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One drawer at a time

The bestselling book “Lone Survivor” details the brutal training endured by Navy SEAL hopefuls. One of the leaders advises the men, “Don’t let your thoughts run away with you; don’t start planning to bail because you’re worried about the future and how much you can take. Don’t look ahead to the pain. … Take it one day at a time.”

SEALs get their bodies, minds and gear into amazing order so that they can get into and out of abysmal conditions and so protect our cushy way of life. I felt awfully wimpy as I read the book, since the slightest crimp in my neck sends me racing to the Tylenol and a massage table. I’ve resolved to get a lot tougher with myself and a tiny bit tougher with my clients in our quest to get lean and clean.

Simple, but not easy, describes the physical SEAL training. The “one day at a time” mantra that gets them through drills in the freezing Pacific Ocean is the same slogan that helps addicts and alcoholics string together clean and sober years. It can also help anyone willing to begin digging themselves out of disorganization.

A fantastic new book that explains some of the reasons disciplined people can do what they do is “Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength,” by Roy Baumeister and John Tierney. Suggestions for boosting willpower based on scientific research are threaded through examples from the lives of celebrities such as Drew Carey and Oprah, which make for an entertaining read.

Let’s take a look at a few ways to build your willpower.

If your goal is to get more done at work, install a program in your computer that bans Facebook and other time-sucking activities. If you want to reduce your sugar intake, don’t keep sweets in the house. Sounds straightforward, right? I used to think that willpower or discipline meant keeping my resolutions in spite of the fact that temptation is right in my face. Not so. It takes willpower to prevent the temptation from even showing up.

Plan for surprises — SEALs train in wet and sandy conditions and the end result is that they can perform even in extreme temperatures and other discomfort. The organized warrior plans for interruptions, traffic, changes in the weather, a child home from school, etc. Be able to complete your mission even when the variables shift.

Plan for hunger. Glucose feeds the brain, the thing responsible for self-control. When glucose is depleted, willpower ebbs (and sweets — the fast glucose-raisers — beckon). Keep yourself steady with healthy snacks and you’ll find it much easier to finish your projects, not to mention maintain a healthy diet.

Once you’ve grooved a routine and maintained your habit changes for awhile, things that used to trigger a bad habit won’t cause you to backslide. For example, if your new habit is to hang up your clothes each night, being extra tired one day won’t keep you from the little extra effort it takes to stick to your plan.

It also helps to have a friend or family member who is trying to change a habit too, even if it is not the same habit. While your sister is trying to improve her diet, you might be trying to empty your email inbox each afternoon, but at the end of the day you can still make a phone call to encourage each other. In the Navy SEALs, camaraderie and the buddy system are absolutely essential; in fact, it is life and death to those guys. That’s powerful stuff.

So, “Hooyah!” Push out those labels and get filing. Take it one drawer at a time and get in shape for 2012.

Angela Hoxsey is a professional organizer based in the Napa Valley. For information about her services, go to houseinorder.com or call 738-4346. Follow House in Order on Facebook for more organizing tricks and tips.