My Mind is Made Up
Over the years of contending with RA I have come to realize that there is a need to utilize the skills associated with will power. The thought of practicing will power often conjures up thoughts of mustering the resolve to not do something we would like to do, like have that extra piece of chocolate cake. Or it makes one think of developing the strength to do something we don’t want to, like exercise. So we then see ourselves as weak or bad if we give into the temptation and go against our will. Will power need not be a negative activity. More and more will power is being viewed like a muscle, requiring practice and use. Just as we build strength by increasing the weights we lift, so too can we make using will power a habit that can transfer from one thing to the next.
The concept of using will power is significantly applicable to the way we manage our RA. Whether it is compliance with our medication regimen or setting goals for healthy movement, will power is a tool that we can use to our benefit.
First, start small
Setting goals that are limited and doable gets that will power “muscle” going. Once you have accomplished several small goals, you may be more comfortable taking on a more ambitious project. For instance, you may start with saying you will stretch in bed every day this week before starting your day. You can count down the days on a calendar by the bed so you can “see” the goal being met.
Second, be specific
Second, make any list you develop limited in scope. So, for example, saying “lose weight” is far too broad and reminds me of why so many New Year’s resolutions fail. Making the width and breadth so big makes it unattainable in any real sense. Instead, one suggestion would be to increase your vegetable intake for one week and see how you feel. Even picking some specific ones, like kale (if you like it) might be a great way to start. After the time period has passed, if you are so inclined, add more time or change it up with different diet goal. The key is keeping it a relatively short term goal.
The fact is, research has shown that it takes far more energy to keep negative impulses in check versus doing what is good for you. So, instead of saying “I will not sit all day on the couch watching TV”, say “I will do 15 minutes of Tai Chi today”. Making the goal a positive action gets that will power “muscle” moving!
Once you make a decision, make it a directive
For example, if you find managing your daily activities overwhelming, plan ahead with specific actions in place after reviewing your choices, then stick to it. That way if conflicts/temptations arise, you are prepared. For example, if a friend’s dinner invitation interferes with a workout schedule, ask her for an alternative time or better yet, ask her to join you.
Countering the excuse habit is really challenging for those of us dealing with the chaotic nature of RA. To the point it can become an excuse even when it is not really a good one. Listen to your voice when you give that excuse, as we tend to give the same one every time, valid or not. If you learn to anticipate the excuse you can challenge it, shutting it down if it is not real. For instance if every time you consider exercising you say “I’ll do it later” and you know from experience you will not, you can counter that voice, exercising that will power muscle and changing the behavior for the better.
Any tools we develop to manage our RA are welcome and necessary as we move through our journey. Exercising will power can be an awesome way to navigate!
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