Picture the scenario. December is over; January sees you stating your goal. You want to lose 5 kg. The first 5 days go well.
Then the weekend comes. You’re visiting friends. The snacks get passed around. Ah well, you think, as you grab a handful of crunchy, salty, tasty crisps, next week I’ll be good. Delicious! You have some more as the plate gets passed around again. And again…
What just happened?
You allowed the fact that you’ll be ‘good’ tomorrow to let you off the hook today.
You totally bought into the image of your future self being strong and self-controlled.
The problem is that this ‘good’ future self doesn’t often materialize because it constantly gets permission to indulge now.
These are things I commonly hear in my coaching room (OK, OK, let me be entirely honest – in my head too):
- I’ll go to gym 3 times next week
- I’ll complete an urgent task first thing every morning
- I’ll get up one hour earlier every day
- I’ll do my tax this week(very common one!)
- I’ll only drink one cup of coffee a day
- No more chocolates
The excuses I commonly get in my coaching room the following week include: I was too busy; I was so stressed; I didn’t even have a chance to think about it; I was too tired …. Etc. etc…
We have an eternally optimistic view of our future selves. Which is why when we’re tired or stressed or hungry or upset in the present, we readily believe that we’ll do things differently in the future. In this present we then choose to do something that meets a current ‘need’ but sabotages our long-term goal.
One way of getting around this is to become more grounded and centred. This enables you to make more rational, as opposed to impulsive, decisions – it increases your self-awareness.
Self-awareness eradicates impulses.
Think about the last time you were highly stressed. Did you carefully consider what you should eat for lunch, bearing in mind that you want to fit comfortably into your skinny jeans? Or did you, almost unconsciously, reach for a donut as they were passed around? How often do you find yourself biting into the sugary comfort without being aware of the decision-making process that got you there.
- The higher your stress levels, the less likely you are to stick to behaviour that supports your future goal.
- The higher your stress levels, the more you give into your impulses.
- The higher your stress levels the more quickly you buy into that promise of a better future you.
My standard response to high levels of stress? Give me some chocolate. NOW!
There are many different ways to reach inner calm. You probably have tried some yourself. I’d love to hear about what worked and what didn’t work for you.
In my experience, one of the most effective ways to become calmer and more self-aware is to meditate.
I am NOT talking about 20 minutes of controlled meditation, 3 times a day, without one distracting thought. Nope – unless you are practiced at mediation, this kind of goal will set you up for failure.
What I am saying is that 5 minutes of daily meditation has a marked effect on your levels of calm and self-awareness throughout the day.
I always believe in starting with something manageable, and building it up over time.
Here a simple and easy meditation technique that you can’t get wrong. (Except by not doing it!)
Sit still, saying ‘exhale’ and ‘inhale’ in your mind as you slowly breathe in and out. As soon as your thoughts wander, bring them back to the exhale and inhale words. After a few minutes, stop saying ‘exhale’ and ‘inhale’ to yourself. Now focus on what it feels like in your body to be breathing in and out slowly and deeply. Notice the different parts of your body and how they react to your slow breathing. If your thoughts wander, bring them back to your breathing. Do this for 5 minutes, every day.
As your confidence grows, build up the meditation time slowly, one minute at a time, to 10-15 minutes.
After you build this practice, you will feel more grounded, and your sense of inner calm will prevail for longer periods each day. Notice the effect this has on the decisions you are making throughout the day. It becomes easier to say NO to the impulsive you, and YES to your future you.
Begin today – use meditation to start saying YES to your future.
“What you have to do and the way you have to do it is incredibly simple.
Whether you are willing to do it, that’s another matter.”
Peter F. Drucker