This article begins from where the first part left.
Let’s apply the concept of two circles of life to understand why most of our resolutions fail; why are we not able to follow the rules that we create for ourselves?
Why do our resolutions fail?
Do you want to be a master at public speaking? Do you want to wake up early morning every day and go for a walk? Do you want to be more proficient at writing?
Your answers to all the three questions may or may not be in the affirmative. But there could be other things that you want to achieve in life. How are you doing in achieving those things? Are you able to keep the resolutions you make?
Given my knowledge of the world, the last question should, rather, be reworded as, “Why do you think you are not able to keep your resolutions?”
The answer lies in the two circles of life.
Let’s take the example of public speaking.
Suppose I want to be good at public speaking. What do I need to do? Join some classes or read books on it. But, ultimately, I’ll need to practice it. I’ll need to speak publicly if I want to master public speaking. And for the first few times I’ll speak publicly, I’ll not be appreciated or rather I may be criticized or ridiculed. But then, do I give up? or continue my efforts? If I I give up, I end up myself in a vicious circle:
No appreciation -> No motivation to learn and try -> No further learning and trying -> No chances of appreciation.
What if I choose to persist? In that case, I break the vicious circle at the point “No further learning and trying” or even “No motivation to learn and try”. If I motivate myself to learn public speaking in spite of no appreciation or if I continue to learn and try public speaking in spite of no motivation, I would break the vicious circle. By breaking the vicious circle, I would create an opportunity for myself to enter into a virtuous circle: Learning and Trying ->Little appreciation -> Some motivation to learn and try -> Learning and Trying -> More appreciation -> More motivation and so on.
The key idea here is to understand the vicious circle that we are in and then, focus on the parts under our control and change them. Once we change the parts under our control, we break down the vicious circle. Once the vicious circle breaks down, it will try to resurrect. You will again feel pangs of giving up, having no motivation to continue. But if you persist in preventing the vicious circle to build up again, you’ll open up the door for the virtuous circle.
Remember, in a stable life, you have to be in one of the circles. If you are not in a vicious circle, then you will eventually get into virtuous circle. There is no other possibility. The life cannot remain in a state of continuous turbulence. When the life stabilizes, if you have persisted in your efforts, you’ll find yourself in a virtuous circle. Your efforts cannot go waste; they will eventually fructify, sooner or later.
Let’s take an example of morning walk.
If you wish to go for morning walk but are not going because you are not able to wake up in the morning, you are stuck in the vicious circle.
The body is not adjusted to rising up early -> Not waking up in the morning -> No morning walk -> You don’t feel the benefits of morning walk -> Not much motivation to wake up early -> Not waking up in the morning -> The body is not adjusted to rising up early
However, when you make persistent efforts to go for the morning walk, you’ll eventually get yourself into the virtuous circle:
Wakes up early -> Body gets adjusted to waking up early AND You have a morning walk -> Feel the benefits of morning walk in terms of increased energy in the body ->Motivation to wake up early next day AND Body gets adjusted to waking up early -> Wakes up early
Once you are in the virtuous circle, it will b extremely easy to maintain it. Rather, you’ll find it hard to break it. Personally, I have experienced both the circles in my life w.r.t. morning walk. Till a couple of months ago, for years, I had been planning to go to morning walk daily. But I would find it too hard or even boring to go out running in the park. I started going for morning walks a couple of times but gave up in a few days. The vicious circle set in since the virtuous circle was not in full swing till then. But now, a couple of months into the routine of morning walk, I feel the effects of the walk on my body. Even when I am tired or when it’s very cold outside, I go out on the walk. What are the reasons? The body is adjusted to waking up early and I have seen the effects of the morning walk and thus, I have the motivation to push myself even when I am tired or it’s cold outside. I am now in a virtuous circle.
Of course, there are other ways to break the vicious circle. For example: You can break the cycle at “No motivation to wake up early” by reading books or articles extolling the virtues of morning walk or talk with people who go to morning walk daily about the benefits they feel in their life. Personally, I felt most motivated to start morning walk when I read somewhere that we need to respect our body, which supports us throughout the day. The idea of “respecting my body” is a great motivator for me. It’s like feeling love and respect for your body, which, even though is a hugely complex mechanism, still works without any major problems.
Now, let’s look at the most pernicious vicious circle responsible for breaking our resolutions.
Why do our resolutions fail?
The answer is a vicious circle that we get into. Suppose you set a resolution to never watch TV again. You keep the resolution for two days but on the third day, you are not able to control yourself and switch on the TV. As soon as you start watching the TV, you know that you have broken your resolution. But how do you respond to this feeling?
Most of the times, you start cursing yourself that you cannot keep resolutions. You assume that the resolution has been broken for once and for ever. Both of these things disempower you and put you in a vicious circle.
Watched TV -> Felt powerless to maintain resolutions -> Even more probable to watch TV again -> Watched TV
Of course, the resolution has been broken once, but it is also true that you could keep the resolution for two days. Probably, if you don’t disempower yourself by cursing yourself, then you would be able to keep the resolution for three days. Then, for four days. Eventually, your power to stay away from the TV will keep increasing, till a point comes when you don’t need a resolution. The TV doesn’t control you then. You can watch TV as you like and switch it off when you feel like.
However, the first time you break your resolution, you put yourself in the vicious circle:
Every time you say “I can’t keep resolutions”, you disempower yourself and decrease your chances to keep the resolution again. Now, even if you try to keep the resolution again, your disempowered self won’t be able to do that. And you will then become even more convinced that you cannot keep resolutions.
The idea is to see this vicious circle and break it where it is under your control i.e. don’t shout to yourself that you can’t keep resolutions. Rather, say to yourself that you have kept it for two days and would try to keep it for even longer the next time. Keep saying to yourself that
YOU CAN KEEP RESOLUTIONS
When you continuously emphasize this thought to yourself, you will see a shift in your mindset; you’ll see that the power you lost when you broke the resolution is coming back to you.
Now, we have taken the example of watching TV here. But as you can see, the same vicious circle prevents us from holding on to all our resolutions. If we can somehow, by hook or crook, avoid or beat this vicious circle, we’ll be able to keep our resolutions. We don’t have to be perfect the first time we do it, but we have to keep trying. By continuing to try in spite of failures, we’ll not let the failures or vicious circles become a part of our life. Eventually, gradually but surely, we’ll find ourselves in virtuous circles. One of them would be:
As we get successful in keeping even one resolution, we’ll feel more empowered to keep more resolutions. And our empowered self would be obviously more able to keep resolutions. The idea would be to keep working towards resolutions and not curse ourselves. And the second idea would be to start with smaller resolutions so that we can taste success early on.
To be continued…