This is PART 3 of our ‘The 10 Most Valuable Lessons’ series.
My goal was to create a list of the best values and skills I can teach my child (and all others) to prepare them for a world that is changing more rapidly than ever before.
These are lessons built on principles. Tactics may change and renew, but principles last forever. In order to make it as valuable as possible each lesson includes actionable steps or resources.
- Willpower = True Power
Willpower is truly an incredible thing. We cannot borrow it from others. Nor can it be taken from them. The beauty of willpower is that when all else fails us, it is what remains. More often than not, it is all that is needed. Willpower keeps us moving forward when everything else seems to want to hold us back.
What exactly is will? Will is what we WILL keep doing. It is the thing that WILL keep us going. It is also what WILL not allow us to prioritize something over what is most important. It prevents us from procrastinating or failing to try. It is a power that is cultivated over time. It develops with training and practice. Think of it as a muscle. It grows when it is tested until you become stronger than you ever imagined. It is true power.
The easiest way to describe willpower to a child is a person’s ability to choose and do what they NEED to do over what they WANT to do. A perfect example is studying or cleaning a room rather than watching YouTube or daydreaming. The latter options are easier. They are probably more fun in the short term. But they are ultimately not as useful or worthwhile. That stuff will still need to get done. That wouldn’t have been the case if they were not put on the back burner.
Willpower makes things easier over time. It is the result of standing in place when faced with resistance and continuing to move forward in spite of it. It gives us TRUE power because it puts the power entirely in our hands. This keeps it safe from any and all outside influence. Sheer willpower alone can cover up for a lack of experience or favoritism. It is what helps us seek and go through the experiences we need to get better. It keeps us on our path when distraction and ‘easier things’ try to coax us. Developing willpower and exercising it is a distinct advantage over the competition. It is not a switch to be flipped and it cannot be faked. It is earned and when used allows one to do anything they set their mind to. The younger you start building it, the stronger the foundation will be.
It is important to note that willpower does not have to be the result of a tough life. It is not your fault that you were born into comfort. It is certainly not your child’s fault, nor is it a bad thing. However, it is your fault if you let those facts make you soft and weak willed. Those are not enviable traits under any circumstances. The attitudes and habits that spring from those qualities are harmful and useless. Why not help your child avoid them and instead cultivate willpower? It is an inner strength that will impact anything and everything they try and do moving forward. Since it comes from within it is at the start of everything. Physical strength does not come about without the will to do the reps and breakthrough plateaus. Mental strength works the same way. Willpower makes both as real as you or your child wish them to be.
ACTION STEP – Cold Water in the Shower
NOTE: We are not telling you to suddenly refuse warm water baths for yourself and your child. This is not Sparta. This is meant to be a safe and powerful exercise for anyone who tries it. Yes – it will be uncomfortable for the short duration it lasts, but over time it has benefits well beyond it’s simple application.
If you have never heard of Wim Hof, he is a seemingly normal man who has achieved feats that border on the unbelievable. I learned about him from Tim Ferriss’ brilliant podcast – The Tim Ferriss Show. Tim, his books and his podcast are truly amazing. Each of Wim’s feats are unique in that they have been documented and tested by independent medical professionals. Their involvement is by his own invitation. He believes in what he does because it is real. It is backed by science and the results speak for themselves.
So what exactly does Wim do? He has done everything from spend time scaling the Himalayas in his underwear to running a marathon in the Namib desert. Wim has also proven the ability to activate his own immune system to fight injected viruses in medical lab settings under doctor supervision. All of this requires tremendous willpower.
As amazing as that all is, it is not even the best part. Wim has been able to help hundreds of other people replicate his results over and over again through his courses and teaching. His Wim Hof Method course is on my 2017 To Do list.
A major part of this course is consistent and progressive exposure to cold. This exercise builds up tolerance and most importantly, willpower. There is unlimited power in the ability to turn the unpleasant into something pleasant. Here is what I recommend doing in order to build up willpower:
Start short and relatively warm. In the middle of your standard shower, turn the water just past lukewarm and stand in it for 5 to 10 seconds. Once achieved, adjust your water temperature back to normal levels and proceed to soap up. Use those time parameters and gradually decrease the water temperature. Eventually you should be using water that is completely cold for 10 seconds. Once this becomes routine increase to 15 seconds, then 20 and so on. Remember to switch back to warm water and get comfortable again, particularly where winters are a reality. The ability to do this voluntarily will ramp up your discipline and willpower levels.
For more details from the man himself, take a look at Wim’s FREE video offerings on his personal website. Watch it with your child if you can and see what they make of it.
- As Your Parent I Will Shape Your Destiny More Than You Can Imagine
It is vital that my child, my spouse and I all understand the profound impact I will have on my child’s life. She will carry the lessons and examples I have set for her into her life moving forward. I will influence in varying degrees the friends she chooses (and doesn’t choose), the spouse she chooses as well as the career she chooses. If you don’t believe you will have that type of impact, take some time and reflect on your own life choices. Look at your own life, the paths you have taken within it and how your parents (or lack thereof) influenced them.
Many life choices are influenced by the love you crave as a child. It has influenced us as parents in terms of what we want to be and not be in that role. Just as we (parents) teach children to spell or ride a bike we teach them how to respond, react and behave. We drive their habits. Neither of us can help it – this subconscious learning helped our ancestors survive. Eat this berry but not this one. Check.
Tony Robbins – like him or not – possesses a brilliant understanding of the human psyche. Some of the best in the world lean on him for advice and coaching. A question he often asks is ‘whose love did you crave as a child; your mother’s or your father’s?”
The answer can lead to profound self realization.
Does your child feel loved? That will impact how they feel about themselves and the relationships they seek.
What about the example you set in terms of healthy emotional expression. Anger is a perfect example. Is the way you show your anger appropriate? Are you able to domesticate potentially negative emotions or do they control you. You are giving your child permission to do the same. If we treat others poorly, what does it permit our children to do? If we demean them how confident will they be in their life?
A parent who encourages their child and builds confidence in them reap the rewards of raising confident and balanced adults.
Of course the good you do also has an impact. Your example and actions can teach children about empathy, hard work, kindness and charity. It is also the way that respect (of self and others) are ingrained. Your questions can totally model the way they think and respond to the world around them. You can raise them to play chess in the game of life while others are playing checkers.
ACTION STEP – Love is an Action Word
Telling your child you love them and not supporting that with your actions is a terrible strategy. Kids do what they see, not what they hear. Make love a verb. Support it with actions. Take some time today to show your child and others around you that you love them. Be fully engaged with them in conversation. Ask them about their interests and leave judgement at the door. Be there for them. It is the greatest gift you can give them and it is completely free.
BONUS – You Have SO MUCH to be Grateful For
Fun fact – there has never been a safer or more prosperous time to be alive in all of human history. Of course, there are plenty of loud voices and Facebook stories that would have us believe otherwise. That clickbait and rating driven dribble should be taken with a grain of salt. There is an overwhelming amount of data to prove how lucky (and safe) we truly are. Don’t believe me? Excellent! Click here and here to see for yourself. I’m proud of you. You should always question what you read. We have the freedom and ability to do so.
Here are some stats to chew on. War related deaths have decreased 97% since 1947. The average worker clocks nearly 50% fewer hours than they did in 1870. Over that same time span the percentage of the world population that is living in extreme poverty has dropped from 75% to less than 21%. That means we can afford more while working less. We are living in an age of abundance. By all accounts and purposes we are the luckiest people to have ever lived.
Want more good news? Things are getting better. Medical advances over the last decade have been truly remarkable. As medical technology and knowledge push forward we are closer to truly personalized healthcare than ever before. Our understanding of genetics and disease prevention allows startups like 23andme to provide you with affordable genetic testing. We can now understand our risk factors and prevent disease long before they become inevitable. We are entering uncharted waters. People are living longer and in better health. This knowledge is power. Beyond this technological advances such as 3D printed organs and cancer cell manipulation may allow humans to ‘cheat death’ in ways we never could have imagined.
What about career choices and work? People today truly possess the the ability to choose themselves. You no longer have to win lotteries to be successful. What lotteries? Geographic for one. Once upon a time (not long ago) being born in certain parts of the world basically guaranteed you would be unable to pursue certain callings or careers. The local education and infrastructure would not have allowed it. Who knows if the next Einstein, Tesla or Edison died poor, underfed and illiterate in a third world country somewhere 30 years ago? Thanks to international commerce and the promulgation of the internet, the world has never been a smaller place. You can become so good that no one can ignore you regardless of your class, gender or location. You can create a world changing product. You can get discovered on YouTube. You can start process payments and start your own online business. Your name could be Martha or Mohammad. It matters less and less with each passing day.
There is of course another side to all this. We still live in a world that has poverty and grief. If you are living in a developed country (like my child) you are the luckiest of all. In fact, if you have a roof over your head, clothes on your back and food in your system you are better off than the majority of the world’s population. We take so much for granted. Clean drinking water. Safe streets. Air conditioning and central heating. Teachers and parents to teach us to read. Be grateful and be happy. Life is better that way.
BONUS – Health is a four legged stool – emotional, physical, spiritual and mental. Keep balance
Health is wealth. Without it even the richest person has nothing. It must be understood that health is holistic. Each aspect of your health – emotional, physical, spiritual and mental feed off and support one another. To truly be a complete and healthy person you must treat each aspect as a vital cog. Compromising one weakens the others. Think of it as the legs of a stool on which you sit at the table of life.
Physical health at its core is about vitality, energy, strength and mobility. It is important to eat right, sleep well and stay hydrated in order to maximize energy and potential. Strength and mobility are more interrelated than people give them credit for. There are bodybuilders who cannot touch their toes and distance runners who cannot lift items over their head. That’s bad news. Physical training should be about function. Try to do something physical every single day. Even if it is for 10 minutes. Get into the practice early in life and keep it going. Your future self will thank you. Remember our chat about habits? Exercise is what is known as a ‘keystone’ habit. Adopting it almost magically helps you build other positive habits and eliminate bad ones. It’s an amplifier.
Another practice that should be developed for physical health is eating right. That includes eating the right things in the right amounts and the right times. The right fuel will help a car run more optimally than sludge will. What type of performance do you want?
Taking care of the physical has tremendous mental and emotional benefits. It is a proven way to relieve stress, build confidence and even produce new brain cells (neurogenesis). We were designed to move. Our bodies respond well to it. Build your body and mind.
Your mental health can be strengthened with exercises as well. Learn a new skill. It will help you develop under utilized parts of your brain as well as your body. You can improve coordination, balance and motor functions based on the skill you learn. It can be really fun too. Take a little time to play games and try brain teasers. Your brain deserves the workload and pleasure.
In terms of emotional health, do things that make you happy and spend time with people that make you happy. Get rid of all the junk in your life. Purge bad relationships. Make a conscious effort to stop complaining. All of those influences will get you in the wrong head space (mental). Life is too short to spend with miserable or negative people. As harsh as that sounds elimination will do way more for your emotional health than addition will. Spend time everyday engaging with people you love or admire.
Another incredible way to improve mental and emotional health is to volunteer. Try dedicating your time and effort to help others. The less thinking and acting you do in a self-interested manner, the happier and calmer you will be.
Other negative emotions to be weary of are anger, jealousy and hatred. More often than not these are simply manifestations of fear. If you don’t believe that statement, you need to get real with yourself. What are you afraid of in those moments? Being exposed? That someone is better than you? Does any of it really matter? Stop being scared so that you can be a better person to yourself and others.
Last but not least, take the time each day to work on your spiritual health. Before you roll your eyes and picture me lighting an incense, calm down. I know the word spiritual is a red flag for many. I am not implying or recommending anything god related or otherworldly. You and I all have the rights to our opinions and beliefs. I would much rather you be a good person than a religious one.
Spirit comes from the Latin word spiritus which means breath. There is no life without breath. In my opinion this vital piece of the puzzle comes down to two things. The first is that we should create something every single day. It is a form of natural expression and is an incredible endowment. Doodle or write a funny poem. Start a vlog or keep a journal. No one ever has to see it. Just create something new every single day. This alone can improve life immensely.
The other part of spirituality comes back to breathing. The act of breathing is truly amazing in that it can be done completely unconsciously or completely consciously. Spend time each day focusing on or noticing your breathing. This is a fundamental pillar of meditation or a meditative practice. Again, I am not talking hemp deodorant or monasteries. Nearly 80% of the world’s top performers in all fields do it. It is magical and it gets results. There is a ton of science that backs this up. Do something that makes you conscious of your breathing every day. Exercise once again is great for this. So is simply closing your eyes and taking five deep breaths.
I hope you have enjoyed these 10 lessons. More importantly, I hope it has made you more aware of the example that you set for yourself and others. Getting all of the above right can improve all aspects of your life as well as the lives of those that you love. Share them with the people you care about.