Hands up anybody who wants to go on a long journey? Ask anyone that question and the response that you’re likely to get is ‘what kind of journey’? That’s a fair point isn’t it? After all, just how many journeys can one person go on?
Some of the types of journeys that we can embark are: spiritual, emotional, psychological and physical. Traditionally we would consider the physical journey as one that we would set out a planned timetable for. Set alarm, get up, get dressed, brush teeth, eat breakfast, pack bags, walk to station, catch train, arrive at destination to meet friends. In this instance, you would need to know what time you were going to get up in order to meet your friends at the agreed time. Very simple and something that we all do on a regular basis.
However, consider for a moment if you will, how you would prepare for a journey that is non- physical? One that centres around every waking moment of every single day. If someone wants to improve their lives it usually involves looking a one or two things that they may not be happy with in their lives. ‘I drink far too much and do not like the fact that I am grumpy all the time. Therefore, I am going to quit alcohol and this will improve my mood’. Sounds like an easy fix if the former issue is dealt with eh? Give up one thing and the other thing will be resolved.
Now think about this…if you give up alcohol for a week, having previously been a heavy drinker, what is likely to happen to your mood in that first 7 days? It simply doesn’t follow that you will be able to have these two disruptors ‘in the bag’ by month end. The key to giving up anything is to understand why it is you are giving something up first and what the benefits will be for doing so. In the first instance it is your ‘why’ that will motivate you to get started. ‘My marriage has been given an ultimation and I must do this’. I can see the headline now: Man Gives Up Drinking And Saves Marriage. Sounds great, he gave up drinking and his marriage is saved. Did he say to his wife ‘’I did it! 24 hours without a drink…I told you I could give up’’!! Read on……
It usually follows that giving up alcohol is a ‘forever’ goal if your drinking is at levels that make you very unhappy and unproductive. If this is the case then it will be a journey that will likely see you experience many different emotions (grumpiness included) and potentially set you back time and time again. Therefore, you may have a big enough ‘why’ to quit booze but this will not sustain you in the long run if you have no upfront plan.
Goal setting can be a very tiring and morale-sapping exercise if we continually strive for perfection. The saying ‘perfection is the enemy of good enough’ rings true and to aim for 10/10 every day of our lives is never wise if you want to build momentum and stay sane in equal measure.
What is essential, however, is how we measure progress when we are trying to become the best version of ourselves. Having 9 consecutive days alcohol free followed by a drinking blip on day 10 will have our chimp brain screaming ‘’FAILURE, CAN’T DO IT, NEVER GOING TO TRY AGAIN’’. IMPORTANT POINT…. ‘failure is ALL part of the process and you MUST accept it as so’
Your ‘human brain’ will always get hijacked by your chimp brain UNLESS you accept the facts of the situation. It will see progress has been made and will see the facts for what they are and will use logical thinking to move forward. In the above example the success rate is 90%. If that was an exam would you really say to yourself ‘’I got a distinction but it’s a disaster and I’m never going to take another exam ever again’
Whatever goals you want to accomplish in life will have to be achieved with a part of our brain that doesn’t have our best interests at heart. Your ‘chimp brain’ can be your best friend in times of need e.g. alerting you to danger when a dog growls at you, being alone at night in unfamiliar surroundings etc.. However, when it comes to goal setting it only wants to ‘win’ at any cost and sees failure in catastrophic terms. This means it doesn’t take ‘failure’ well and will not see the benefits of all of the good progress previously made.
So, yes, we are human, we fail, BUT, we are prone to doing this, especially in a world where we have so many pressures and demands on our time. The thing is we also have choices and in the moments where we are tested to stay strong, it is where we find out just what we’re capable of.
Any goal worth achieving will require you to work with your chimp brain. However, you must also stay in human mode whilst accepting every failure as something to learn and move on from if the goal is to be realised.
I’ll leave you with my favourite daily affirmation.
Today I will continue to be someone who stays focused, doesn’t procrastinate, never stops learning, is always consistent and accepts failure is part of the process.