The Search for the Missing Mojo Begins! 

Last week I declared that my mojo was missing. I reported my feelings of laziness and malaise. Exercise has become a chore and eating right a battle. The anxiety monster is lurking just around the corner waiting to pounce on me if I let it. Last week’s goal was to start searching for answers.

Perhaps it’s not mojo I’m looking for?

As a first step, I decided to define a few terms. What even is mojo? Am I using the term correctly? Googling led me to this:

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Am I looking for mojo? Or am I looking for enthusiasm? Is it motivation I need or more willpower?  Some further search terms lead me to this blog article

Should I Get Motivated Or Use Willpower? The Ultimate Guide For Taking Action When You Don’t Feel Like It

Now that sounds like what I’m after!

According to the author, Stephen Guise, you are better off relying on willpower and habit rather than motivation. He defines motivation as a desire to take action, whereas willpower is forcing yourself to take action even if you don’t feel like it. Creating habits is the ultimate goal. When something is a habit you don’t have to make a decision, you just do it because you have built it into your life. I’d recommend the article. It’s long but his writing style is easy, amusing and straight forward. He has a book to sell called Mini Habits.

Working SMARTer

Guise recommends taking action even when you feel unmotivated. Just get out and do it.  This is the same strategy Michelle Bridges uses in her 12 Week Body Transformation Program. (12WBT)

Her motto is  JFDI (just f*^%#$ do it!)

Just get out of bed. Don’t think about it! Just put your workout gear on, don’t think about it. Once you start, you’ll keep going.

I have signed up for the 12WBT three times in the past, and every time it has worked well for me. I’ve gotten fitter and stronger. At the conclusion of the 12-week program, I have felt empowered, healthy and proud.

Why does this style of program work so well for me and others? It boils down to a few simple factors:

  1. The program isn’t free. The fact that I’ve paid for it is a huge part of its  success for me. The idea of wasting money if I don’t stick to it is an important external motivator.
  2. It’s for a well defined period of time. Long enough to see results, short enough to maintain interest.
  3. It is measurable. There are some very carefully planned milestones that involve actual measuring including a weekly weigh-in and a monthly fitness test. On top of that, you take your body measurements every four weeks.
  4. The program asks you to set mini-milestones and a final goal. For my last round, these goals were timed running events and culminated in a final event where I aimed to crack the 56-minute mark. (missed by 5 seconds!)
  5. There is a supportive online and IRL* community attached. I didn’t join in on this aspect much but it was there if I wanted it.

That list sounds very familiar and a lot like SMART goals. That is goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound.

Make a start – even if its small

While SMART goals are a tried and true strategy for many people, Guise suggests another option. Using brute force! In a strategy, he calls ‘taking stupid small steps” he suggests you take a very small action which you repeat over and over again until it  ‘turns into a powerful, healthy habit.’

The idea is to force yourself to do one push up (or another similarly very small step), then do another and then another and before you know it you’ve done a workout. Guise says that harnessing the power of stupid small steps will increase your willpower, stamina, build momentum, lead to action rather than just thinking about taking action and finally bring a greater level of consistency.

Here’s a good summary of the idea.

What’s next in the mojo hunt.

My Year of Zero precludes me from signing up for another round of 12WBT so I am just going to wing it on my own with a very strong mini habits flavour thrown in. I’ll set some milestones, do some measurements and give myself 12 weeks to whip myself back into shape. I have a 5 km race booked in for December. Maybe I can get down to 25 minutes. (My previous best time is 26 minutes)

Yep, that’s what I’m gonna do…Starting next week…I really really mean it this time! 


Next week’s post: I know I’m not alone in this potentially COVID induced funk. Next week I’ll examine the possibility of this lack of motivation being a bigger shared problem. 

* IRL = In real life

 

 

 

Full mind vs mindfulness

Have you mastered mindfulness, or are you a mind full person like me? You may have noticed that I am not very good at paying attention to anything for a very long time. Without external accountability from others, lists and reminders, I would chase after bright shiny things that come into my field of thinking.

I can stick to some things. I am extraordinarily proud of myself for sticking to this blog for three years with weekly posts.  However, I have jumped from topic to topic which, according to the SEO experts is a bad thing.  I should be sticking to a branded theme.

I have more or less stuck to my Year of Zero. I more or less stick to a sustainable lifestyle with frequent exercise and healthy eating.

I’ve wanted to add meditation to the mix to help calm down my mind. To help me tame the thoughts that keep me too busy when I should be sleeping. The ideas that jump into my head when I am trying to concentrate. The thoughts that stop me from getting into a flow state more often.

 

I’m a meditation failure!

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I’ve tried meditation a few times with online apps but decided I was useless at it because I could not stop my thoughts from intruding. In a serendipitous twist, a course I did for school this month, has allowed me to see the light! (No cosmic rays, no angels singing! Maybe a little bit of new-age synth music!)

You don’t have to silence your thoughts when you meditate; you just let them slide on past and then refocus. 

 

The realisation that it is impossible to stop thinking and that this is not the aim of meditation was a revelation! Even though I had read that before, hearing it from a real live human being with her personal anecdotes,  made the difference. The aim is to concentrate on one thing, like your breathing, and then if you get distracted, which you will, refocus. If you get distracted again, refocus. If you get distracted again, refocus! As many times, and as often as you need to. Over time you’ll get better at it, and the time you can remain focused will increase.  And ta-da!! You’re meditating!!

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The Nan Tien Institute in Unanderra

Courses at the Nan Tien Institute

The course, Mindfulness, Theory and Practice for Schools centred around ways of embedding mindfulness into schools so that it becomes as fundamental as literacy and numeracy.  It was held at the Nan Tien Institute, a higher education campus attached to the Nan Tien Temple. The temple is the biggest Buddhist Temple in the Southern Hemisphere. The Institute offers many other courses including degrees and diplomas. While rooted in Buddhist philosophy, this course was secular in nature.

It was fascinating, and by the end of the second day, my mind was bursting (in a positive way) with ideas and plans. I was invigorated even though I had been sitting for two full days, listening intently to the lecturer, Dr Nadine Levy.

Nadine had the knack of drawing out good discussion and the room had a great vibe. I came home committed to incorporating meditation into my daily routine on top of any plans I may have for my school.

 

Mindfulness is big business.

Perhaps I’m late to the party, but I am hoping the insights learned at the course will be a permanent change for me. Mindfulness has been a buzz word in the wellbeing industry for many years now.  It has/had a bit of a bad rap (in my age demographic anyway) as being a bit hippy and woo-woo, but despite that, it is a darn good idea.

Scientific studies have shown that mindfulness and meditation are effective in treating anxiety, depression and other mental illnesses. It’s cheap and universally available. It requires no special equipment and doesn’t need the internet! Having said that there are many useful apps available that can help you with your daily practice. Check out Smiling Minds (free), Calm ($A60-ish p/a) or 10% Happier ($A140 ish per annum).

My favourite mindfulness definition so far is “the mental art of stepping out of your own way”.

Dan Harris, the (US) ABC journalist, author and podcaster sums it up well in this short video.

Nadine led us through 7 or 8 mindful/meditation activities during the course. In that short time, I felt that my memory improved and that I was thinking very creatively.  I slept well that night and woke up refreshed—an unusual occurrence for me. I am up to Day 4 of practice on the Smiling Mind app, and I’m feeling good! I’m going to make an effort to make it stick. I intend to include a 10-minute meditation into my morning routine. That’s do-able!

I am not going to go into detail about what mindfulness is or isn’t in this post. I’ll save that for future posts, but I warn you, this Old Chook has found another topic to bang on about!

On another note, if you are an educator, I’d highly recommend the course. It runs a couple of times a year.

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Signs of the Corona Times

Coping with Coronavirus and its various restrictions is very much at the front of our minds.

This week’s Sunday Post is a return to the Photo(s) of the Week theme. Here are three images which I think sum up what’s happening in the urban first world.

1. Social Distancing

Sure you might have to order from the pavement, but heh!!! you can still get your coffee!

A woman ordering coffee from the pavement
Stay there, please!

2. Working from Home

You might be working from home but at least you’re working! And, if you do have to catch a train, it won’t be crowded!

a train station with empty platforms
Wollongong Train Station: 6:57 AM – on a weekday!

 

3. I can’t go to the gym!

No, you can’t! Or the beautician or the pub or a cafe (unless you order from the pavement!) But there is a good reason for that! “Curve flattening”, people, curve flattening. A flat curve is a good curve!

a picture through the window of a gym it its empty
Oh no, you’re not! Not any more!

 

One thing though as a population, we are much better at reading exponential graphs!


Of course, there are many much more serious impacts. People dying, hospitals being overrun, domestic violence increasing due to lockdown restrictions, hoarding, etc. I don’t mean to diminish the importance of being vigilant and careful. I do mean to emphasise that we should be grateful for what we do have and do our best to help flatten that curve.

Stay at home! Wash your hands!