Motivation, Discipline, & Persistence
This book is meant to be primarily
practical. It contains theory and philosophy as well, but its
main function is to be a tool to improve your life. But most of
the solutions in this book are not one-time magic bullets. You
must continue to apply many of these frequently in order to bring
yourself back into balance, and to maintain that balance.
NEW HABITS, NEW LIFESTYLE
But, as imperfect humans in a very demanding and distracting
society, we have difficulty acquiring and maintaining new habits.
In fact, it's much easier to keep a good habit than to create
a new good habit, and it's tragically easy to let go of a new
good habit. So, this book would be incomplete if it didn't help
you form and keep new good habits.
Men's natures are alike, it is their habits that carry them
Another issue that needs to be addressed is that many of the
solutions in this book (e.g. food choices, sleep schedule, exercise,
etc.) are lifestyle changes. And changing the way we live is not
easy. You may have adopted some of your bad habits to make up
for imbalances in other parts of your life.
For example, you may reward yourself with sweets or ice creams
at the end of the day because your work is so stressful. Yes,
you feel so much better when you reward yourself that way. But,
if sweets are aggravating or perpetuating one of your health complaints,
e.g. low energy level, then your reward is actually shooting yourself
in the foot. Your low energy level may be what makes your workday
so stressful! Or your sweets may be perpetuating your weight problem-
and some of the stress of the day may come from constantly feeling
insecure about yourself because you're overweight. It's easy to
get caught in vicious cycles like this. And it's a little uncomfortable
getting out of them.
In the above examples, you might have to eschew the sweets and
take herbs or enzymes instead. When you get these right, you'll
have less cravings, and it'll be easier to eliminate the sweets.
But you still have to make that decision and stand by it.
To change, we need clarity, willingness, and discipline - and
how to get and keep these things is, I believe, the major human
obstacle to better health and a better world.
- Without clarity, we don't know we need to change.
- Without willingness, we cannot adopt better habits.
- Without discipline, we cannot keep from falling back into
the old habits.
Without these three qualities, we are at the mercy of our own
unhealthy cravings and obsessions. These cravings may give us
short term comfort, but in the long run, they lead only to disease
The Chinese Medicine Physiology of DECISION MAKING and PERSISTENCE
You have to make decisions to change your health, and if you
don't persist in your changes, nothing gets better. Let's talk
a little bit about the Chinese medicine physiology and psychology
of decision making and decision keeping:
1. PERCEPTION, CLARITY, AND CALM
The Heart-system is not only a blood pumper, but also relates
to our overall consciousness. If we have a problem here, our perception
of life, of ourselves, and of our habits may be distorted. Heart-system
problems most often show up as anxiety and insomnia, so you may
have to deal with these first. Certain imbalances can obstruct
clarity, or create mental and emotional unrest. Once you have
more calm and clarity from the remedies in those chapters, it
will be easier to deal with your other problems.
2. ORGANIZING AND CATEGORIZING YOUR OPTIONS
The Spleen-system digests not only foods, but also ideas, concepts,
etc. Once we have perceived our lives and our habits, then we
analyze and categorize them. This requires energy, so if you have
trouble with digestion, worry, or low energy, this part of the
decision making process will be more difficult. In fact, this
book may be hard to digest! Herbs, enzymes, different food choices,
etc. will help you here, and then it'll be easier to deal with
other problems in your life.
3. EVALUATING THE GOOD AND BAD
Some Chinese medicine authorities maintain that the Small Intestine
is involved with separating good from bad options- but this may
also involve the Spleen, Heart, Kidney and Bladder. People have
trouble distinguishing good and bad options for a number of reasons-
you may lack the Heart's clarity, or the Spleen's strength of
analysis. Some SI acupoints do have mental functions like SI3,
so that would be a good point to add to other points like: P5,
P6, SP4, ST40, and ST41. You'll find more answers relating to
your specific patterns in the anxiety, insomnia, and depression
Although you can certainly make philosophical arguments about
how much gray there is in the world, decisions are much easier
when you take a black and white perspective.
As I see it every day you do one of two things: build health
or produce disease in yourself.
- Adelle Davis
4. MAKING A DECISION
After you've analyzed your options and decided which is best,
you must make a decision. The most important organ for decision
is the Gallbladder. Gall is not just physiological bile (part
of the digestive process), but also a psychoemotional quality.
You've probably heard it used of someone who was thought to be
overly assertive: "Can you imagine- the gall!" Our oldest
medical sourcebook, the Nei Jing, says, "The gallbladder
is, like a judge in the imperial court, the one that decides."
Translator Philippe Sionneau adds, "The Gallbladder is the
organ that endows an individual with the ability to resolve, make
decisions, and settle on a resolution. In the case where the Gallbladder
Qi is abundant, decision-making ability is firm. In the case where
the Gallbladder Qi is empty, the individual loses the capacity
to decide; determination wanes; it transforms into fear, cowardice,
and indecision. In the everyday language of China, it is said
that a person with a small gallbladder (Dan Xiao) is shy, fearful,
and cowardly, whereas a person with a large Gallbladder (Dan Da)
is bold, intrepid, brave, and daring. The state of the gallbladder
is proportional to the individual's force of character."
No pain, no palm; no thorns, no throne; no gall, no glory;
no cross, no crown.
- William Penn (1644 - 1718)
More Decision Quotes
- Having once decided to achieve a certain task, achieve it
at all costs of tedium and distaste. The gain in self-confidence
of having accomplished a tiresome labor is immense.
- Arnold Bennett
- Make up your mind to act decidedly and take the consequences.
No good is ever done in this world by hesitation.
- Thomas H. Huxley (1825 - 1895)
- The first step to getting the things you want out of life
is this: Decide what you want.
- Ben Stein
- As you become more clear about who you really are, you'll
be better able to decide what is best for you - the first time
- Oprah Winfrey (1954 - ), O Magazine
- If you choose not to decide -- you still have made a choice!
- Neil Peart
- Every oak tree started out as a couple of nuts who decided
to stand their ground.
- The doors we open and close each day decide the lives we live.
- Flora Whittemore
- To decide, to be at the level of choice, is to take responsibility
for your life and to be in control of your life.
- Abbie M. Dale
5. PERSISTENCE & WILLPOWER
If I had to select one quality, one personal characteristic
that I regard as being most highly correlated with success,
whatever the field, I would pick the trait of persistence. Determination.
The will to endure to the end, to get knocked down seventy times
and get up off the floor saying, "Here comes number seventy-one!"
- Richard M. DeVos
After you've made your decision, you must persist with a will.
Without persistence or willpower, there is no change. Actually,
in the larger context of humanity, without willpower, nothing
can be achieved. If we are completely subject to our whims, we
are like children - we want what we want when we want it, we're
unable to subjugate our desires, we're incapable of paying now
and playing later.
The Kidney-system is responsible for our willpower. It includes
the adrenal glands, which produce cortisol, a natural steroid
hormone that gives us a burst of intense strength. It's the source
of the strength of the proverbial supermom who can lift the car
that's sitting on her child. The Chinese said the essence of the
Kidney is the Zhi, or Will.
Philippe Sionneau summarizes the Chinese writings on Zhi by saying
that it is "the emotion of self preservation, but also prudence
and attentiveness." The Kidneys are also associated with
Kong and Jing, which mean fear and fright. We know from WM that
when we are scared we go into a sympathetic nervous system stress
reaction that involves the release of cortisol from the adrenals.
On the disease side, the Will (Zhi) can turn into recurrent phobias,
nervousness, and panic. But, Kong or fear can also be normal and
useful in the form of "caution, fear of the unknown, and
danger signals." For example, at times when I am rock climbing
and about to make a risky move, feel some fatigue while taking
risks, or suddenly get scared, I get a burst of cortisol along
with a certain amount of caution. Some extremists ignore these
danger signals and end their careers dead. I always listen to
the Kidneys' warnings and make a decision about whether or not
the risk is manageable and worthwhile. It's not always easy to
make rational decisions with a bunch of cortisol in your veins,
so I when I lean toward not taking the risk, I oscillate between
thoughts of my wife dealing with my dead or broken body, and insecurity
feelings that I'm not daring enough. The latter, of course, are
irrational, and I know that because overall I'm not limited by
One of the reasons the world was so fascinated with Michael Jordan
in the 1990's was that he seemed to be able to will a win and
make it happen, to "put the rope in his teeth and drag his
team across the finish line." Of course, it became clear
later in his career that he also had to work very hard every day.
And Larry Bird became one of the most reliable free throw shooters
of all time by shooting hundreds of shots every morning in college.
It does not matter how slowly you go so long as you do not
I learned that the above quote was true for the trudging, the
arduous journey. All of my life, I've been more of a sprinter-
give me something to do and I want to get it done quick and then
relax. In high school track and field, I preferred to run the
100-yard dash than the 5000 meter. I just thought the long runs
were too painful. Little did I know that persistence is like a
muscle, and mine was atrophied.
Not long ago, my friend Arthur and I began training to hike up
Mt. Whitney. Whitney is the tallest mountain in the lower 48 U.S.
states. It's 14,495 feet high. We knew the altitude would affect
us, so we started by hiking up smaller mountains. The first one
we attempted was the 10,804-foot high Mt. San Jacinto in Idyllwild,
Ca. We planned an overnight, but we were unprepared in some ways.
Not only did we run into a fair amount of snow (without boots
or gators to keep the snow out of our shoes), but we each experienced
altitude symptoms way before reaching our camp place at 9,500
feet. We had to descend the next morning (after poor sleep due
to the altitude and Arthur's snoring).
Six weeks later, we did it again, but this time with boots, and
after taking a week of a nasty tasting preventive Chinese herbal
formula for the altitude sickness. You can already tell we were
determined. Fortunately, we experienced little or no symptoms
(and when I almost got nauseous, I immediately layed down and
napped for 10 minutes), and made it all the way to the top. But
it wasn't easy. The lack of air even at 10,000 feet makes your
heartbeat one and a half or twice as fast as normal, and your
body keeps saying stop, sit down, rest, go back down. This is
where your willpower comes in.
As someone who was quite undisciplined earlier in life, someone
who loved to sleep in, to indulge himself, to revel in selfishness,
I wonder if I'll ever feel that discipline and willpower come
naturally to me. But I am determined to improve myself, to experience
whatever human beings can experience, to prevail
that comes from the conviction that God wants us to do that, and
that doing God's will is the most important thing in life. And
some of it comes from anger - my unwillingness to be the loser.
And a little bit comes from ego, but truly less and less over
So I didn't listen to my body. I kept going. I rested when I
had to, then kept going. And it truly didn't matter how slow I
was going- so long as I didn't give up. That's how we made it
to the top, at times less than 1 mile per hour.
The hardest part was on the way down when we lost the trail in
the snow and had to go back up again to find the trail that took
us down. I had thought we were done with going up. I had relaxed.
So it was that much harder to bring back the willpower to go back
But there was no real choice. I couldn't just lie down in the
snow. No one was going to come pick me up. I wasn't a little kid.
I was a man who had to do what I had to do because there was no
choice, and so no matter how hard it was, I would do it. And the
exhilarating thing about it was that I not only had the will power
to do it, but later I felt like I could have done more. I felt
so free because I had broken through what I thought were my limitations,
and felt like I could have gone further. It made me wonder what
a human being is capable of.
YOU'LL BE ABLE TO READ MUCH MUCH MORE
IN BRIAN'S FORTHCOMING BOOK!