About 6 o’clock one recent Saturday morning I went downstairs and did a few reps on a Nautilus machine. The longer I live, the more important it is for me to add weight training to my routine physical activity, which currently is mainly aerobic.

I did not push any memorable amount of iron, but I know that whatever I did that morning, I was capable of doing at least 50% more within a few months IF I decided to go for it, to set and follow a regular program of weight lifting.

I also know that if I choose not to continue that program, after a while I will revert to where I am now. Oh, there would be some residual benefit, but nothing like what would be gained by a regular maintenance level of weight training.

Your mind is no different. Your mind, your emotions, can be trained, focused, and directed. You are capable of feats of discipline, motivation, enthusiasm, patience, love, friendship, and achievement that would astound you, your friends, and co-workers.

The path is not complex. The way actually is rather simple. Building mental muscles is simple in the same way that the key to losing weight is simple: exercise more, eat less. Simple, however, does not equate to easy.

Results can take time to show up and even though their cumulative effect is incredibly powerful, they frequently come in small, easy-to-overlook increments that allow the less committed to find an excuse to relapse to old and ineffective, but familiar and comfortable, behavior patterns.

The key is motivation: “So easy when I want to, so hard when I don’t.”

Vital to motivation is tapping into your “want power,” using your self awareness to find goals that move you, get your juices flowing, rouse your blood, make your eyes light up, your spirit fly. Everyone has had moments like that, however fleeting. Go back and remember what specifically moved you then. Tease out the emotional links, go beneath the surface. Whenever you find yourself smiling, laughing, or happy, jot down the circumstances, the why. Differentiate between pleasure (a physical sensation that by its very nature must come to an end) and happiness and joy and contentment (a frame of mind that can last forever). And remember, a lot of foolish people have passed up contentment in a futile search for continuous ecstasy.

What you find may surprise you. What actually makes you happy may not be what you think will make you happy or what you think should make you happy. It may be a lot simpler than you think. Whatever it is, as long as it does no harm, try to get more of it in your life.

This is a classic from the NSC Blog archive. Originally posted October 29, 2007.