Episode 4

In episode 3, I talked about commitment, action, belief, attitude, confidence, luck, and an unlikely story. I also shared my definition of success.

The question today is…, what is it that keeps us from doing certain things we, otherwise should…, those things we keep putting off?

It is the battle between Yes and No and an interesting and effective exercise that strengthens your resolve.

When talking about not doing certain things, I ‘m not talking about responsibilities like work though…, they come into play at times. I’m talking about those tasks on a to-do list that are written down or in the back of your mind. They are not too consequential and don’t have a fast deadline, or anything like that. But they should get done anyway.

Maybe, your car needs to be cleaned, your closet cleared out and clothes set aside to donate to charity, some painting around the house or some gardening you keep putting off. Maybe, it is someone you should visit.

You have a list…, right? But, if you are anything like me, there are things on it you really, really don’t feel like doing. But you know they’re there…, and you can’t forget them. They may have been on the list for some time now.

 It’s ok though, you’ll get around to them…, right? So, when is that going to be? “I don’t know man. Maybe this weekend”. But you got a thing this weekend, remember. “Oh! Yeah…, I forgot”.

You see where I’m going with this? That was me before I learned how not to be that guy. In a moment, I will tell you how I did it.

 First…, let me ask you. Is your will power as strong as you would like it to be? Do you want to increase it? Do you ever feel like not doing something when…, maybe you should? Of course, you do. Was Time a consideration?

Well…, I think I can help.

Before now, my answers to the questions I just asked you were, no, yes, yes, and no. No…, my Will power was not as strong as I would like it to be. Yes…, I wanted to increase it, and I am working on that. Yes…, I felt like not doing things I should, and No…, Time was not a consideration. I am not going to blame what I cannot control or manage. Time is a constant that does what it does, regardless.

I came to the realization that my indecisions were more about how I, felt. It was my feelings that kept me from doing. I needed the Will power to move from feeling to doing. But, most importantly, I needed the Will power to start…, the seemingly difficult first step toward doing.

But making the first step requires me to control and direct my feelings. If I don’t…, things are left undone. It’s as simple as that.

I must admit that at first, controlling and steering my feelings toward starting, was challenging. It still is…, but not as much. I would have to go through moments of mental arm wrestling with my feelings before I would start.

Still…, it did not mean I had arrested my feelings. I had to control and lock them down for as long as it took to finish the task or…, at least advance its completion.

This required persistent Will-action and discipline…, two things I was not particularly good at…, two especially important things I had to learn.

Otherwise, at any moment I could feel like stopping. After all, it was usually a task I did not feel like doing in the first place, and there was no serious consequence for not doing it. So, who is to stop me from stopping? Me. Only I can do that…, but how? Well, really wanting to…, that’s how.

Feelings can be powerful and, often enough, stubborn. But I still had to get out of bed on Monday mornings. Otherwise, I may not have gone to work.

Listen…, I loved my job. But getting out of bed on Monday mornings was not the best part of my day, and I know I’m not the only one here. Lying in bed, I had to talk myself into getting out of bed to start my day.

But talk alone was not enough. I had to take decisive action, otherwise I would stay in bed. I would not have gone beyond not doing, (staying in bed) to doing (getting out of bed). I would not have made the first step. I would not have started my day as I should.

Mind you, here there are serious consequences, starting with a time I had to report for duty. This makes it clear to me why taking on a task on a to-do list could be treated with such contempt.

I am retired now, and I like to write. But there are times when it’s a pain in the butt…, literally.

When I was writing the script for this episode, there was a point when I was well on my way and mindful that continuing to write required constant will-action and discipline. So…, I pressed on. I kept on writing.

But the mind does what it always does. Other thoughts dipped into my stream of consciousness…, and I would get distracted. I didn’t feel like writing any longer. I wanted to do something else, anything else, starting with getting off my butt.

But… “wait a minute”…, I told myself. “What is to stop these same thoughts and feelings from arising in the middle of doing anything else? It would be like starting and stalling without finishing anything.

 At the time I was aware that I didn’t have to finish the script that day, but that I had to continue to write at least one more sentence…, one more paragraph. Still…, the idea was to “finish” the script in a timely fashion…, in time for this podcast episode.

Obviously…, I was able to control my thoughts and feelings and that’s what it took to start and to finish…, to be here talking to you now.

Sometimes, managing my feelings seems like too much mental trouble, and I would rather not go into the psychology of the process every time I have to “start” a task.

Instead, I talk myself into, or out of any task with a simple admonishment. I tell myself…, with a firm and willful tone…, “Just shut up and do it!”. 

This seems to work for me. It is my way of saying…, Yes to No. It makes going through the morass of indecision about starting any task, controllable. Starting becomes easier and finishing, more likely.

This cuts down on the number of tasks on my to-do list, especially the ones I really, really didn’t feel like doing. I get to feel a sense of accomplishment. I get to feel good about it.

By the way, this approach did not come out of thin air. It is based on a simple exercise I learned from the great American psychologist William James. Look him up. The exercise is called, the training of the Will. It helps me. It will help you too.

Here is the exercise. Once in a while, take on an undesirable task, a small one, one that can wait, one you just don’t feel like doing. Start it and finish it in a timely fashion. But don’t get carried away with the timely fashion part of the exercise now. Get it done.  

You may already have one or two tasks on your list nagging you for some time now. Take one on. If you already have your own self-talk…, talk to yourself. If you wish to use, “Just shut up and do it!!”, please…, feel free.

This simple exercise has helped me with my workouts too. I’m almost sure you can relate. Often enough I really don’t “feel” like it. Maybe, it’s because I’m not, what they call, a gym rat or anything like that. I’m just a regular guy who knows he should work out to get in, or to stay in some kind of shape.

I am reminded of a friend who, one day said something to me about working out, and said it with a straight face. Listen to this. He said…, “whenever I feel like working out, I would go lie on the sofa until the urge went away”. Of course, he was joking…, but I thought it was funny.

Anyway, whenever I did not feel like working out, I would admonish myself into starting and, from there, I usually finished. I felt good, healthy, and glad I started. There again, I got to say Yes to No, and now I work out regularly.

Every time I exercise my Will, regardless of the task, “starting” becomes easier and finishing, more certain.

However, like starting any new habit, strengthening it requires repetition. Furthermore, we can all agree, a strong Will power is beneficial and has positive life and career applications.

You know I like to share my quotes with you. Here is another favorite titled, A Doing Proposition.  

It is important that our focus be on “Being” aware that living is a “Doing” proposition fueled by emotions and steered by our thoughts”.

This one has universal Life application, and because it does, it’s worth repeating. “It is important that our focus be on “Being” aware that living is a “Doing” proposition fueled by emotions and steered by our thoughts”.

When I first learned to say Yes to No, it did not occur to me that perhaps a strong Will could work in reverse; that there could be times when saying No to Yes, would result in also strengthening the Will.

For example, sometimes, ok…, a lot of the time, I would rather just lay on the sofa and watch a great movie knowing I should be doing something else. But, hey, I’m my own boss…, right?

Fortunately, this presents a unique opportunity to test the real strength of my Will power. But I warn you, the degree of difficulty in this test is extremely high. See if you’re up to it.

Using the, watching a great movie laying on your sofa scenario, or any, where you’re having a good time. Stop and go take on a task you haven’t done simply because you really didn’t want to do it…, whether it is on a list or not.

“Now, why would I do that”, you may be asking? “I’m here just relaxing, taking it easy. Give me a break”. Well, the answer, is to say No to Yes. This exercise will increase the strength of your Will power…, faster. Treat it like boot camp for the mind. Give it a try…, a real try.

Still, it is just a test…, a test I take only, from time to time. Are you up to it? Try it at least once. But remember, it is just a test.

Saying Yes to No and, once in a while, saying No to Yes, are exercises that will strengthen your will power over time. It has mine.

A quote titled, The Mess.

“I am mindful there is no one who can mess with my head better than I. Then again, that I am mindful of this, tells me that I can clean up the mess when I make it. I just have to make up my Mind”.

William James’ exercise helps me to better control and direct my emotions while at the same time increase my Will power. But it is a lifelong practice. Things strong, weaken over time. So, the training never ends. Meanwhile, it makes it easier to start and to finish; to say Yes to No.

It’s Now O’ Clock, time to START training!

In episode 5 I will be discussing how we use words and how they affect us. I will also talk about a few words that makes me wonder why people use them. I will also ask your help to add to or substitute them for others.