I have been thinking a lot about what motivates us to stick with something, no matter what changes or challenges come along. How does one incorporate a new activity or stick to a healthy habit even when life throws us those curve balls?
What does it take to have the “stick to it-ness”? Is it just true grit? Are we taught grit? Are there exercises that we can incorporate to bring out grit?
I think that the way we talk to ourselves is directly related to grit. People with grit certainly don’t go around beating themselves up and second guessing everything. This is important to think about because it is often during the times when our life gets a little hectic with new schedule changes, a new job, a new move, a vacation, big life event, etc. we need to call upon our inner grit, otherwise, the first thing to go is our healthy habits and success routines.
I know I have been through this so many times. I have gone away on a vacation and then come back and have to get back into my regular routine and I am sluggish with it at first. And what has always made it worse was how I would talk to myself along the way. I would beat myself up for how I am feeling and for how long it is taking for me to get back into being productive with my workouts and meal prepping and planning. Although it seemed so automatic and easy before the vacation, It always takes some extra energy and focus to get that whole routine rolling again. I knew this and still, I would beat myself up. I have found myself so frustrated with it that I have even thought to myself, “I would have been better off if I never went on that trip.” This is crazy though, right? Thinking it would be better to NOT travel and see new things and relax and recharge simply because I find it hard to get back into my normal routine? Just ridiculous. But, I admit, I still get a little anxious every time I have to spend several days away from home. I know that I need to be more relaxed about the process and more compassionate with myself.
So, this past week when my daughter was home sick from school for 3 days, I was thrown into a juggling act with my regular routine getting disrupted and having to figure out what I needed to do for my work/business and how/when that would all get done all while also tending to a sick child and accepting that I would not be able to be as productive with so many disruptions. I also knew that when she went back to school, I had to work extra hard to make up for lost time and produce double the amount of work that I normally produce with each hour in order to meet deadlines. This type of head down full on productivity also requires restorative down time in order to be able to produce quality work. I knew this, planned for this, and spoke to myself with compassion and coaching. Here are some of the things that I said to myself..
“you can do it”…”it will take extra focus and the utilization of every moment…but, it can be done, and you are able…”
“These things are going to happen from time to time and you must adjust and go with the flow and do the best you can because agonizing over it and being pissed off is going to zap your energy and make you less productive and just downright annoyed while doing all of this stuff…”
This kind of compassionate self talk really worked and it helped me to kick ass and get lots done over the next 2 days when my daughter returned back to school. It actually went by so quickly because I was super busy and my mind was occupied at every single moment but I was gratified at the end.
So, how was this an exercise in developing grit?
What did I glean from all of this? Why am I typing all of this out to share with you?
2 big insights.
1.) There is such a tremendous connection between self compassion and productivity. Being gentle with myself and giving myself small steps to take while I was in the “stress mode” worked out for so many reasons. It allowed me to save myself from wasting energy on being “stressed over my stress.” The energy I saved from not stressing was put to better use and I was able to produce what I needed before the deadlines. In the past, I would have gotten “stuck in the stress” and drained myself pushing me to wait too long to get started and then stressing through each pressing deadline looming moment.
2.) There is a big difference between motivating yourself with compassionate self talk and de-motivating yourself with self talk that really is just “disguised compassion.” Sometimes we can say things to ourselves that seem so compassionate but really we are just talking ourselves out of doing something because it would be a whole lot easier if we didn’t and we want to avoid being stressed out. This is de-motivation disguised as compassion. Let me give you some examples of what that type of self-talk would be like.
“You couldn’t have predicted that your daughter was going to get sick…you are a mother first…and sometimes you can’t do it all..” …”Your family is your first priority”…”You can’t do all of the things you had planned now that you have been derailed for 3 days so be realistic and put some of these things off..”
Can you see the difference?
I have had clients “rationalize” missing their workouts or choosing not to eat healthy meals using this type of “disguised compassion” self-talk. It even seems and sounds like the wisest thing we can do for ourselves. Especially when you compare it to the extreme opposite. The negative self- talk. Why, of course compassion like “You simply can’t do it all,” is much better than “You suck”…” ..”You’re just no good at this…” ..”You lack discipline..” ..”It’s not that hard, you’re just lazy..” etc. “You were crazy to think that you could do all of this, you should know better..”
What is most empowering is being able to spot the difference, be honest with yourself, know which approach you are taking and make the shift if needed to the most appropriate self talk to get the stuff done that needs to get done in order to keep you inline with your goals. THAT, my friend, is an exercise in developing grit! Always, check in with your self-talk.
It works if you work it… so, work it! … you’re worth it!