“Do the thing and you will have the power”, wrote Ralph Waldo Emerson. Nothing rang truer as I stepped out into the sunlight this morning from the gym for the first time in almost a year. I think we often forget that our willpower is our own. Meaning, we have full control, at all times. At the switch of an internal button, you can…do the thing. Why, however simple it may be, is it so difficult?
Limitations to Our Willpower
I’d say for the past year I’ve been planning to get back in the gym. But why did it take me that long to make that decision? When I was in college, I was into bodybuilding and nutrition…like really into it. Didn’t even touch a bite of anything remotely unhealthy, as I was training for local fitness competitions. With all of that effort, I had built a solid physique I was proud of. This was before the love of my life and child entered the picture, which left little room for my usual routine. Fast forward a few years and my excuses for getting back into the swing of things slowly lose their legitimacy. Now, it is just a matter of willpower. I had constantly been telling myself, “Well, you’ll never get back into the shape you were, why even try? I don’t have time to cook the things I need. I don’t get the rest I need to recover. What will my old gym buddies think of me now?” You can see how worry and overthinking can increase procrastination and laziness. By worrying, I am confessing my inferiority to the issue.
“When the worries and cares of the day fret you, and begin to wear upon you, and you chafe under the friction, — be calm. Stop, rest for a moment, and let calmness and peace assert themselves. If you let these irritating outside influences get the better of you, you are confessing your inferiority to them, by permitting them to dominate you.” – William George Jordan
Jocko Willink, co-author of one of my favorite books, “Extreme Ownership”, recalls his time as a Navy Seal and what motivates him to get things DONE. When Jocko was at war, he had an enemy. Every morning, he knew if he did not get out bed early, begin his briefings, training…that’s one step ahead for the enemy. The other side was putting just as much effort into their strategy as Jocko’s team was, so there was only one option: outwork them. There was no time for laziness – lives depended on it.
Even after Jocko returned to the United States and is away from the battle scene, his vision of the enemy still drives him to get out of bed every morning and get to work. Your enemy may not necessarily be a soldier firing at you, but you may get the point. Make laziness and excuses your enemy, and you will find new motivation. When you feel your excuses start to build and weigh on your willpower, remember this quote by Jocko:
”Most of us aren’t defeated in one decisive battle. We are defeated one tiny, seemingly insignificant surrender at a time that chips away at who we should really be.” – Jocko Willink
So, I had a new perspective as I stepped into the gym this morning. It wasn’t, “Man, look how far I’ve fallen.” It was, “Let’s show them how far we can bounce back and be better than ever.”