I’ve made some interesting observations in my endeavor to develop stronger willpower in these past few days.
First of all, five minutes definitely counts. I set a goal last week to get on my elliptical every day, if even for only five minutes at a time. Initially, I thought, “Ha, this is going to be a piece of cake. I can do anything for five minutes”.
My elliptical is in my bedroom. While the load of laundry I’ve also vowed to do daily was in the dryer, I decided then was as good a time as any to do my five minutes of exercise. The oven was pre-heating, so I couldn’t start dinner yet anyway. My one-and-a-half year old daughter, Hannah Clay, was on my bed playing her ABC mouse game, and my four-year old son, Coell, was in the living room watching a movie. Perfect setting, right?
Not so much.
One minute into my five minute exercise, my son starts screaming. Immediately I pause my elliptical so that I can keep an accurate (and honest) account of how long I’d been working out, ran down the hallway and into the living room to rescue my screaming child. The instant he saw me, the screaming stops, he barely looks away from Sheriff Callie long enough to hold up his cup and say, “Hey mom. Could you get me more milk? I’m out.”
I was confused. And out of breath. “Son,(pant, pant) what were you screaming about?”
“I’m out of milk,” he responded, matter-of-factly.
“Are you serious??” I blurted out. He blinked twice, and said, “Yes ma’am. I’m thirsty, Mom. If I get up, I’ll miss my show!”
We then had a quick discussion about how ridiculous that whole scenario was and how it better not happen again…ever, and then I returned to my bedroom to resume my five minute workout.
Start. Thirty seconds later, the boy who previously screamed in agony at the thought of missing his show appears in my bedroom.
“Mom, I gotta go potty.”
“Ok, son. So go.”
“But I can’t get my pants unbuttoned. I gotta go. REALLY bad!!!” he whined.
I unbuttoned his pants, waited for him to complete his business, then helped him button them back up before getting back on the elliptical.
Start. About one minute later, Hannah Clay decides it’s her turn to disrupt Mommy.
“Mama. Mama. MAMA!”
(panting) “Yes ma’am?” I asked her.
You can’t see it now, but I’m rolling my eyes and dropping my head in defeat just reliving this scenario.
Needless to say, this continued, but I did successfully complete not only five, but ten minutes on my elliptical that night. I’m learning small victories sometimes mean the most. I think I can physically feel my willpower increasing in size. I certainly can tell it’s getting some real work-outs (literally and metaphorically speaking), and I’m experiencing some definite willpower muscle fatigue at times. It’s going to take a lot more practice and a lot more exercise, but I can feel a shift in my thinking taking place. I’m actually looking forward to new challenges.
Secondly, I’m finding that putting forth a conscious effort to improve my willpower can be overwhelming. Self-control involves so many different aspects of life, it’s sometimes draining to exercise it so often. I feel myself struggling when that dessert is waiting soooo enticingly on the counter, just waiting for me to over-indulge. I feel the urge to give in when my temper has been tried to the max, and I want so badly to yell at the next person to irritate me. There’s something gratifying about giving in to that little voice on your shoulder that says “Go on, do it. Give in. You give and give all day, do something for yourself.” But I’ve also found that the guilt I feel afterward just isn’t worth it. Nothing makes me feel worse than snapping at my children or husband when I’m at my wit’s end.
I’m learning that willpower comes when you can see the light at the end of the tunnel. You have to focus on the end goal in order to successfully overcome these short-lived obstacles. It’s tough, but it’s worth it.