#97 The Most Important Conquest
Some of the toughest battles we fight are with ourselves.
Everyday life is filled with external stress from relationships, jobs, home responsibilities, etc. While it's impossible to control these outside circumstances, we can manage our attitudes.
The quote was taken from the article: How Conquering Yourself Means Better Relationships and a Happier Life. Sure, I’ve danced around the topic - but never tackled it head-on.
Conquering yourself is not a new concept. As early as 400 BC, Plato said, “The first and greatest victory is to conquer yourself; to be conquered by yourself is of all things most shameful and vile,” and Buddha said, ‘It is better to conquer yourself than to win a thousand battles. Then the victory is yours.”
But what does it mean? The best definition I found was “To conquer yourself means to dominate and take control of the difficulties you face.”
The Learn From the Legend website featured essays written by martial arts students, who discuss what the phrase meant to them. These four definitions stood out:
“ . . to overcome any challenge that you face, which requires a lot of ambition, self-determination and courage.”
“ . . . freeing yourself from doubt or fear. To truly conquer yourself, you have to defeat the part of you that tells you that you aren’t good enough.
“The only real thing we can control is how we react to situations as they happen, and to me, this is a big part of conquering yourself.”
“to turn your fears into strengths - to do things that you could never do before.”
Hmm!!! Could taking more control of myself mean conquering three long-time, self-defeating behaviors - reacting rather than responding, striving for perfection rather than improving, and allowing my emotions to take charge? Those behaviors cause me to feel bad about myself and keep me from moving toward my goal of aging well.
Reactions Not Responses
Why do I click on the “X” at the top right corner of my computer screen and close all the windows when I only mean to close one every time? GRRR!!
A Psychology Today article says it’s “because we learned to react that way.” Does that make a reaction is a habit? Maybe!
People’s reactions, both positive and negative, are mostly habit based. . . If you have decided that your typical reactions aren’t benefiting you, choose to do something different.
Reactions are impulsive. A person puts little thought into them or considers the results. I yell at you when you yell at me.
Responses are more thoughtful and reasonable. People who respond put their thoughts ahead of their actions. I ask what was wrong when you yell at me.
We choose how we deal with different situations, and can manage them differently. I want to adopt the habit of taking deep breaths and thinking before I act.
Improvement Rather than Perfection
Why do I strive to be perfect rather than to improve - when no one can be perfect?
My parents expected me to be perfect, and I wanted to please them. Unfortunately, I embraced their expectation for years.
However, it’s an impossible goal. I began painting landscapes about two years ago - and was frustrated that my landscapes didn’t perfectly match those of the YouTube teacher. Yet, when I compare my first paintings with more recent ones, I see a vast improvement.
So, I’m taking a step back and changing my goal to celebrating improvements, accepting that my art will never be perfect, and allowing myself to be satisfied.
Emotions No Longer In Charge
Why do I let my emotions run the show - especially worry - when it’s only a thought about something that might happen?
Managing my feelings is a challenge. I have tried many things to topple their control. When I googled “how to control worry”, I got about 1,110,000,000 results in 0.64 seconds. There is a wealth of available information.
Although there were many helpful tips, I chose to work with those in the article 4 Reasons Your Emotions Feel So Out of Control. The author said:
But the reason emotions feel so out of control often has less to do with your emotions themselves and more to do with how you respond to them.
To feel more in control of your emotions, you need to create a healthier relationship with them.
He’s suggesting that
Emotions aren’t good or bad any more than rain or snow is good or bad.
To feel more in control of my emotions, I need to look at my thoughts.
My emotions will always feel out of control unless I develop confidence in managing them.
Eating like garbage, never exercising, and chronically depriving myself of quality sleep can be harmful.
I do an adequate job of taking care of my body, but I can certainly pay closer attention to my thoughts and better manage them.
More of the answer came in an interesting - but unsurprising - way. As I did research for this story, the names of two books and an article rose to the surface. Ironically, the books were on my Kindle - it’s time to reread them.
Atomic Habits by James Clear. His approach says:
An atomic habit is a regular practice or routine that is not only small and easy to do but is also a source of incredible power.
Bad habits repeat themselves, not because you don’t want to change but because you have the wrong system for changing them.
Changes that initially seem small and unimportant will compound into remarkable results if you stick with them.
The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene` Brown
Each day, we face a barrage of images and messages from society and the media telling us who, what, and how we should be. We are led to believe that if we could only look perfect and lead perfect lives, we'd no longer feel inadequate.
So most of us perform, please, and perfect, while thinking, What if I can't keep all these balls in the air? Why isn't everyone else working harder and living up to my expectations? What will people think if I fail or give up? When can I stop proving myself?”
The article, The Emotions We Won’t face, discuses emotional intelligence. The author says
Emotional intelligence (EI) can be defined as ‘the capacity for recognizing your own feelings and those of others, for motivating yourself and managing emotions well in yourself and in your relationships.’
Conquering myself is a work in progress - but one worthy of pursuing. What do you think?
Can We Still Reinvent Ourselves? My answer was yes - I had to. However, it takes an enormous amount of energy, time, and perseverance.
How Old is Old - This quote was a good reminder “The mind and the body are interwoven. If people believe bad things are going to happen that [belief] can erode their willingness or their ability to engage in healthy behaviors that are going to keep them as healthy as they can be.”
Thanks for reading Aging Well News! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.
What an insightful article. I was thrilled to see that you quoted from my post of October 11th.
It's a great way to refer your readers to another author and I'm grateful...thank you!
Very poignant. I enjoyed reading about how you are stepping into your 'new normal'. Looking forward to hearing about your new adventures. Thank-you so much for the mentions.