Updated: Nov 9, 2020
As stated in part one, I believe intentions are the cornerstones of easy sobriety. Living without intention is choosing to live a stagnant and unproductive life. I talked with my family about this recently because, at times, I feel overwhelmed with my new life of intention. Before I quit drinking, I simply existed free from expectation and responsibility. I didn't really know any different way of living. Now that I have set forth on my path of living alcohol-free and with intention, I can no longer go back. I can no longer settle. I can no longer be the person who gets by with little regard for growth and progress. If I am honest, it is a bit of a burden. The burden being my unwillingness to waiver from my goals. My unrelenting drive to learn more about myself and my path. The desire to consistently live each day well, with gratitude, and with an attitude of success. Is it a heavy burden? Yes, but is it worth it? Definitely.
The second intention in this three-part series of core belief 5 is physical intention. The five years prior to my choosing to live alcohol-free is tough to look back on now. It is tough because I know I gave up five years of ensuring my longevity. I gave up five years of feeling great. I gave up five years of preparing myself for the life I deserve to live. How did I give all that up? I gave it all up by settling into a life of drinking and stagnation. I recently heard a quote from the movie Whiplash and I have not been able to stop thinking about it and its meaning. The quote, "There are no two words in the English language more harmful than 'good job.'" The moment I heard the actor make this statement, my heart sank a little. Even typing it just now caused my chest to tighten. Why would such a simple statement affect me in such a dramatic way? It wasn't so much the statement that affected me so greatly but how the statement resonated with me and my life. I have lived a life of "good job" and I have perpetuated it too.
2 Physical Intentions
Before I clarify how the two most harmful words in the English language affect me further, I want to talk a little more about what I mean by physical intention. When I think of the word physical, a couple of things come to mind. The physical body is one of them. Action is the other. Since actions are mostly done through the physical body, it makes sense they are correlated when thinking about physical intention. I believe these two areas of intention are incredibly important if we desire an easier path through sobriety, and I believe they are somewhat mutually exclusive. I say this because, while they can exist simultaneously, one often relies on the other for the desired outcome. If you want to run a marathon, you have to prepare the physical body to do so before it can carry out the action. At the same time, while you are preparing the body to do the action, it is acting in accordance with the desired goal. Nevertheless, on some level, you must do one before the other can be truly effective.
In sobriety, setting intentions for my physical body was equally as important as my intention not to drink. One of the things I found, looking back at my drinking days, was how little I was willing to do while drinking. It took away all desire and motivation. I didn't really care about much outside of drinking. This caused my physical body to deteriorate and my drive to disappear. The first intention I set for my physical body was to begin working out every day, or most days. I had tried to create an exercise regimen for years, but I could never make it stick. With the removal of alcohol, my willingness to work out, and my drive to push myself grew every day. Working out became part of my lifestyle and I look forward to it, even when I have one of those down days. I now know exercise will make a down day feel better. It makes sense. Working out releases endorphins and those endorphins trigger a positive feeling in the body. A positive feeling body is more willing to act and therefore more willing to be productive.
Once our body is physically prepared, we are more apt and willing to act in accordance with our goals. While I know this teeters on the emotional side of intention too, I believe there is a difference. What I found while incorporating physical exercise back into my life is how my confidence grew exponentially with my physical health. Now, I know confidence is an emotional state, but for me, it could not exist without the physical strength and posture that came with feeling physically stronger and healthier. Confidence in my physical body has encouraged me to take on more and more each day. I am no longer willing to settle for getting some things done every day. I want to get everything done every day, hence my feeling overwhelmed at times. You may say it is too much, that I need to give myself a break, or I will burn myself out. You may say that, but I will respond with this: Nobody who has ever accomplished their dreams will say they did so by acting half-assed. I am still learning how to act in the manner to which I believe I deserve, but I am still learning and therefore I will continue to grow both physically and in my physical actions.
With all that said, let's get back to this idea of how the two most harmful words in the English language are "good job." First of all, what does the phrase, good job, mean? When we tell someone, or ourselves, good job what we are saying is they or we did something well. Doing something well means doing something in a satisfactory manner. Satisfactory is a "C" grade or a 2.0 on a grading scale. It means we are average. If ever there was a definition of settling, it is right there, with those two harmful words, good job. Unfortunately, I am a victim of this phraseology in my own life as well in the life of my son. I believe many of us are because we have heard it our entire life. Our parents said it. Our coaches said it. Our partners say it. Our bosses say it. It is a colloquial phrase handed out like party favors every single day. Does it further our desire to strive for more? Does it push us past our perception of limitation? Does it do anything other than suggest we are good enough and we can settle? No. The phrase really is a harmful phrase to any of us desiring to be better, to do more, or to be the best version of ourselves.
Setting physical intentions encourages and virtually ensures we push ourselves toward our goals. As we get better at it, we learn how to push ourselves past our limitations and create bigger and more diverse goals. We gain confidence and begin to see ourselves as people who can do anything we want. We forget about the person who constantly limited themselves to settling, or even worse, the person who believed quitting was an option. Does setting intentions ensure we will not fail, drop a ball, or have bad days? Of course not, but it does ensure we will remain aware of our progression. We will recognize the bad days as different from the norm. We learn when it is okay to take a break, and when it is time to step up our level of work. We learn what it takes to push ourselves further.
In the beginning, it may be helpful to surround yourself with a few people who have similar goals. For most of us, one of the reasons we found ourselves in a place of settling is our inability to set intentions in the first place. We are not used to pushing ourselves out of our comfort zone. Having a few people to help and work with adds another layer of accountability. If you do not have people with whom you can connect in-person, reach out to your sober groups or other online communities to find a supportive group of people there. I have been amazed at the amount of support I have found outside my normal group of in-person friends. The important thing is to find a few people who can help keep you on track. Once you succeed a few times with setting intentions and achieving goals, your confidence will grow, and it will become easier and easier every day. The end goal is to begin living your life naturally with physical intentions as a part of your daily routine.
Be kind to yourself
Remember, for most of us, this is new and something we are not good at doing. Be realistic and set reasonable intentions and goals. Do not set out to begin working out three hours a day, this is an unrealistic goal. You know yourself, so ask yourself what you are willing and capable of doing outside your normal daily activity. It can be as simple as taking a walk every day. It doesn't matter the level of activity. What matters is the change in your mindset toward your physical being and activity. Be kind to yourself too. You may miss a day or two, in the beginning, and that is okay. Just acknowledge you missed a day and encourage yourself to miss fewer each week. Soon, you will begin to look forward to the activity and confidence that comes with your physical growth. You will effectively change your lifestyle.
A healthier lifestyle naturally facilitates easier sobriety, which is the ultimate goal.