There is a word I remember hearing when I was a boy. The word was long and strange but nevertheless, the word is real. Are you ready for it?
Back as a kid, The Old Man used to tell me that I lacked a sense of sticktoitiveness and I remember thinking, “Is that even a word?” And it is.
Stick-to-it-iveness means determination and to be persistent even in the presence of difficulty. My Father would tell me that I needed to toughen up. I had to thicken my skin. He told me that I needed more sticktoitiveness or otherwise, I’d become something soft and habitual.
His point was that adversity is part of life. There are going to be times when we have to endure and “Take it on the chin.” The Old Man wanted to toughen me up because life is filled with disappointments. Not everyone is a friend and not all plans work out.
You can knock on doors as a salesperson but the fact remains, the word “No” is something that’s often said. Not everything works according to plan. People lose interest.
There are times when we celebrate something we’ve done or created and then comes the words from the crowd, which can be disheartening. So?
What do you do?
The Old Man told me that quitting is a habit. He said people can become comfortable with quitting. “You need more sticktoitiveness. Otherwise, you’ll quit when things get tough.”
There was a different angle, which came from my Mother. Of course, Mom was the gentle one. She would say the old sayings like, “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?”
The answer was, “Practice, practice, practice.”
Everything takes practice. Even the great names like Shakespeare or Beethoven practiced. Mozart practiced. So did the great poets. So did the great actors. And so did the musicians from my time. Hendrix practiced. Clapton did too. Athletes practiced. Even the greatest names in basketball like Jordan or Kareem, or players who made basketball what it is today, like Bill Russell.
Bill Russell has 11 championship rings. He practiced too.
Or what about names like Bill Gates. Did he practice? Did he face difficult times? Or was he born one of the richest men in the world? For the moment, let’s put opinions to the side.
Let’s put advantages to the side and privileges as well.
I say this because one could literally have all the advantages and privileges at their command but without the gumption, without the sticktoitiveness, and without the ability to overcome or endure – no advantage or privilege is ever enough to create a true success.
I never thought about mindfulness. I never thought much about the ability to improve my mental health. Then again, at the worst stages of my mental fitness, I suppose the idea of me feeling better was impossible.
I suppose in the early stages of my weight loss I doubted myself. I doubted my journey. I doubted my ability to overcome the cravings, which I never realized how this was a design to solve an internal need.
I never thought much about the incremental gains and improvements that come with physical exercise. I never thought much about the practice it takes to overcome thinking patterns or the process that comes with changing our behavioral patterns. This all takes practice.
I never thought that feeling better was a practice; nor did I believe that I could be better if I practiced. But here enters the challenge.
I know all about instant gratification. I’m sure everyone relates to the idea of instant gratification.
We want what we want and we want it NOW! Speaking of, I can relate to the instant comfort of food like a huge tray filled with fries and all the greasy little goodies that make my belly jiggle. I can do fast food with the best of them! I promise you.
I can say the early momentum of change can be slow. I can say that by experience, I can see where the trips and falls come from. I can see where the early stages of growth are enough to have us shake our heads. Or in my case, I can see how little discouragements caused me to leave the gym and go for a huge burrito.
It’s enough to cause doubt that change is possible. The trips and the falls and the moments of worry that tell us failure is inevitable, rejection is on the way and in moments like this; shame-based thinking is enough to make people quit on themselves (or in my case, eat a few slices of buffalo chicken pizza, drooling with blue cheese dressing. But hey, don’t judge me!)
This is a state of mind, which if we give way; our state of mind is one that leads us to overlook our traits. Our state of mind can become blind to our best attributes, almost minimizing them to become meaningless or worthless.
I remember seeing a picture of myself. I was overweight. The photo itself was not taken from a great angle. However, my facial expression (which I can see in my mind’s eye as I write to you) was captured in the photo and less than accurate of the way I look. It was a bad picture to say the least.
Either way, whether the picture was accurate or flattering, I remember seeing this photo and noticing an idea of contempt and disgust. First, I didn’t even recognize myself. I can recall thinking, “Who the hell is that?” Then I remember the moment of disgust when I realized the picture was me.
First and foremost, I think it is important to note that the way we see ourselves is relative. The terms of weight or being overweight are relative. More importantly, how we see ourselves is how we see ourselves; and moreover, it doesn’t matter what kind of advantages we have or the privileges that come our way; we are who we believe we are. Even if we mask this with “The great, I am,” insecurity always bleeds through.
By the way, someone told me to “fake it until you make it.”
I decided that I don’t want to fake anything anymore. Anything that I want and earn; I want this to be real and meaningful, I’m not faking anything. I am practicing my approach, my success and ultimately, I am practicing my best possible self.
I always wondered if there was a secret to happiness. . .
And I don’t think what I learned is really a secret. Instead, what I learned is simple and obvious. At the same time, what I learned is something that we constantly overlook.
Happiness is a mindset. Happiness is something that takes practice. This is when we allow our traits to overcome our state of mind, to improve, to continue, to endure, to be unyielding. This takes practice or better yet, this is more like emotional bodybuilding.
Nothing in this world should ever become so strong that we forget our inherent beauty. Nothing should ever be so powerful that it drags us away from our best version of self. But this is life. Oftentimes, the word “Should” is a word that we shouldn’t use.
I should be happy.
I should be grateful.
I should be better.
I should be hitting my goals (but yet, I’m not).
The word “Should” influences pressure. This can lead towards rejective thinking.
I shouldn’t be losing to this.
I shouldn’t be unhappy.
Or, in my case:
I really shouldn’t be eating this way, but I am!
In my case with weight loss, I was eating more than I should and doing things that degraded my best efforts. So, if this is the case, how is success even possible?
The state of mind can bend and change. Our state of mind can improve or worsen. Our state of mind can trigger emotional downfalls or, this is something that can literally and consecutively lead us to our best achievements.
Rather than focus on our state of mind; what would happen if we looked at our traits and our benefits? Rather than look at others who found success and think about what we don’t have, what would happen if we looked within to find our best personal resources?
What if we practiced?
When I was a kid, The Old Man used to make me practice my times-tables. He made me practice with flashcards. He told me this was necessary. He said that I would need this in life.
And when he’d come home from a long day at work, The Old Man would ask me, “Did you practice your times-tables?”
There was a brief stint when I considered playing trumpet in the school band. The problem is the band teacher was less-than kind and used humiliation tactics. So, I quit.
Prior to this, I was asked, “Did you practice?”
The word alone is somewhat onerous. Practice . . .
Depending upon the point of view, this can be burdensome and troublesome or have the visceral feel of a chore. And who likes chores?
Also, I often use stories from my early youth. But why?
The answer is I start where the breeding grounds of my cognitive lessons took root and began to grow.
No one ever asks, “Hey, did you practice feeling better today?”
“Did you practice your mental fitness today?”
“Did you practice mindfulness today?”
Going back to Mom’s rule of , “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?”
I would like to make a few changes.
How do we get to mindfulness?
Practice, practice, practice.
How do we learn to love ourselves and find peace?
Practice, practice, practice.
How do you live a better life?
Practice, practice, practice.
How do we stop quitting on ourselves?
PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE!
Last but certainly not least, I can remember my first series of online journals. There were times when I wanted to quit. There were times when I saw this as pointless. There were times when the internal voice was screaming to go back to old, default ways of thinking.
I wanted to go back to the fleeting rewards of instant gratification. To be clear, I wanted to give up. I must have quit in my head at least ten times during the day.
And here’s where the practice came in….
I used to type very poorly. I gave into the opinions of critics. I swore none of this would ever take off. Yet, here I am now. Still writing. Still nurturing my traits which have caused me to improve my mindset. I type a little better now. I write a little better too.
Practicing no longer seems onerous to me. I am not at my goal, but I am also not where I was.
I feel better now.
My struggles with anxiety improved. My thought patterns improved and of course, my anxiety is far from where it used to be.
And put simply, how did I get here?
The answer is practice.
I never realized how I practiced my old narratives.
But I don’t practice them anymore . . .
Oh, and for the record; I’m still horrible with my times-tables. I realized that like the band teacher, forced and shame based or humiliation based teachings never worked well for me.
But encourage me or empower me and, trust me, I’m in.