Ever heard of self-care described as self-parenting?
It’s kind of true, isn’t it?
I don’t currently have children, but I have a husband and two cats. [Sometimes, they can feel like children.] And I work with under-19s in my dayjob, so I’m not entirely oblivious.
And with my pets, I set boundaries and hold expectations. I am their main carer; thus, it is my duty to ensure their basic needs are met.
For cats, this is regular playtime, clean accessible water, food 2-3 times a day, warm spots for them to snuggle up, boxes to play in, a cat-tree to survey their domain and cuddles when they feel like it.
I don’t over-feed my cats treats. They visit the vet every year. They get shut in the house overnight so they are safe from predators. I clean their litter trays no matter how exhausted I am.
(Anyone else thinking “If only I could clean my en-suite bathroom with such dedication, no matter how I felt that week?” Because I am.)
How would my life be of I only ate fresh food, if I meditated instead of watched TV, if I genuinely parented myself in a way that put my long-term goals ahead of immediate gratification?
Running Rooted Reinvention, I help curious learners, creative truth-tellers and practical dreamers to really know themselves, to harness their inner fire and fulfil the burning sense-of-purpose pulling at them without having to start their life all over again. My role is that of detective for deep roots, of mirror for those stuck in the mud and of green-fingered guide to help new leaves grow.
In my view, caring for ourselves, especially those ‘inner needs’ is critical to a happy, healthy and thriving life.
Often when exploring what is stopping someone changing their life, living their dream or finishing that creative project, I hear the same kind of answers…
– “I need to get out of my own way.”
– “I’m the obstacle.”
– “I just can’t seem to keep to my plans.”
– “I don’t have the discipline.”
– “I can’t make the changes stick. I lose momentum.”
– “I don’t understand why I don’t make progress: there’s nothing in my way.”
What they don’t realise, is that there is a balance to be struck between the now and the future potential, and that each action today can influence that.
We Are All Creative
As humans, we are capable of making change. We are intuitively creative, and our brains are meant to problem-solve.
But there’s a balance. And sometimes the future gains don’t feel strong enough to outweigh the present option.
Either we are strongly motivated for the “now” reward (like a bar of chocolate, “who cares about the diet?”). Or the current choice seems like a tiny step which won’t make any real difference (“what harm can a small chocolate bar do?”).
And we feel like we failed to stick to a healthier choice because of discipline, or self-control.
Forget Discipline, Focus on Priorities
I’m not great at self-discipline. Despite two years of karate training as a child, it’s not something I would say is a strength of mine.
However, I’ve realised that prioritising my time and energy between a sensible (realistic) number of projects mixed with a strong motivation for the choice you’ve made is usually enough. No discipline required.
This is why motivation, momentum and mental energy are So Important. Without the deep why, the solid foundation to hold us to our decisions, is often too hard.
When you make a decision, really focus on your why. On as many why’s add you can summon to give yourself as much fuel for that inner fire as possible.
And notice how things shift as you move your priorities around. For example, when I prioritised journaling and therapy, things flowed in a different way (in both my waking life and inside the chatter of my headspace). When I really focus on writing (in November I complete a writing challenge to complete a novel draft), my entire energy changes. Even my appetite and energy-levels will shift as my priorities change.
So when you pick a project, pause to notice how your energy and mental space change. That information is crucial in terms of steering by the direction of your inner compass.
So where the pressure of ‘self-discipline’ was, I’d suggest focusing on your sense of motivation and energy.
Not Sure Where to Start?
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This post was originally published on the Badassery Magazine Blog. It’s been refreshed and re-shared here for your enjoyment following the site’s closure.