As I continue to work on myself and help others do the same, I notice that significant growth seems to happen when we develop a new habit. I also notice, it’s a difficult thing for most of us to do. It’s not easy to add something new, because we become quite fond of our routine; and we cling tight to the “I don’t have enough time” mantra. So, rather than add a new habit, I have found it is much easier to replace an existing one.
For example, when I started to meditate, I found it difficult to “fit it in”, because I really liked the existing structure of my morning. (Put the coffee on, open all the curtains, feed the cats, empty the dishwasher, browse a catalog, stare out the window, forget I was waiting for the coffee). Ten minutes of mindless puttzing around while I waited for the coffee to brew. It was my morning routine, and I was sticking to it!
Then once I had my nice, hot cup of coffee, I didn’t want it to get cold while I meditated for 15 minutes, so I would pencil that in for later in the morning, or plan to do it right before lunch… or after… or before my 3:00 client… or after. Since it wasn’t a habit yet, there was always the chance that I wouldn’t get to it at all. And worse than that, thinking about when I would do it distracted me from focusing on what I was working on, which left me feeling….distracted! What the heck!
I realized I needed to shake things up! One day I decided to put the coffee on and march my butt right back upstairs and meditate for 15 minutes. It was wonderful! Not only did I benefit from the practice itself, I freed myself of the gnawing reminder that I hadn’t done it yet. It was like double-dipping in a big bowl of productivity!
It seems to be the same with other things that are beneficial; reading, exercising, journaling. We know we’re going to feel good when we’re done, but we often delay it for so long that we either skip it completely, or we dissipate our energy by continuously thinking about the fact that we haven’t done it. It’s like an inherent, pre-programmed mechanism that diminishes our productivity as we delay doing the thing we know is going to help us. Sheeeeesh!
The best way I have found to override that mechanism is to make whatever it is I want to do a HABIT. And habits seem to take hold faster when we do them at the same time each day. At least, that’s what I have found.
What do you think? How do you start a new habit? How long does it take before it becomes part of your routine? Any suggestions on how to make it easier to do the thing we know we should do, could do and want to do?