Good Habits Build Strong Character
“The secret of change is to focus all your energy, not fighting the old, but on building the new.” — Socrates
Are you aware of anything holding you back from improving your life at present? It may be a resource such as money, better living conditions, access to certain information or services? Whilst I don’t discount the value of these things can improve our circumstances, generally, our thoughts are the biggest impediment holding us back because we believe them. As an example, I was speaking with a client recently who confessed how she nearly didn’t make it to the gym one morning. Her thoughts convinced her she was too tired, so she reasoned it was pointless to exercise. However, she made it to the gym after all and not only did she feel better, she couldn’t believe how her thoughts sabotaged her an hour earlier. Had she succumbed to her feelings, she might have avoided going to the gym and lamented her choice later.
Have you experienced something similar in areas of your life? It happens to me often; though, I’ve learned not to trust my thoughts but commit to my goals and intentions instead. Our thoughts are saboteurs that stop us achieving our goals and highest intentions. Evolutionary psychologists believe this sabotaging is an adaptive mechanism to keep us safe from danger. Given the world we live in nowadays, the danger we experienced thousands of years ago is not prevalent anymore. Meanwhile, our biology hasn’t changed given we still use the same mental framework to make important decisions.
So, what does this mean for you? You are one choice away from improving your life, which can have a transformative effect. The key is to better understand our thoughts, so we don’t succumb to the saboteur that tries to convince us things are worse than they are. Nowadays, everyone talks about wanting more motivation. I don’t accept motivation is the issue because it will only get you so far and if you lose motivation, what then? We ought to set the right intentions and develop good habits that lead to strong character. I’m not talking about the character that defines you as a good or bad person. I’m talking about character where you commit to your goals and purpose and follow through with them, no matter what. So, if your intention is to exercise four days a week, character says you show up four days a week, excluding if you are sick.
Are you comfortable with this idea that the next choice you make can improve your life in ways you never imagined? Now I can hear you say: “Tony, I make choices every day and none of them have changed my life.” Granted, but are you making choices from a place of fear, regret and worry or based on inspiration and enthusiasm? The latter strengthens your commitment to your goals and purpose, where the former weakens it. Your commitment is tied to your character and if we break our promises, we lose trust in ourselves. We must do what we say we’re going to do, as long as it is tied to the right intention. Therefore, we must have a higher understanding our true motives. For example, are we working towards improving our life or running away from something deleterious?
Accept The Fate Of Our Choices
“It takes a lot of courage to release the familiar and seemingly secure, to embrace the new. But there is no real security in what is no longer meaningful.” ― Alan Cohen
Our choices can improve our life because they uphold our values and purpose. Psychologist say the pleasure principle is where people seek pleasure and avoid pain as much as possible. The problem is that pain can build character and strengthen our commitment to our goals. Pain allows us to recognise what is important to us, and let go of unnecessary or wasteful actions. We must be careful not to become pleasure seekers but understand our underlying motives better. Are you beginning to feel better that your decisions can lead to an extraordinary life, if you are clear on your intentions? Doing so requires knowing ourselves, which is tied to wisdom and experience.
Some of the wisest people I’ve met are those who’ve experienced great difficulties and suffering in their life. They’ve endured pain and gained valuable insights about themselves along the way. Oscar Wilde once said: “Experience is the hardest teacher; it gives you the test before the lesson.” Yet many people don’t heed the lessons until it’s too late, and even then, they repeat the same mistakes over again. In many ways, they are like mice scurrying around in a maze, not understanding the rules of the game. But our choices can be powerful and change the course of our destiny, if they are aligned with our highest intentions. It’s not necessary that we make difficult choices that disrupt our lives. Perhaps we can afford to do so when we’re young, but as we mature, we ought to learn from our experiences and make informed choices.
Eventually, we must trust ourselves and accept the fate of our choices, instead of believing life is difficult. We are powerful beings and many don’t recognise this power and resign themselves to mediocrity. Pain and pleasure help us learn how our choices can influence our life, if we examine them thoughtfully. Knowing this, I’d like you to think about your recent choices. Were they aligned with your highest purpose, or were they made impulsively? Ask yourself: “What is important to me and what am I willing to sacrifice to attain this?” Live by those values and I assure you, the next choice you make can improve your life beyond your wildest dreams.