Triumph of the Will

In my box of 33prm albums is a Devo album entitled 'Triumph of the  
Will', it is a cool album, revolutionary and provocative in its day  
and still a little so today but to a very small audience.  In the  
heady days of the early eighties Devo were a great oddity of a band 
in a world full of odd bands. They wrote great lyrics with quirky 
beats man! My mates and I were mad for them. Triumph of the Will was 
one of my favourites, take a listen:

My hobby horse today is willpower, I am reading two books whilst 
here in Austria, one factual one fiction. The first 'The Power of 
Habit' by Charles Duhigg I am ploughing through, I read for a good 
two hours this afternoon whilst baking sat by the beautiful outdoor 
pool in Oberau, I had to keep throwing myself into the stainless 
steel lined mountain stream filled pool to cool down, somebody's got 
to do it. The second is 'The Redbreast' by Jo Nesbo, oddly set 
partly in Austria but moving between 1999 Norway and Stalingrad in 
1944 as the plot develops. I Duhigg?s book today I read about the 
role of willpower in forming habits and its role in changing habits. 
Without being big headed it is not rocket science that those seeking 
to change their habits will be more successful of change and 
sustaining change depending on their levels of will power.

Duhigg entertainingly presents numerous research projects and 
studies to build a case and a convincing case it is too underpinned 
by a wealth of excellent examples and evidence, I like it. However, 
what he describes as will power smacks very much of what we called 
'deferred gratification' when I studied and taught sociology, this 
is the ability to put off the reward until later, for example if I 
say you can only have cake after homework is done then my kids must 
defer the eating of the cake until this is achieved, willpower, 
about the same thing.

Throughout his book Duhigg throws up many examples of people who  
have made successes of their lives by changing habits, changing 
lives even and sustaining them. Not surprisingly the successful ones 
have identified rewards they want, analysed what they do now, what 
they need to do to get the rewards, then worked out a plan to achieve 
that and followed that plan with clear focus and drive to achieve.  
I am reading this after a really interesting period in my life, an 
ever changing period that keeps throwing up challenges. Several 
years ago I did a few of these psychometric tests to look at our 
personalities whilst on a course. They were very revealing, one 
showed I was quiet happy wandering off the main path and finding my 
way in the swampy ground, the second I was discussing with Rory 
Miller, he reminded me it was the Myers Briggs test and guessed 
where I came on the spectrum, and both were spookily accurate, I 
came out as a 'Commandant', if you want more read the book. You see 
I love taking calculated risks, I love exploring new ideas and 
concepts in all the different parts of my life, I love to try the 
new whilst retaining the best of the old and this is reflected in my 
approach to martial arts.

We all have a wobble occasionally and mine came towards the end of  
2011, three years into training for my 4th Dan and really engaging  
with self defence and combative at the same time I started to blur 
the definitions. I felt that I was not that sure anymore if I wanted 
or needed to continue with my Ju Jitsu, I felt a little jaded, a 
little tired and losing a bit of the drive, losing some of that 
willpower that drives us forward. I decided to keep going for a few 
months to see how it went. I plodded on into early spring but at 
Christmas I decided to radically alter my underpinning training 
regime, I started two weeks before Christmas actually, and by Boxing 
Day training started to ramp up and diet alter, I was doing what 
Duhigg recommends in his book five months before reading it,
(Twilight Zone moment anyone?). Since then I have toned up muscle, 
lost some fat, increased my stamina and restored my drive to succeed.

Duhigg takes pains to pint out that whilst individuals may seek to  
change only one aspect of their life, say to lose weight, achieving,  
or trying to achieve that one change triggers many others. I know 
this as fact from my last six months experience. Reading Duhigg has  
reaffirmed my desire to achieve certain things. When I get home I am  
going to map out my normal patterns of activity, I will then analyse  
how I can increase the good things I do and squeeze out the waste, 
by doing this I seek to become much more efficient, much more 
productive. To provide my incentive I am going to identify exactly 
what it is I am working towards with milestones to be reached along 
the way. My 4th Dan is one such milestone, writing my first book 
another. The air in Austria is incredibly fresh, this week has 
allowed for the most interesting self reflection and pulling 
together steadily coalescing thought. Holidays are for recharging 
batteries, I will return fully charged and bristling with static too.

Oh, as for the novel, 'The Redbreast', well I have not finished it
yet but, Uriah, the former Norwegian volunteer for the Waffen SS, 
survivor of Stalingrad and a character driven for revenge despite 
the intervening years, seems to be fuelled by incredible levels of  
willpower to fulfil his final self imposed mission before his cancer  
consumes him. So I am off now to catch up with the story, its my 
treat at the end of a fantastic day, my mini reward for  achieving 
all I set out to do today, using my willpower. Night, Night X.

The Redbreast

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