you started and reduces the chance that you skip it and can pull you into the right frame of mind . Your routine should get you moving towards your goals. When your routine gets tied to your goals, by simply doing the routine, you enter motivated state to accomplish your objectives. When you lack motivation, it is harder to decide what you should do next, and you often give up on the task or activity. However, by building routine, you can just follow the pattern, show up and build the momentum to do the work and can stay motivated.
Find your Flow
In order to build lasting motivation, it is important to find your flow. Flow is a state of being “in the zone” where you are completely involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter; To find your flow, it is necessary that the challenges or tasks you face are just manageable. Break away from boring old routines and find ways to make them challenging that match your current abilities. By working on tasks of optimal difficulty and adding incremental challenges, you will not only be motivated but also improve your skills and move closer to achieving your goals.
Challenge your Limiting Beliefs
People with self-sabotaging beliefs are often unmotivated and simply lack interest. If you have set of limiting beliefs that are in conflict with your goals, or new ideas, or new beliefs, then you will likely to sabotage your enthusiasm and motivation. This is because when you face situations where your pre-existing belief system gets so strongly threatened, you experience negative emotions making you demotivated. When you have negative beliefs – ask yourself – what’s the evidence for and against your belief? If it is demotivating, replace it with new belief that strengthens your desire to achieve your goals. Being open to new ideas and alternative perspectives increase your motivation and make you willing to do whatever it takes to accomplish your goal.
“There are no limits to what you can accomplish, except the limits you place on your own thinking.” – Brian Tracy
Improve your Psy-cap
Your psy-cap is the psychological capital which is a combination of your self-efficacy,(your ability to take on and devote the necessary effort to succeed at challenging tasks) hope,(which increases your desire to persevere) resilience, (your ability to face problems and adversity) and optimism (ability to believe that you will succeed). By improving your psy-cap, you can feel accomplished, appreciated, motivated and empowered in your pursuit of achieving purpose oriented goals. This way you are more likely to stick with your routine or habits or behaviour. Surround yourself with positive people who support your goals and focus on your strengths to rejuvenate your motivation
Focus on the efforts not on outcome
Focusing on the outcomes or only on your talents can make you person of fixed mindset or view. This decreases your motivation and it is more likely that you might easily get unmotivated at the instance of a failure, or mistake or when you encounter a difficulty. Instead of focusing on the outcome and imagining your success, try to visualise the effort that goes into making your goals into a reality. Figure out what type of challenges you might encounter. This way you can deal with them easily and can come up with strategies to overcome those challenges. By assessing your efforts, you can build lasting motivation and can improve on your future actions.
“What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goal.” – Zig Ziglar
Recharge your willpower
What most people try to do with willpower is that they keep exerting it forever thinking that it never gets depleted. You can only rely on will power to get yourself motivated in short bursts. Over-reliance on will power by convincing yourself that you need to try harder only leads to an endless cycle of over-exertion and failure. Avoid situations where your willpower is used continuously without rest. Indulge yourself in activities that you find relaxing and refreshing that can restore your willpower.
• Set clear goals that affirm your values. make you happier, healthier and feel better.
• Be aware of what committing to your goals will ultimately achieve, beyond the goal itself.
• Build routines to get you started that take you closer to your end goal.
• Strive for higher needs like passion and creativity.
• Focus on intrinsic goals like personal growth and well-being as opposed to external motivators like money and status.
• Make your tasks challenging enough to find your flow.
Strong, lasting motivation is often the biggest difference between your success and failure. When it comes to achieving your important goals, it’s very common to lose your motivation a little way down the line. When you aren’t feeling motivated, remind yourself why you are doing what you do and apply the above strategies to build lasting motivation.
“The stream of thinking has enormous momentum that can easily drag you along with it. Every thought pretends that it matters so much. It wants to draw your attention in completely.” – E.Tolle
Thoughts are those subjective pictures, sounds and words — and the beliefs, associations, interpretations, opinions and meanings that pass through our mind or hold our attention. Thoughts arise of their own accord and everyday we experience thousands of thoughts and they are the background noise of our inner mental landscape. Whether positive or negative these thoughts clutter your minds, just like your house gets cluttered when you have too many possessions. Unfortunately clearing your mental clutter isn’t as simple as eliminating a possession. You cant throw away a thought. Your thoughts have a way of popping back up as you turn them down especially the disturbing ones.
When unwanted thoughts get your conscious attention, they manifest as moods, emotions, desires, impulses and influence your behaviour. Most of them are unhelpful that are intrusive, involuntary and negative in nature. Such random and problematic intrusive thoughts interfere with your clear thinking, distort your reality, control your moods or limit your potential self.
Being controlled by unpleasant or intrusive thoughts which pop into your mind can result in thought disturbances that are hard to manage. According to a research, most people are mind wavering 47% of their day. Mind wavering can be largely attributed to thought disturbances. However, struggling with, arguing with, trying to drown out or push away such unhelpful thoughts only amplifies them and you may find it difficult to get past such thoughts.
Why are some thoughts intrusive?
Some of our thoughts take the form of fear of the future, or negative memories of the past, or inappropriate that are unhelpful and unpleasant. They seem to appear out of almost no where and cause a great deal of anxiety. Intrusive thoughts are reinforced when you get entangled with them creating doubts about your decisions or your identity or safety. If not managed well, they can cause much distress and they may even lead to certain obsessive behaviours and can negatively impact your well-being.
Are intrusive thoughts normal?
You cannot will yourself not to think any such thoughts or to keep them out of your mind. Eventually thoughts like that drift back into your mind and rise to the surface. Having such thoughts is absolutely normal and many experience unwanted thoughts on a daily basis, but fixating or believing in them or getting controlled by them leads to problems and may cause unhealthy or dysfunctional behaviours. Because of the content of such thoughts is mostly alien or unacceptable and is at odds with who you are, they make you anxious. One of the common myth is that having such thoughts mean that you unconsciously want to do the things that come into your mind. This is not true and in fact trying to fight or avoiding them only ends up in reinforcing them. Knowing how to deal with invasive thoughts can be the key to prevent them from negatively impacting your normal functioning.
How to tame your intrusive thoughts…
Do you ever worry with your thoughts of such intrusive or obsessive nature? You would have noticed that the harder you try to suppress or to distract or substitute such thoughts, the more you tend to get caught up in them. Learning to deal with them effectively can reduce your fearful and negative reaction towards them but also reduces your over sensitivity towards such thoughts. Here is how you can tame your intrusive thoughts.
Accept your intrusive thoughts
Many of us avoid them because we are afraid of negative, fearful, unpleasant, disgusting thoughts; afraid of mental impulses. We tend to avoid intrusive thoughts because we don’t know how to deal with them. An emotional reaction to how you think just keeps them alive. This means that they will appear over and over until you do actually deal with them. Treating them real or avoiding them or trying to change your behaviour based on such thoughts only leads to a compulsive behaviour. You should learn the fact that sometimes the content of such thoughts is meaningless and irrelevant.
Instead of reacting to them as though they are real, Accept them and tell yourself the truth that they have no intrinsic reality and you aren’t purposefully thinking the thought and it doesn’t represent you. Accepting them stops you to react negatively to intrusive thoughts.
Practice ‘cognitive diffusion’
You have a choice in how you choose to respond to intrusive thoughts. This is possible when you are able to identify intrusive thought patterns that end up creating negative emotions or feelings. Here are certain patterns to help you recognise your unhelpful thoughts.
• Thoughts of imagined future or expecting bad things lead you to what-if scenarios causing fear, anxiety and worry.
• Focusing on your weaknesses or perceived flaws results in thoughts of not being good enough. Such patterns often increase your negative self-talk and self-criticism.
• Dwelling on your bad choices and wrong actions leads to thoughts of worthlessness and ruminating over your past mistakes creates thoughts of shame and guilt.
• Habit of lamenting in your sorrows and problems makes you fixate in thoughts based on what’s wrong rather than what’s right. This leads to frustration and wishing things were different.
Stepping back from your repetitive and unhelpful intrusive thoughts, by recognising and identifying them is the process of cognitive diffusion. When you are fused with your thoughts, you tend to believe and take them seriously as you buy into them, obey them and play them out. But by learning to see the thoughts simply as they are — as thoughts and not reality, you can step back into cognitive diffusion. You can hold on to them lightly and do not take your thoughts seriously. You only listen to them if you find them helpful or valuable. Being aware of unhelpful thought patterns when they arise will help you to not to get entangled in and they lose their power to generate unpleasant emotions.
Label your intrusive thoughts
In order not to get stuck in some of your negative thought patterns, it is important to name your thought. When an unhelpful thought pattern arises, simply labelling it mentally can reduce your reaction.
Intrusive thoughts are mostly repetitive and involve certain story lines. When an unhelpful thought comes up with a story line, try to label and let it go without giving much attention to it. It’s just a thought and not reality. Try and open your awareness to yourself and world around. As soon as you name your thought, you step back from being caught up in it and you stop being drawn into the negativity it creates. When you are mentally labelling your thoughts as ‘anxious’ or ‘fearful’ or ‘worrisome’, make sure you do so with compassion and not with aggression or frustration. This helps you to reflect on them with a positive perspective and respond to them peacefully.
Develop present moment awareness
Another effective way to deal with your intrusive thoughts is to bring back your awareness to the present moment. Paying attention to your present moment can get you out of your excessive unhelpful thinking and can ease you out of the internal noise so created. Bringing all your attention to your senses can calm your mind and grounds you in the present moment. In this way, little to no room is left in your attention for all that unwanted and unhelpful thoughts that are intrusive in nature. Being mindful of the present moment brings you back from mind wandering when you get lost in your old habits, beliefs, and negative reaction patterns. Through mindfulness, you build your capacity to change the contents of your thoughts to ‘present’ rather than about a remembered past or anticipated future.
Question your intrusive thoughts
As human beings, we have an inherent negativity bias, with our mental chatter being skewed more towards the negative rather than positive. So despite everything, certain intrusive thoughts can continue to have grip on you. In such cases, you can test reality of your thoughts by asking some helpful questions like ‘Am I creating negative interpretations?’ ‘Is my thought helpful?’ ‘What is the evidence for and against my thinking?’ ‘What is the best part of this situation or person?’ ‘Am I filtering out the positive and dwelling on the negative?’ This way, you can focus on constructive thoughts or actions and can try and find a positive. Doing a goal-directed thinking can also help you see things in a different perspective.
We cannot consistently think only positive thoughts because you cannot control your thoughts but only your response to them. In fact, despite all the efforts, intrusive thoughts float through your mind and rise to the surface. It is absolutely normal for you to experience unhelpful, or unpleasant thoughts from time to time. Even though they make you anxious and uncomfortable, there is no quick fix method to control or quite your thoughts in any lasting way. But by practicing above mentioned strategies, you can, however, tame them and redirect your attention towards positive by not letting them control or giving into them. With a little practice and persistence, you can untangle yourself from unhelpful intrusive thought patterns and can change your focus to more meaningful.
“You don’t have to control your thoughts, you just have to stop letting them control you.”
“It’s not enough to be busy, so are the ants, the question is, what are we busy about?” —Henry David Thoreau
Time is the greatest opportunity in our life among all. Those who utilise it well are the successful ones. Almost everyone these days have too much to handle and not enough time to get it all done. Most of us do lot of things which make you seem busy in a public manner like answering mails at all hours, or scheduling and attending meetings constantly, or instant messaging when someone poses a new question and so on. For many, there’s a comfort in such artificial ‘busyness’ of fast e-mail messaging and social media posturing, while actual work demands that you leave much of that behind. In such cases, your ‘busyness’ becomes proxy to your efforts in doing productive work. Such unproductive busyness leaves you discontent as there are always certain aspects that could be done better thereby forcing you to confront the possibility that your best is not that good.
Being ‘busy’ is not same thing as being ‘productive’
We find ourselves tackling too many things at the same time, spreading our focus so thin that nothing gets the attention it deserves. While many might be logging in long hours at work, or at home, but the same might not always end up in doing quality work. Because of this we often feel that we spending a lot of time on something, but don’t feel like been productive enough. One main reason for this could be the most important tasks are usually a bit more difficult and require more of our attention, time and focus. But most of the time, we get so caught up in the day-to-day distractions or ‘busyness’ of life and give either more or less attention to things than they deserve and lose the sense of being in control. We often cite the reason of being busy for postponing some of our important tasks. This habit of putting off important tasks on the back burner can rob you of your hours of achievement and success.
Think about the last time you felt highly productive. In productive state, you remain highly focused on what you are doing and make a noticeable progress towards a meaningful outcome. Whereas with ‘busyness’, you start to feel out of control, unfocused, confused and stressed out. The inability to manage your time properly leads to additional stress related issues and burnouts very early on. In the absence of clear goals, the visible busyness becomes self-preserving, and developing a belief that if a behaviour relates to being busy, then it’s good-regardless of its impact on our ability to produce valuable things. All of the social, digital, and societal trends only add to one’s busyness and do not directly add to the value of quality work one produces. With unmindful busyness,
• You waste time on doing unimportant tasks that could be used productively.
• It creates unnecessary anxiety as you put off the important tasks to later.
• It impedes your clarity and focus.
• By leaving little time for the important task, the final output is usually short of what you are really capable of.
• You cannot adopt to changing situations as busyness impacts your perspective of what’s really going on.
• You cannot plan on sticking to your deadlines for your projects.
• Leads to flawed thinking and distracted behaviours.
“The greatest enemy of good thinking is busyness.” –John C.Maxwell
How to overcome ‘busyness’ to become more productive
But if you’re willing to sidestep these comforts and fears, and instead deploy your attention to its fullest capacity to things that matter, then you’ll discover that you can create a life rich with productivity and meaning. To overcome ‘busyness’, one has to manage his/her time effectively to work on priorities. Making optimal use of time helps you in curbing the stress and burnouts. If you spend significant amount of time towards professional aspirations and goals, learning how to use that time optimally will help you achieve positive outcomes.
Here are certain strategies to overcome your busyness and become more productive.
Put first things first
Because of the busyness, we always have a reason to put off the important things. What fills up our time is a result of what we let into our days. When you don’t choose important things, your days automatically get filled with not so important ones. Prioritising helps you in making right choices. In order to rise above ‘busyness’, you have to know what your purpose is and should be able to define your goals. Before doing something, consider asking yourself
whether the tasks you are working on are important for your end goals. Unless you consciously take time out for your priorities, you will not be able to accomplish goals that are important to you. Start your day with a “To do list” and prioritise the vital few after picking them from the trivial many.
“Start by doing what’s necessary, then what’s possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible. — Saint Francis of Assisi
We find that more we do, the more we add up to our to-do-task list and end up in multitasking. Multitasking has become a part of life for many of us where we believe that this is a way to be more productive. Science reveals that our brains actually can’t handle doing more than one thing at a time. With multitasking, your attention remains divided as there will be a residue of your attention when you switch from one task to another. This leads to poor performance. Whereas by working on a single hard task for a long time without switching, you can overcome non-productive busyness and can also maximise your performance.
Reduce your distractions
Many are permanently tethered to their work day in and day out, dealing with trends like answering emails at all hours, instant messaging, and active presence on social media. Of course certain mediums offer benefits to your social life, but none are important enough to what really matters to you. Always trying to catchup can claim your attention and time adding to only to your ‘busyness’ and not in producing work of real value. Learn to reduce your reactiveness to these distractions. Identifying factors that side track and deter you from achieving the task at hand. Consider blocking or create blackout periods over a day to free up your time. Try and fill up your free time with something of more quality and meaningful.
Many times we get drowned in the details instead if focusing on micro and macro. Details are important, but only those that will affect your end goal. You only have a limited amount of time a day. The end goal is to accomplish your task efficiently by way of optimal use of your time. If a particular task is taking too much of your time and it’s not the most important part of your work, delegating it to right people can help you overcome your ‘busyness’. Once you do this, ensure you trust the person and provide them enough room to get the job done. Using the right people, tools, and resources to is important in doing so.
Focus on being effective
Improve your overall quality, rather than trying to tick everything off your to-do list. It is important to understand when to say no by asking whether are these tasks necessary. If you say yes to everything, you find your schedules with things that keep you busy but don’t make you productive. Once you have set out to achieve your important tasks, ensure you say no to disallow things that hamper your productivity. Saying yes to the wrong things, even if they are small will eventually take up your time later on and add to your busyness’. Saying no to unimportant things will protect your time so that you can use it for the things that matter.
“If you want more time, freedom, and energy, start saying no.”
Schedule your day
Many of us spend much of our day on autopilot—not giving much thought to what we’re doing with our time. Because of this, it’s difficult to prevent the trivial from creeping into every corner of our schedule. But by scheduling your day, you can determine how many hours you’re spending in doing quality work.
Scheduling your tasks for the day helps you plan your work goals and removes the risk of losing out on important tasks. Doing this at the beginning of the day can get you more organised. If your schedule is disrupted, you should at the next available moment, create a revised schedule for the time that remains in your day. This will give you a careful gauge in your efforts and you can discover pockets of free time that go wasted.
Relax & Unwind
Unproductive ‘busyness’ often leaves you exhausted, bad tempered and stressed. You fail to gather momentum for next days’s work unless you recharge yourself. Once you are out of your working hours, inculcate unwinding yourself. The impact of unwinding is often underestimated and we fail to recognise that our minds need a downtime as well. Our productivity is directly proportional to our ability to relax says David Allen in his book “Deep Work”. Only when our minds are clear and our thoughts organised can we achieve effective results and unleash our maximum potential. Mindfulness practice is a perfect antidote for ‘busyness.’ Taking some time to practice being in the moment helps you connect with your inner self and reduces feelings of tiredness and stress thereby creating space for you to become creative and productive.
Apply outcome thinking
You can’t really decide the right action until you know the outcome you’re after, and if your outcome is disconnected from reality if you are not clear about what you need to do to make it happen. Setting Goals or desired outcomes creates a cause-and-effect link in your mind about when certain goal-relevant actions will be taken. When you make plans ahead of time and decide what actions will be carried out, you can engage in doing productive work instead of being bogged down by unimportant tasks. Setting goals provides sufficient direction to move you toward your outcome rather than wasting your time in unproductive ‘busyness.’
Adopt next-action approach
Most of the times too many discussions in workplaces end with only a vague sense that people know what they are going to do. But without a clear decision that there is a next action, not much is accomplished. Forcing the decision about the next action prevents those issues that are important from slipping away thereby providing more clarity. Walking away from discussions with clarity of outcome makes each member involved in your discussions more responsible about the specific job assigned to them. This also reduces anxiety of undecided actions and increases your productivity.
Finally, Be willing to change your unproductive busy habits to do something more meaningful and productive work.
when you take up tasks, asking yourself,
“What does this mean to me” Or “ what’s the desired outcome?” “What are the pros and cons?” lets you identify things that aren’t necessary. This way you can align yourself to be productive instead of engaging yourself with everything that comes your way.
Are the tasks you are busy with right now add to your life’s purpose? Or are you being the victim of distractions and social trends? or can you find better and organised ways to do your tasks?
If you want to focus without distraction, achieve more in less time and be better at what you do, apply the above mentioned strategies. Getting past the unproductive busyness of your life not only helps you to become more productive but also provides a sense of fulfilment and gives your mind something to do meaningful.
Most of the times, we are open about our physical health, but how often do we seriously consider our mental well-being?
Many of us lead busy, often hectic lives, so it is easy to experience certain levels of stress and anxiety that have an adverse impact on our thoughts, efficiency, emotional well-being and overall health.
Thinking is basically a mental process; which helps one define, organise, plan, learn, reflect and create experiences. In-fact human beings think at the rate of 1300 to 1800 words per minute according to a study. This explains why our mind wanders even when we are listening to others. One’s mind has all kinds of fleeting thoughts passing at any particular time. Day to day stressors add on to the kind of thoughts we have and are also one of the reason of we having unpleasant and irrational thoughts that don’t serve us any purpose.
Thoughts on their own will not affect one’s destiny, but if one spends time dwelling upon the unpleasant thoughts, surely then they impact one’s life in every kind of way. The prolonged periods of unpleasant mental state can be detrimental to your mental health and hinder you from performing to your maximum potential. So a lot depends on your ability to think correctly in certain stressful situations and unexpected life situations. Correct thinking is only possible if done so consciously and on purpose. Most of the times it is your beliefs that influence how you think. When you hold on to certain beliefs that don’t serve your interest or values, they give rise to unpleasantness which in turn hurts your ability to be rational, happy and successful.
Your beliefs shape your thoughts
Your beliefs have an impact on how you think, feel and act most of the time. The emotions we feel and the behaviours that arise from emotions are due to the beliefs that we hold about ourselves, people and environment around. Our beliefs shape our interpretations and how we evaluate certain situations and occasionally, due to certain limited beliefs we hold of ourselves, our thoughts can be distorted, biased, or negative thereby giving rise to irrational thought patterns and negative moods.
Because of such irrational thought patterns, we interpret the facts through a distorted perspective and create the impression that imaginary scenarios represent actual facts. If you hold onto negative beliefs, you tend to worry about things that are unlikely to happen. Such biased thinking affects your communication with others, your emotional/ mental well-being as well as your perceptions. Inability to perceive reality accurately leads to errors in your thinking and causes cognitive bias. These biases make you think in a very exaggerated and irrational ways, causing fear, anxiety, and insecurity. Because one’s thinking is so firmly associated with one’s beliefs, it’s not easy to change one’s thinking pattern unless you put in the required work to reframe your limited beliefs.
So, how do you deal with your irrational thinking?
Our minds constantly create narratives as they are pattern making machines. We always like to process facts through our minds and build association that seem to have a logic or rationale behind them. In doing so, we become victims of certain beliefs that aren’t logical, rational, or accurate representation of facts. This is one of the reason why we think in an exaggerated and irrational way about ourselves at times by giving into our negative beliefs. In some ways, our brains get wired to make these errors every now and then making ‘distorted’ or ‘faulty’ thinking patterns.
It is possible to modify your irrational thought patterns by being able to recognise what you are perceiving, assuming, and expecting. Being aware of your irrational thoughts and learning to reframe or restructure them with rational thoughts can be helpful especially when you are in situations that cause anxiety or depression or stress. It is important to learn that situations are not always the cause of our irrational thinking, but it is the way we perceive and interpret the situations. Interpreting the relevant facts of the situation effectively to come to rational conclusions can help in eliminating some of your false assumptions about yourself.
By restructuring your thoughts and reframing the way you interpret a situation, you can deal with your irrational thoughts and slowly make progress towards rational thoughts that are more empowering.
How to reframe your irrational thoughts and limiting beliefs ?
The essential idea behind reframing is that a point of view depends on the frame it is viewed in. When the frame is shifted, the meaning changes and thinking and behaviour change along with it. Cognitive restructuring or reframing helps in observing, identifying and modifying irrational thoughts to rational thoughts and negative mental patterns to positive ones. By reframing, you can think constructively and can practice accurate thinking. You can reframe your limited beliefs to new beliefs that better serves you and your goals. Constructive reframing also helps in overcoming certain mood disorders, anxiety, stress or depression. It is about reorganising thoughts, ideas, awarenesses into correct perspective and putting them into practice. Here are some ways to practice cognitive reframing of your limited beliefs.
Familiarise yourself with cognitive errors
When you learn to familiarise yourself with certain errors in your thinking and cognitive biases, you can challenge your limiting beliefs and eliminate negative thoughts. Here are some examples of cognitive errors which leads to irrational thinking.
• Downplaying the importance of a positive thought or emotion or event thereby magnifying the negatives like “useless”, “ failure”, or “inadequate.”
• Drawing conclusions when there is little or no evidence or on the basis of perceptions and not on real facts.
• “Making mountain of a molehill” Blowing things out of proportion.
• Using words like ‘always’, ‘never’, ‘everyone’, ‘all’, ‘nobody’, etc.,
• Emotional reasoning – concluding that your emotional reaction proves something true, regardless of the observed facts.
•Perfectionism – Thinking that you always have to be perfect, sating “should”, or “ must.”
• Thinking there are only two possibilities, when there may be other alternatives you haven’t considered.
•Overgeneralisation – making conclusions based on a single event.
• Attributing personal responsibility for events which aren’t under your control.
• Thinking in extremes like “black-and-white” or “all-or-nothing thinking” (all good or all bad with no middle ground)
Practice noticing when you have these distortions in your thinking and ask yourself what other ways you could think. By being aware of these errors and reframing them can help you overcome your limited beliefs.
Identify the thoughts that are of wrong perceptions and assumptions. Sometimes emotions make it difficult for you to think logically. The beliefs that we hold change how we manage our day-to-day experiences. Examine what are your negative beliefs and which emotions are involved and question how valid they really are. By questioning your negative beliefs and looking for alternatives, you can replace thoughts led by fear with realistic and positive thoughts. Replace obstructive and limiting thoughts with positive and empowering thoughts.
Track the accuracy of a thought
Analyse what the pros and cons of your limiting thoughts and beliefs. Evaluate the evidence for or against your irrational thought. Examine the validity of irrational thoughts and beliefs by asking critical thinking questions like what’s the worst possible and what’s the best possible thing of that thought. Once you narrow down to your irrational belief, you can think of a way to reframe it into more accurate and positive belief. Do not make up super unrealistic beliefs, instead find more positive way to frame a belief without deluding the facts of the situation.
Apply alternative views
There are always multiple perspectives to any given situation or circumstance. When you restructure your beliefs, you can look at the same facts through a new perspective and interpret in a way that can keep you motivated. By changing your perspective, you can make out your previous thinking errors and can transform them into rational thoughts. This way, you can discover the best way to view a situation so that it brings out your best possible self.
Avoid using extreme language
Often while expressing a negative belief or thought, we use exaggerated words like “never”, or “always”, or “very” and we end up identifying with negativity in ourselves too strongly. Instead, you can replace them with “sometimes”, or “at times”, or a “little”. This way you can downplay the negativity by how you speak about these negative traits by describing them in less intense ways. This way you can leave more room for positivity, improvement, and change. Reframe the way you describe your experiences and memories.
Develop mindful awareness
Simple meditation practice can develop your awareness of negative and irrational thoughts. Focusing your attention on your breath allows you to observe your thoughts as they arise in your mind. Whenever you notice any irrational thought popping, gently bring your attention back to experiencing the sensation of your breathing. Meditation is a great way to train yourself to be mindful of irrational thoughts and beliefs.
Finally, set your own direction and evaluate your progress. There are many ways to reframe any particular situation. And the way you would want to reframe a situation depends on your current goals, values, decisions and choices you make.
Cognitive reframing of your negative beliefs is extremely effective if used properly and consistently. It can help you overcome your limiting beliefs to become happy and successful. Reframing your limiting beliefs takes time and effort to master, but once mastered, you can keep repeating this positive thinking pattern for better results that add value to your goals. Take time to learn how to change your thinking for better and go beyond your limited beliefs and preconceived assumptions. Always remember constructive thinking is a process, one gets better with practice and experience.
“Have patience. All things are difficult before they become easy.”– Saadi
We are always taught different life lessons while growing up starting from how to tie our shoelaces to how to be a nice person. We all turn out to be pretty decent human beings. But when it comes to certain virtues like patience, we all seem to be lacking and struggle with. We always grow impatient in situations that we cannot control. Waiting always gets us worked up. Impatience always sets in when waiting in long lines, being put on hold, or interacting with disagreeable people. We also grow impatient on our road to change from bad habits or behaviour or recovering from illness or addictions.
So, What causes impatience?
Impatience is lack of patience,eager desire for relief or change; restlessness and intolerance of anything that thwarts, delays, or hinders. Technology and an increased access to information also has contributed to our impatience. In a world where we can access any information and order what we want within few seconds, patience can be hard to come by. We are so saturated and conditioned to having everything we need right at our fingertips with immediacy that we are no longer used to waiting. Pressure is always on us to attain certain goals, and with that comes the need to get things done in short amount of time. This instantaneous, the rapid, the quick, the get-it-done-right now kind of mindset makes us impatient.
Impatience can also be rooted back to certain underlying beliefs that we have about ourselves and the world around. Impatience can be caused by,
• Subconscious belief that you are not good enough or other self-limiting beliefs about yourself.
• Your inherent unhappiness with yourself and belief that you had to get to somewhere before you could be happy.
• Certain fixation with future on reaching a certain end goal or to achieve bigger visions, and accomplish more goals.
• Feelings of anger and frustration when things do not go as plan or your way.
• A great sense of urgency to get things over with and to move on to the next thing or task.
• Lack of present moment awareness and dwelling on future.
• Thoughts like “why is this slow?” or “what’s next.” would lead you to being impatient.
• When things get delayed or moving at slower pace than you want or the mindset of wanting everything right now.
Your expectations for immediate attention can negatively impact your productivity, patience and well-being. Studies reveal that higher levels of impatience cause major health conditions over time. Sometimes the urge to achieve your goals manifests into impatience causing annoyance at things standing in your way and gives rise to tension and fear-based emotions. Even though the negative effects of impatience cannot be observed immediately, but they slowly compound over time. It is only when you learn to be more patient that you can know the difference.
What is patience?
Patience is the capability to accept or tolerate delay or difficulties without getting angry or upset. It is a state of endurance under difficult circumstances.
Being patient gives you a feeling of equanimity, a calmness of mind that makes it easier to go through life’s ups and downs.
Why develop patience?
Sometimes the challenges make us vulnerable, possibly afraid, and we have knee-jerk responses to protect ourselves. These responses make an already stressful and unpleasant situation worse. You should learn to make a conscious effort to respond to such situations differently. Patience is the process of turning inwards towards your inner strength. It is strength to stay still with the vulnerable feelings and the restlessness rather than giving into the emotional urge to do something in reaction to what has triggered you.
It is important to develop patience as it increases feelings of happiness as well as reduces stress and anxiety. It also improves productivity because it creates a better and clear state of mind. Here is why you should develop patience.
With patience you can be persistent and stay on your goals for the long run. You don’t have to cut corners or do things in hurry, instead you can patiently work things out, do what needs to be done, and make things happen. You can commit to stay with what is right to achieve your goals.
To change yourself from bad habits, anger, and frustration, it takes time and if you have the patience, you can wait for yourself to get there. You build self-control to put up with situations that involve difficulties. It develops the capacity to tolerate annoyance, or pain, or irritation.
Sometimes you are met with certain obstacles. Such times, you don’t see things clearly because of impatience as it causes the feelings of self-doubt and decreases your confidence. Instead by being patient, you can gain clear vision of why something happened when it did.
Impatience makes you end up making poor decisions in order to get you to your desired goal quickly which can affect your health and your happiness. Whereas by not being stressed and anxious about something, you gain time to get clarity and can come to the best possible solution.
Being patient helps you to connect and engage with your feelings or emotions. Your acceptance of how you feel about a given situation and what you can realistically do about it grows. Your acceptance of self help you overcome negative emotions and behaviour.
How to practice patience?
To practice patience, external approaches like enforcing affirmations and regulation of breathing can be helpful. But to create a permanent change, you need to address the root cause by reflecting on your beliefs, thoughts and behaviour.
Here are some strategies to overcome impatience and to practice patience.
Identify impatient thought patterns
Notice when you are feeling rushed and stressed. This may be due to your unreasonable expectations or beliefs of needing everything now. Start by observing your patterns of impatience arising in your thoughts. Identify the triggers for such patterns like being put on hold, facing a long wait, figuring out a solution for a problem. By recognising the impatient mental patterns, you will be better able to accept them and can make a conscious effort to overcome such patterns by responding to them in a different way.
Keep your expectations realistic
Our expectations are often not realistic. For instance, while attempting to learn a new skill, we get impatient by thinking that we should be able to master new skill quickly. Keeping your expectations realistic and knowing them can help you build patience to achieve your desired goals. Understand that not everyone and everything runs on your schedule and other people and situations need not conform to your expectations. Be patient with situations that are not in your control.
Maintain a proper perspective
Practice the habit of maintaining a positive perspective, instead of dwelling on things that are making you impatient. shift your perspective to positive thoughts, affirmations and outcomes. The ability to reframe a situation by looking at it from a different and positive point of view makes any situation more tolerable and it provides you with the needed patience.
Practice slowing down
Because of impatience, you might resort to making poor decisions even though the odds are against your long-term success of achieving your goals. Slowing down can help you in making better decisions that are more likely to give you better results. Practice being mindful in your activities like walking slow, eating mindfully, incorporating a day of rest in your schedule as this can allow you to reflect and you can develop an attitude of gratitude.
Being compassionate helps you to see the circumstance for what it really is, and not how it appears to be or feels. Think of how you can be more compassionate in an impatient situation, or how you can transform the frustration into something useful for someone. This lets you see small things you otherwise would have taken for granted. This way you can focus onto something much more productive or useful for everybody.
Finally, Be mindful. Make conscious choice to pay attention to that which is going on in your field of awareness. Being mindful allows you to respond, not in anger, but instead with patience and it also helps in accepting things as they are. Being aware of your thoughts in the moment, you can remind yourself to be patient.
Patience is an important virtue to cultivate. You can build healthy mind, body, and healthy relationships. You experience less stress by learning to be patient with yourself. Remember that anything worth your while takes time and effort. So, don’t be discouraged or anxious if your progress is slow, remember that change is supposed to take time. Try to build the above mentioned strategies in your daily activities to grow more patient with yourself and with those around you.
“Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.”- Ralph Waldo Emerson