“Courage isn’t having the strength to go on, it is going on when you don’t have the strength.” – Napoleon Bonaparte
Strength isn’t just about how hard you hit the gym. It can apply to all aspects of your life, like your emotional wellness, finances, and relationships. Sometimes strength is simply the ability to keep moving when you don’t feel that you can, just as Napoleon Bonaparte says.
Like your muscles, those types of strength require repetition, the right “nutrients”, and even a little bit of rehab time every now and again.
Once you begin thinking about all of the areas of your life this way, it becomes easier to introduce habits and build your strength, no matter which kind you’re after.
Small daily tasks can help you build that strength little by little. Below find a few habits that are easy to implement into various aspects of your life so that when you need a little extra strength, it’s there.
1. Make a plan
You wouldn’t go from your couch to running a marathon overnight, so it’s fair to expect it’ll take you time to build strength in other areas of your life too.
Runners train, build on each run and implement healthy diets, lots of hydration, and other exercises to help build their endurance. In short, they plan and take time to determine what’ll help them in the long run (pun intended).
Whether you’re trying to get a better time on our mile or build up a strong savings account, it’ll start with a plan. Take some time to outline some steps that’ll help you reach your goal and sustain it. After all, strength is something that has to be maintained, and if we don’t, we’ll lose it.
Your plan might be very detailed, like logging so many miles each week or sticking to a specific budget. But a plan might also look like big, broad ideas or a self-care list. It mostly depends on what you're trying to achieve.
Making those plans, sometimes even daily, can help serve as a reminder that building strength is neither linear nor is it always easy. See a plan as a roadmap and expect a few delays and detours.
2. Check in with yourself
At its core, self-care is doing something for yourself that contributes to your well-being, so it’s a natural fit for building strength.
Because strength comes in so many forms, it can take so many avenues to get there. Building emotional strength takes a lot of reflection, for example. Check-in with yourself regularly to help navigate and build on your successes (this worksheet can help!) An easy way to do that is through journaling. Ink+Volt has two notepads that come in handy on this front.
The Ink+Volt Self Care Notepad helps you evaluate your current state and adjust the things you want to change or improve. The notepad helps you determine your priorities, routine, and it includes a short self-assessment, which may be the most helpful part because it allows you to rate where you are professionally, spiritually, emotionally and beyond.
The Daily Reflection Journal also allows you the critical task of reflection, but makes it manageable for every day. Set an alarm at the end of the day and jot a few notes down about what went well and what you want to improve on tomorrow.
You’ll be feeling stronger in no time.
3. Say “no”
Sometimes becoming strong means saying “no.” No to opportunities that don’t serve us, no to requests that we really don’t have time for, and no to things that just don’t make us feel our best.
With gaining physical strength, that might be saying no to a social event so you can get some gym time in. In emotional strength, saying no might look more like creating boundaries.
Sometimes saying no can feel like you’re letting another person down, but if you step back and think about how you’re lifting yourself up, it can be empowering.
4. Dig deep for decision-making
Have you ever felt petrified by indecisiveness? It can keep us from reaching our full potential.
Psychotherapist Ilene Cohen writes people may have trouble making decisions because “they don’t believe in their ability to think for themselves; they believe other people are more capable of making the ‘right’ choice for them” so as a result they tend to pawn off decisions to other people to feel more confident.
In other instances people can feel like there are so many options in front of them it’s impossible to choose just one direction. In building strength, this can easily become a hitch and keep you from making any forward movement at all.
How do you remedy this behavior? Cohen says you can start by avoiding overthinking, remembering a time when you made a good decision and asking yourself the so-called miracle question: “Suppose tonight, while you slept, a miracle occurred. When you awake tomorrow, what would be some of the things you would notice that would tell you life had suddenly gotten better?”
In building strength and sustaining it, the path is not always clear, and becoming stagnant is easy. Practicing good decision-making skills each day, even when it seems impossible, will make you stronger.
5. Visualize where you want to be
Close your eyes. Imagine the future where you’ve reached whatever goal you have in mind. Maybe you’ve finally crushed that marathon. Or, maybe you’re at a place where you feel mentally resilient. What does that moment look like?
Visualizing where you want to be, whenever it is, is a good way to find motivation on your journey. If you can envision it, you’re more likely to achieve it.
“If my mind can conceive it and my heart can believe it – then I can achieve it,” boxer Mohammed Ali famously said.
He was right. Some research has found that mental power literally translates to muscle power. Thinking about moving certain parts of your body can have effect muscles almost as much as the actual movement.
If you want to be stronger, start by visualizing it.