Role Models and Adversaries

I’ve been down all weekend. Despite some fun outings with friends, an itch in my throat slowly spread until it erupted Sunday into an all-out cold. My plans to do a big weekend social media push for my Kickstarter instead ended up with me napping on the couch.

Now that the school week has begun, it’s time for me to turn my attention back toward willpower in my mindfulness class. Today’s multifaceted prompt begins by asking us to think about our willpower role models. Who inspires us most to meet our goal?

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Bigger Than Me

One of the hidden stress responses Kelly McGonigal talks about in her book¬†The Upside of Stress is the “tend and befriend” response: Stress physiologically compels us to help others and strengthen relationships. We can tap into this stress response, she says, whenever we’re feeling overwhelmed and stressed simply by answering one question:

What is my bigger-than-self goal?

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I Will or I Won’t

In an age of primetime scandals and uncertain politics, there are four things I like to watch: fun TV shows like Steven Universe and the Punisher, fun YouTube videos from creators like Lockstin & Gnoggin or Bird Keeper Toby, satirical news commentary from personalities such as Seth Meyers (if only he were single) and John Oliver, and TED Talks.

TED Talks, as it happens, also form the basis of the mindfulness elective I’m currently teaching. Inspired by the works of Kelly McGonigal and Brene Brown especially (my self-help gurus), this course strives to provide my students with a stress mindset intervention as well as strategies they can employ to conquer stress and shame and boost willpower.

Rather than a large number of quizzes and exams, most of the course is driven by self-reflective journals, and throughout this month, I’m committing myself to reflecting on each of these journals alongside my kids. Practice what you preach, right?

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You Mean What?

The year 2016 is my big Year of Re-creation, and the magnanimity of this statement only grows with the realization that I won’t be recreating myself as a husband, but as a single man again. And that’s okay. Perhaps painful at the outset, but all change can be.

In any case, it’s been a while since my last shot of stress, when I took that first step from Kelly McGonigal’s book The Upside of Stress to finally make stress my friend.

It should be obvious–as a three-year relationship ends and I set out to begin my summer teaching training–that stress is paramount right now. So it’s time to go on.

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A Shot of Stress

As part of my Year of Re-creation, I’m embarking on a journey to reclaim stress and change how I respond to it at a physiological level. This sounds like a daunting task–I mean, seriously, changing physiology?–but it’s actually an application of the age-old adage “mind over matter”: By adopting a new stress mindset, my body will learn to react to stress in a new, more empowering manner.

So if this isn’t alchemy, I don’t know what is.

But magic or not, the first step begins now.

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My Year of Recreation

By which I mean, re-creation.

I realized recently that I’ve allowed myself to stagnate. I felt somehow I had finished developing as a person–I knew I would never stop growing, but I assumed there were things I had figured out, things that were finally fixed.

Like perhaps I’m a paint by numbers, and while there were still a lot of spaces waiting to be filled in, I had the core of the picture complete. I knew who I was.

That is, at least, until I didn’t.

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