Some of us don’t know what we truly want to do with our lives or we’re simply afraid to say it aloud even to ourselves.
However, if you overcome this step and actually decide what your long term goals are, another struggle awaits you — the ability to find the determination that lasts.
How often have you started working on your goals only to give up along the way? You work on something for several weeks. But once you get distracted, it’s so hard to come back. At this point, you might even convince yourself that the goal that you were working towards wasn’t that important in the first place.
What a sad little lie!
What if I told you that determination isn’t something hard-wired into your brain at birth? What if you could actually train your mind to build a stronger resolve? What if you could ‘learn’ to not give up?
In this article, I’ll talk about some of the ways that I use to build my mental resolve and determination.
1. Cut off distractions ruthlessly
You’ve probably heard this a zillion times already and you are well aware how the numerous distractions stray you off your goals. But, how good are you at fighting them.
You probably know about the Pomodoro technique of working. But do you follow it?
You might also be aware that putting your phone in the airplane mode helps in doing deep work and getting into the flow. But, do you do that?
You know that you shouldn’t say yes to the plans that will make you miss your daily workout. But, do you ensure that you socialise on your own schedule?
See, distractions will make their way into your life all the time.
There will always be things that will seem like they demand your immediate attention. And sadly, your monkey mind will jump to them before you realise. And just like that, you’ll reach the conclusion that you’re not a determined person.
“You will never reach your destination if you stop and throw stones at every dog that barks.”
― Winston S. Churchill
But honestly, you can not count on your will-power alone. You need to create systems that cut-off distractions ruthlessly. You need rules that you don’t break at any cost.
Following these rules are a way to train your mind to stop craving for distractions and from finding the easy way out from doing things that matter.
One of my simplest rule is — I will strictly complete 6 Pomodoros of the day before I open my email or any social media.
It isn’t hard to follow. But every time I follow it, I feel super empowered.
Build on these rules to create everyday habits that get you closer to your goals. And do not forget to track them in your bullet journal habit tracker or a digital habit tracker. I use Notion Habit Tracker to track my habits.
2. Cultivate a routine and create an environment that inspires you
After the pandemic hit, the dance studios in the country closed and I moved back to my parents place. My room became the place where I slept, worked, took my online classes, and watched shows on Netflix.
It’s been 6 months now and honestly, it’s really hard sometimes.
I come back to my room after lunch and I don’t want to do my dance training, I don’t want to work. I just want to lie in my bed and watch some series on Netflix. Motivation is often at an all time low.
But I’m happy to have found a few things that still work for me, thankfully.
It’s the same room. Same place. However, if I want to work, I make it into a workplace. I play some tracks on in the background that help me work better. My table faces the window. So, I ensure that I open the curtains to let in the sunlight. I ensure that my table is super clean. Sometimes, I get myself some ceylon tea or cold brew coffee. And tada, just like that, it’s a cue for the mind to start working.
Similarly, when it’s time to start training, I put on the music that makes me want to start my daily stretches or to just dance freely. I also ordered new dance clothes recently. Getting ready for my training is the best cue for my mind to get into the zone. I also removed the bed from my room to create space for dancing so that space is never a problem. I can turn my room into a mini studio whenever I want.
And when it’s time to sleep, I ensure that I change into my comfortable sleepwear. I bring in the mattress and spread clean sheet on it. I also have a strict rule of getting in the bed by 1 30 AM and I always follow it. No matter how productive or unproductive the day has been, I close everything, brush my teeth, change my clothes and get into the bed. Initially, I would lie wide awake till about 3 AM but recently, it’s started working and I dose off the minute I am in bed. Oh so grateful!
My point is that for any of these things, I couldn’t have relied on my will-power alone. I needed systems, rules, decisions and most importantly the right environment to be able to function the way I do.
If you train your mind and create the right environment (a place for you to do what you need to do), you can find the determination to show up everyday.
I got up at six o’clock and dressed by lamplight. The fires would not yet be on, of course, and the house would be cold. But I would put on a heavy coat, sit on my feet to keep them from freezing, and with fingers so cramped I could scarcely hold the pen, I would write my stunt for the day.
― Lucy Maud Montgomery
3. Nourish your body and mind
You can not keep demanding from your body. Period.
Before I ask my body to train for 3 hours, I ask myself did I give it enough sleep and food? After I’ve worked hard for 6 hours in a day, I ask myself, did I give myself some stress-free play time?
Do not be surprised when you don’t feel like working at all after having worked hard for weeks. It’s your body and mind saying, enough already!
Get into a habit of de-stressing your mind and body everyday. Sleep well. Eat really well. Play for a while. Laugh. Smile. Breathe. Like really, take those long deep breaths.
For a long time, the word ‘determination’ made me imagine a super serious face. It took me a long time to reach a place where I truly understand that staying disciplined and resisting things that get in the way of our long term goals isn’t a punishment. It’s a gift that I give myself everyday.
If I need to train for 3 hours everyday to improve my abilities as a dancer, those 3 hours shouldn’t feel like torture. I need to nourish myself, find the right training, the right mentors, the right techniques that help me grow. Yes, there will be times when I’ll have to push through pain and tiredness. But overall, the process should feel joyful and rewarding.
Self care for creatives and entrepreneurs can look completely different from self-care for those in regular jobs. Balancing productivity with creativity can be a constant struggle. However, it goes without saying that every single person needs an adequate amount of self care to keep going.
Being determined isn’t about stressing your mind and body.
Sometimes the most important thing in a whole day is the rest we take between two deep breaths.
For this reason, I take out time time to release muscle tension every 2 days. I take time for relaxing stretches. I give myself head massages with oils. And I make sure that I eat really well. For me, finding the balance between pushing myself and recuperating is the key to staying determined.
In this article, I shared what works for me. Different things can work better for you. However, if there’s one thing that I would like you to take away from this article it’s this —
Do not harbour limiting beliefs about yourself and about your abilities. Your mind is super powerful and super trainable. Find systems that work for you and stick to them.
That’s how you build a strong mental resolve. That’s how you become determined.
Previously Published on Medium