298:Thank you for Smoking

Smoking was what I did for 25 years. It was my breakfast, lunch and dinner, my soup de jour. Smoking was my fabulous friend, a guardian of the glass of wine, someone to turn to when times were boring, stressful or happy.

I didn’t want to give up smoking, not really. I smoked through my first pregnancy but when I was a bit older (40) and got pregnant again I thought that I should probably not smoke this time round. This was all pre-yoga so I didn’t understand some fundamental things about change, commitment, will power or suffering. I just stopped the day I found out I was pregnant and suffered pretty much for the next 9 months.

Looking back though I must have had a skerrick of will power to just stop like that. Will power, the ‘willingness to do’ is as much about constraint as it is compassion.

Here is what the brain boxes have come up with: will-power

  • Will power is a muscle that can be exercised. Through exercising will power your muscle gets stronger, through not exercising will power your muscle gets weaker
  • When you break your resolve, berating yourself, blame and self judgement have the opposite effect on maintaining  will power than, self compassion and kindness.
  • Will power is a greater predictor of success in life than IQ. People who practice will power have better success in their jobs, have better relationships and healthier lives.
  • Will power has a bank balance. You need to put something back into your life ( yoga, exercise, breathing, positive thoughts) if you want to keep drawing down the balance of will power. You can’t just keep being strong for everything. You need to know when to give yourself a break.

Will power it seems is a connection to how you really feel. If you are connected deeply to your body you will know when to exercise will power and when to soften.

Practice for Today: Changing habits is a combination of self-compassion, surrender and will. If you want to change some aspect of your behaviour remember these three principles. Know when to be kind, when to be strong and when to let things be as they are. Powerful  change happens slowly in small steps.

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