Habits – Don’t wait until you feel like it
I want to meditate. Actually, most times I do not want to meditate. I want the benefits of meditation which are vast and well-documented. The days I actually want to meditate just to meditate are days that yawn before me. Meditating feels then like a luxury; decadent, and indulgent. Those days are rare because many of my days suffer from too-muchness. You know what I mean-too much to do, too much to think about, too much to accomplish.
Of course those are the days when a mindfulness practice is needed more than ever, but that is not how it feels. It feels like I have no time for such idleness. While being in the moment is the whole point of mindfulness, the decision to meditate is not an in-the-moment one.
If I consulted my emotions about my daily habits, I should be in big trouble. I would do what I wanted when I wanted and rarely would those choices be ones in my best interest.
I do not give my mood a vote in my daily habits, or else I will inevitably avoid the very habits that I know will transform my life.
So I made a commitment to meditate for 21 minutes, a minimum of 5 days a week, for 90 days. I aim for every day but I am leaving myself a trap door of 2 days for the inevitable disruptions or the predictable research I stubbornly and periodically conduct about the difference between the days I sit and the days I don’t.
So I proceed knowing I often don’t feel like meditating and do it anyway, because I want to become a person who sits daily. I expect the resistance, even welcome it. I never set out to be someone who meditates every day AND is happy about it.
So I create habits that hold me to that vision of myself even when the motivation wanes as it always does. Motivation is fleeting, fickle, temperamental, and unreliable, whereas commitment endures. It is doing what we said we were going to do even when we don’t feel like it.
So bring on the resistance. I am meditating anyway. I liberate myself from the debate about whether, when, or for how long I will meditate, simply by making a commitment. There is such relief in making a decision and in doing so, stopping the manipulative process of negotiations and the empty promises that tomorrow I will finally follow through. I free myself from the disappointment in myself for bailing again, the creative storytelling of legitimizing excuses, and the soulless victory as if I got away with something if I don’t sit.
My skillful saboteur is quieted when it is convinced it has no say.
My higher self made a plan to meditate and the rest of me simply implements it. No democracy here. This is how I am doing it.
1. DECIDE: I decided what I wanted to achieve. In this case, a meditation practice for 21 minutes 5x per week for 90 days.
2. CREATE: I created a supportive environment. I have a quiet, uncluttered space dedicated to reflection where I keep the fluffiest socks ever, my favorite hand cream, a yummy lip softener (fancy name for chapstick), and a shawl lovingly knit by a dear friend.
3. TETHER NEW HABIT TO AN EXISTING ONE: Habit stacking builds on a fixed, non negotiable, automated habit. In this case, I take my cherished ritual of a cup of green tea each morning and I made a deal with myself. Not one sip of green tea until I have set the timer for 21 minutes and started my meditation session.
4. TRACK: Every night I record my success in a little chart. Nothing like checking off a box to create a sense of accomplishment. We cannot change what we do not track.
This habit on-boarding takes time. The elaborate scaffolding will not always be needed. It will become easy and automated because that is the very definition of a habit. It will be no longer taxing on my will power any more than brushing my teeth is.
Until then, I am fully invested.
5. CELEBRATE: Most of us are very skilled at beating ourselves up and far from skilled at celebrating our successes. Trumpet the success and break the cycle of shame and defeat.
The question you need to ask yourself is how serious are you about your goals. If you mean it, then get real and commit. If not, then let it go. Free your mind and decide you are not willing to do what it takes to accomplish that particular goal. It is ok. But do not wait until you feel like it. It most likely will not happen.