“People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing – that’s why we recommend it daily.” -Zig Ziglar
I left for Austin, Texas on May 20th already having begun researching and thinking about what I wanted this blog post to be about – willpower. It was like the universe gave me some tools to be able to cope with what was coming. Austin’s green spaces surprised me. I assumed all of Texas is flat, dry and more like a desert. The water in Austin helps to bring in the natural feel, between the Colorado River, which runs through the city, as well as the Barton Springs, we enjoyed a lot of time in nature during our long weekend. “In Austin, the eco-capital of Texas, residents tend to favor native plants and wildflowers to the sculpted lawns of the Palm Spring variety,“ – Douglas Brinkley. The hike I picked out was the “Three Falls Hike” in the Barton Creek Greenbelt. The hike is a 7.3 out and back with minimal elevation gain. Ken and I were pressed for time, so we probably only completed about 5-6 miles total.
After a fairly late arrival to Austin on Friday, I made sure to get to bed relatively early to be able to wake up early enough Saturday morning to hike before it got too blistering hot out. The Texas heat was intense, and slightly humid, but not the muggy almost oppressive humidity of Maryland. We left for the hike with a light backpack with water and some food in case my sugar dropped. As we walked along a dried creek bed (in bathing suits we didn’t end up needing), we talked about a video I had shared about discipline and willpower. Watching the video had fired me up. Dandapani, a monk, talks about how to become more disciplined and grow your willpower. The first step is to find your purpose, figure out what it is that you truly love. He suggests spending time with yourself in complete stillness and silence. Have a good, hard conversation and get to know yourself when you aren’t doing anything else. From there, it’s a matter of finishing everything you begin. “Everyone is inspired and motivated at the start of projects,” but the key to growing willpower is to stick to it. Dandapani goes on to suggest seeking daily opportunities to strengthen your willpower. For example, don’t do the dishes just to do the dishes. Do the dishes to finish the meal. Don’t say “I’m doing the dishes,” rather “I’m strengthening my willpower,” and over time little projects completed will manifest into larger and larger ones. Then, by growing discipline, time will be freed up to pursue what you love, and to achieve your life’s purpose. Good in theory, but is this practical?
Our next backpacking trip is in June, and we talked about staying disciplined and focused to be prepared physically, mentally and emotionally for that trip. Walking along a mostly flat path, it’s easy to wax poetic about a more strenuous trip. I noticed the ground beneath my feet was harder. The soil was very dry, and packed harder than what I am used to on the East Coast. Cactus grew on trees and we found most of the wildlife in spots where the creek hadn’t completely dried up. Lizards ran around the water’s edge, and several types of heron hunted the small critters and fish. One heron caught my eye, the Yellow-Crowned Night Heron. I wish I had re-familiarized myself with the spiritual significance of the heron because it could have been a warning for what would come later in the evening. There are many positives of the heron as a spiritual animal, but the night after our hike, all the worst came out in me. “The heron spirit animal knows how to take advantage of things or situations for its own benefit. This means that you also have a manipulative streak in you, and there’s usually an unhealthy level of competition involved. Just like your heron totem, you are a loner and prefer to do things by yourself. This can be a problem when it comes to personal relationships, especially when your partner needs constant attention and affection. Most of the time, you also get lost in your emotions, and even lose reason and will.” (source)
At some point I will write about everything that happened in Austin, but it is still too raw. Now, more than ever, I have been growing my discipline and willpower. I must create time and space for my life’s purposes – namely being a good mom, loving partner, cultivating my creativity and educating others. After multiple conversations with myself and those closest to me, I came up with the following list to keep my top life goals in mind.
Relationships are the most important thing I have in life.
I love reading, researching and learning.
I love to share what I have learned with others between being a teacher and writing.
I do not have to emulate anyone else.
I can do my own fucking thing.