I’ve completed my last week of my Walking to Work (W2W) Challenge! I’m super proud for having kept this promise to myself this past month. While it’s taken a little longer than usual to write this post, I’m excited to share my findings with you because I’ve had such brilliant and unexpected results!
To give you a bit of background on how I came to set myself this W2W challenge, like many people, I work in a desk-bound office job that exacerbates back niggles and leads to my feeling irritable in the office.
By designing my W2W experiment, I wanted to test whether moderate morning exercise (like walking) would help to improve my back issues and put me in a better frame of mind for the working day. Though I expected physical improvements from moving my body , what I didn’t predict was the massive mental impact of incorporating the Tony Robbins’ Hour of Power (HoP) techniques into my walk.
Technically, the HoP wasn’t part of my initial challenge. I’d recently immersed myself in Robbins’ practical psychology and came across his suggestion of priming (which I wrote about here in an earlier post here). Incorporating the HoP ritual into my walk, I hoped to get my physical and emotional exercise, in one clean hit.
Essentially, my HoP is a conversation I have with myself – out loud – during my commute. It’s forty-five minutes in which I’m:
- intentionally focusing on gratitude;
- dreaming about my future;
- setting goals for the day ahead; and
- affirming the greatest possible emotional state from which I can achieve my goals and be the my best self.
In this, my last post in this mini-series, I’ll dig deeper into the four elements of my personal interpretation of the HoP ritual, to explain what I’ve learnt by completing the W2W challenge.
#1 HoP Ritual: Gratitude
“When you are grateful, fear disappears and abundance appears.”
This experiment confirmed that gratitude is the best remedy for negative emotional states, like depression or anxiety. Writing daily gratitudes in my journal – a common self-help strategy the world over- had nowhere near the impact as does speaking my thoughts aloud to myself as I walk.
I now understand – in my body as well as in my mind – that all emotions are physical; the word “emotion” itself says it all. By changing our physical energy, we can change our emotional energy. Walking, talking and listening to myself, I use more of my senses, which helps me feel thankfulness in my body.
“Emotion is created by motion.”
Tony Robbins (2012). “Awaken The Giant Within”, p.178, Simon and Schuster
In taking the W2W challenge, I have proof that my emotions are under my control. Effectively, this month, I’ve been learning how to manage my feelings, which I’d previously assumed was beyond me. Through my HoP commute, I’ve experienced my physical and mental energy change as I become thankful for the world around me. In this positive, heart-felt manner, I’m “checking my privileges” and appreciating all I have right now, rather than wishing for more. As someone who’s experienced mental health issues, this is nothing short of miraculous. My W2W experience has empowered me to take control of my emotional responses, by practising choosing what I want to feel, and consciously acting to make it happen.
#2 HoP Ritual: Future Dreams
In the second part of my HoP ritual, I visualise what I really want most in life in that moment, and I tell myself this new story aloud, framing it as if I’m grateful for having already accomplished it.
In this way, the W2W challenge has taught me to imagine a future for myself. Having lived in a depressive state most of my adult life, “the future” was a totally alien concept. Not being able to think more than a few days, hours or even minutes ahead for so long, I found it very uncomfortable to try and imagine my dream destiny. Even as a kid, I didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up, and I certainly never thought about getting married or having a family. In my teens I plan a life beyond thirty – I couldn’t imagine being that old (!) – and, taking risks with my health and safety, I doubted I’d make it that far anyhow.
So, as technically, I’d already exceeded my life expectations, I gave myself permission to dream of a future from now, for myself and those I love. It was difficult to begin with; I’m used to limiting myself to what I think is practically possible.Judging and critiquing my ideas to where I’m too afraid to act has become a bad habit. I believed not making future plans would save me from disappointment. What I now realise is that it limited my achievements and my life.
Following the metaphor below from famous Buddhist teacher Jon Kabat-Zinn, I’ve let myself drift along on life’s waves, and at 34, I’m now only just ready to take control of my surf board and lead my own life.
“You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf.”
Through the HoP has encouraged me to dream big. After all,
Making a decision not to judge, censor or criticise my thoughts has freed me to allow whatever dreams I can think of to come to the fore. I’m daring to dream big – after all, I’m only talking to myself! As I walk, I hear myself say words that have never come out of my mouth before. I’m acknowledging to myself, for the first time, that perhaps there are things I might want to experience in life. I do see a future for myself after all.
#3 HoP Ritual: Setting Daily Goals
Surprisingly, the hardest part of my W2W ritual has been setting goals for the day. It’s not easy to get excited about daily chores; they don’t exactly fulfil my wildest dreams. So rather than focusing on “what do I want to achieve today?”, I ask myself “how do I want to feel today?” This focuses me on my true purpose of every day, regardless of my future hopes and dreams: to feel great now!Knowing the emotions I don’t want makes it easy to think of those I do. Thanks to cleverer questioning, I’m now regularly experiencing empowering emotions – happiness, excitement, energy, confidence – that make such a huge impact and help me make the most of my day.
In setting daily goals, I’ve realised that I can ask myself for what I really want, and not just what I think I should want to do. By asking :“what small step can I take today to move me closer towards my dreams?”, I’m making space for my mind to devise creative ways of moulding my day to fit my longer-term plans.
The future can feel so very far away, and my dreams a million miles further still. Sometimes, when I’m trying to craft my daily goals to fit my dreams, I still hear my inner critic say “what’s the point?”. Yet I’ve learnt to wait, give myself time, and I know positive steps forward will come, however tiny. I then act in spite of any lingering negative thoughts. It’s working: I want to write, so here I am, writing this blog. I want to be a skilled speaker, so I’m volunteering to make presentations at work. I want to plan a future with my partner C, so I’m starting conversations I’d previously have avoided, and I’m speaking my truth. I’m facing my fears and risking rejection in all areas of my life because I want more for myself.
#4 HoP Ritual: Incantations
“Using incantations to help take direct control of your state can make all the difference in your quality of life.”
This is the most “hippy-ish” part of the HoP ritual that Tony teaches, and the bit about which I was particularly sceptical. Still, I made a decision to trust the method in this guy’s madness – and I’m so glad I did! Amazingly, I’ve found this the most impressive tool I’ve learnt so far. With the power to instantly change my emotional state, incantations have had surprisingly long-lasting effects on me for the better.
I’ve already talked about incantations here on the blog; and the results of my W2W experiment speak for themselves. By the time I arrive at the office, I feel like a totally different person to the one that left my house. Depending on how I’d designed that day’s statement, I can feel confident, energetic, and enthusiastic for the day ahead, or maybe driven, dynamic and determined to make great things happen. Being the wordsmith that I am, I’m excited to craft my daily incantation and create the mood in which I want to live. You can see some examples of my recent affirmations, which I keep stuck on my desk or in my journal to remind me how I’ve promised to live.
I actually feel a bit sad that my “official” challenge is over. However while I may be done with my experiment, I’m definitely committed to the walking commute, and to the HoP ritual which has had such a huge positive impact on the quality of my life, at work and beyond.
Adding the HoP ritual to my challenge worked for me because walking to work is one of the few times I’m truly alone. Being on my own helped me to speak openly and honestly with myself, and not to be self-conscious in trying these techniques. There was no one to witness my sounding like Mary Sunshine, using words like “gratitude” and “joy” as often as many other (normal) people might drop an F-bomb. Well, with the exception of the odd dog walker and runner who may (or may not) have heard me declaring my intentions to the Universe!
As potentially embarrassing as it may be, my HoP W2W ritual has taught me how I can practically take control of my emotions. By redirecting my mental focus in an empowering way, I’m learning to make decisions and take action that moves me forward each day, in a positive direction. I’m shaping my own experience of life by choosing how I want to feel about it, rather than just accepting whatever emotions arise.
Happiness has become my new habit – and let me warn you – it’s addictive!