Moving from the real to the ideal, or, how to get a good nights sleep!

Discipline, motivation, achievement and the like have always fascinated me. Apparently it was the actress Lucille Ball who said, “If you want something done ask a busy person”.

Some of my best plans to be more focused, disciplined and motivated come to me as I go to bed and try to fall asleep. I tell myself that from tomorrow, I am going to eat better, exercise more. I’m going to simply “love Jesus to love Him, and not only for what He can do for me”. I have thoughts about future plans and exotic holidays, and one of my best thoughts is that I am going to be more diligent with my finances through budgeting and better planning.

You would think this activity of the mind would stimulate my brain and that falling asleep would evade me. But it doesn’t, it actually helps me to fall asleep.

It was when I read Kelly McGonigal’s book, “The Willpower Instinct” that I understood why it helps me to sleep. Simply put, McGonigal says that there is the “Present You” and the “Future You”. (I’ve blogged about this before!)

The Present You lives in what I call the “World of the Real”, while the Future You lives in what I call the “World of the Ideal”. The World of the Real is the place where you procrastinate, eat too much, and exercise too little and only pray when you want something.

The World of the Ideal is the place where you get things done, eat well, exercise and love God just to love Him.

And when I go to sleep at night, I see my future self, and this dissolves the failures of my present self. In fact McGonigal says that thoughts of your future self actually give you the immediate feeling of what your future self has resolved to become. In other words, I become more peaceful now, knowing that tomorrow (or some time in the future) I am going to become a better person. And off to sleep I go!

Of course when I wake up, my future self is nowhere to be found. The Ideal has been replaced by the Real, because my present self is back in charge, and we all know that he is not so disciplined, focused and motivated.

So, how do we move from the Real to the Ideal? I am never going to be able to answer that in a blog (or a book if I was ever clever enough to write one about this). But here are some thoughts that will perhaps help you.

  1. Realize that others, like the apostle Paul have also contended with this problem. Check out what he says in Romans 7, “I realize that I don’t have what it takes. I can will it, but I can’t do it. I decide to do good, but I don’t really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don’t result in actions”. (The Message version around verses 21 or so)
  2. Deal with condemnation and guilt or don’t be so hard on yourself. (Rom 8:1)
  3. Create a Mission – by this I mean, write down what you it is you want or desire to achieve. Write it down, make a plan.
  4. Share the Mission with someone and invite them to ask you how it’s going from time to time.
  5. Celebrate the milestones. I think that life is a series of short trips. Embrace the journey.

Finally – never forget the abiding presence and power of the Holy Spirit, who empowers us to live life now and in the moment.

And – have  good nights sleep!

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