« Seek freedom and you will become a slave to your desires.
Seek discipline and you will find freedom. »
Koan zen – Anonyme.
Hello, young Padawan
Since we are in times when we have to be mentally and physically strong and that we are on the famous New Year’s resolutions period, it seemed appropriate to me to come back to the basic functioning of the human brain motivation to be able to concretize, if you really wish it, your resolutions and that they will not be an (umpteenth) failure.
This is therefore the continuation of my cult article named “Happy New Year my ass“, where we talk about self-acceptance and letting go (yes here, we don’t know what vulgarity is, we are serious, and always right in the codes of the blog, ed). So I’ll start with the principle that these two concepts are integrated, from small defects to large complexes, and that we can raise the level a bit.
Motivation, discipline, and freedom to be are the topics of the day – or how to go from failure to a model that works.
The key to freedom is discipline.
If you’re looking for motivation and sometimes you can’t find it, it’s normal, it’s stored right next to your friend, the resolution, in the failure drawer.
Motivation comes from the human will to achieve something, it does not last forever because it is biologically limited, regardless of your level of “wanting”. It’s a temporary effect created by the brain to push you in the right direction, temporarily. Relying only on your motivation generates cycles going from zero to a little better, then return to zero, and even at level minus one of our personal esteem, because returning back to zero makes us lose a little more self-confidence, as a “yo-yo effect” of the mood. Learning from failure makes us discover that motivation or resolution is, therefore, not the right plan to achieve success.
The brain is a vicious little one. He likes comfort, to be peaceful, is wary of novelty, and above all, it does not like to be pissed off. So, on the basis of this principle, it is not easy to get out of one’s neurotic prison and to arrive at any freedom to be. Besides, what is the “freedom to be”?
If we mistake the freedom to be with the “I do what I want”, we risk getting slapped in the face and being confronted with the consequences of our own desires and neuroses. Whenever there is going to be something annoying or a challenge, we will stress or panic because we will not be able to react in a proper manner. Thus, the little post-holiday diet turns into an ice-cream orgy, the new gym routine is forgotten, like the dust of self-confidence slipped under the carpet of personal judgment.
What we need is rarely what we want, while what we want least is often what we need the most. We go towards what makes us happy and what scares us as little as possible. However, discipline is learning to establish routines which, when they are put in place, meaning that you no longer need to put in the energy to act, it becomes natural. For example, every morning, you wash your teeth, you take your shower, you get dressed … What greater freedom than that of achieving your goals without any real constraints, than to let yourself slip day after day into your implemented rituals one after the other, year after year?
Discipline is the ability to keep moving in the right direction when you no longer have the motivation to do so, smoothly, like the silly example of learning the piano: It is thanks to the discipline of practicing your scales every day that you acquire the freedom to be able to play, to improvise songs, to read scores. Now, if you do it every day for a quarter of an hour for a year, what seemed like a chore will become as easy a habit as brushing your teeth or taking a shower.
The freedom to be is to tame our nature to free ourselves from our neuroses. Thus, the initial fear is apprehended more and more serenely, until daring, because setting up a new habit from time to time is easy and makes you gain self-confidence when it is acquired. A free man is above all someone who does not hide behind denial when confronted with fear or his anxieties but who opens up to the world, to others, who find solutions rather than putting the problems under the carpet, who knows how to see happiness where it is, that is to say everywhere.
I don’t know your resolutions but on the off chance, my best tip to stop an addiction, in one sentence, get ready it’s going to boom: Stop playing vicious little games with yourself. You know, the “Oh, today I had a bad day, so I treat myself with a glass of wine (or chips, or a cigarette, or chocolate, or a TV night when I have lots of work…) tonight doesn’t count, that’s okay ”. You know this sentence, I do too, we all practice our little games, our cognitive dissonances, to make our lives sweeter.
Except that in the end, after hiding our shits under the carpet for years, it is no longer a bump but a mountain that we find in there. And by thinking of doing this immediate service of a more comfortable life, we build ourselves a prison of neuroses, which will cost us our self-confidence, our self-esteem, and everything else. The final bill is high, which is why it seems cheaper to me to regularly set up new habits, in small doses, and thus maintain or regain good mental and physical health. It is not difficult, however.
Still, on addiction, we have already talked about it here and there, we need decoys to trick our brain. For example, completely stopping a food for a while, cultivating our taste in other food, spices, flavors … in order to educate our taste not to like candies any longer, to find it disgusting. Start sport to stop drinking, start sewing to stop biting your nails … it’s up to you to find a “healthy” replacement for your vice, one that suits you. Once this novelty has turned into a habit, you will be proud and there will be more glitter in your heart than ornaments on your Christmas tree.
Then, don’t start twenty new things at a time. Going back to the gym, going to bed earlier, stopping drinking alcohol, spending less time on your smartphone, starting a new training, and resume a healthy diet in the same week in a “New year, new me” mode it’s the door open to failure.
Finally, I know watching Brenda or Brandon on Instagram, on TV, or on the street doing everything you wish you could do at once makes you want to, but you just have to be aware that if they are got there, it’s because they’ve been putting this routine in place for years now, one new habit after another. It took them a lot of patience to achieve this result, and never forget that it is not an obligation to become a better version of yourself, it is just more comfortable to be strong to be able to face everyday life’s shit, and to have more self-confidence when a challenge arrives.
So in summary, if you have already tried to make New Year’s eve resolutions but each time it failed: it is because the chosen path was not the right one. The will is biologically limited, so we have to compose, find tricks to get to put new habits in our old daily rituals.
One thing after another, do not overestimate or put excessive pressure on yourself, using the voice of wisdom. Taking a new habit every 6 months will allow your brain to integrate it into its ritual without putting you in lazy thoughts that you will not be able to manage in the long run. The final goal is to fit each new habit into your already well-established rituals, to anchor it, and that it becomes as natural as preparing your coffee or your morning tea, a shower, or putting on underpants.
No one will give you your inner freedom, your freedom to be fully yourself, you have to catch it, and for that, freeing yourself from small and big addictions, bad habits, and wasting time is a good idea. You will never have so much confidence in yourself, you will never be stronger than by acquiring new skills, habits, knowledge. As our Swiss friends would say, “There is no fire in the lake”. Go forward, a step after another on the path to success and your freedom to be.
So much for today, dear Padawan, I send you all my best wishes for this new year.
Sources : The Willpower Instinct, Kelly McGonigal, Ph.D. – ed. AVERY.