As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I don’t believe that transformation is a lightning bolt, but something that is earned with consistent effort. But consistent effort isn’t easy. It can feel like a long uphill slog.
Your desired change might be making a dietary change, exercising more (or at all), daily meditation, or maybe you’re trying to write a book!
If it’s hard to do, there will come a day when you say to yourself, “I’ll just skip this once.” Once turns into twice, then three times, and the next thing you know, you haven’t done your new practice in about two months.
Because it feels so hard, we assume that the solution must be incredibly complicated. Part of the reason it feels complicated is because our brains complicate it for us.
Whenever we’re trying to create a new habit, we’re asking ourselves to go outside of our comfort zone. On top of that, we were gifted with brains that are powerful problem solving devices. So, when we’re faced with going outside of our comfort zone, our brains say, “Ok, I’ll do you a favor, I’ll find a way for you to not have to do this,” and then it’ll come up with a lot of reasonable sounding justifications that allow us to stay within our comfort zones.
“I don’t have time today.”
“I don’t have the energy.”
“I’ll feel better tomorrow and I’ll put in twice the effort.”
“I’m too tired to even think about it.”
“I’m not sure this even works.”
“I’m a lazy/anxious/depressed person, and it’s just too hard for someone like me.”
…and lots of other solutions that your very smart brain finds for you. We’ll even put more effort into finding a reason to not do something than it takes to do the thing we’re avoiding. This is how passionately our brains want to keep us comfortable.
The way to get around this mechanism is to bypass it altogether. Don’t listen to any judgment that your brain makes about the activity.
As soon as you start judging the practice, you will find reasons to not do it. Once you have decided on your desired change, and have created a reasonable plan for achieving that change, then simply do the practice.
Is it that easy?
Practically speaking, we know it’s not. Despite telling yourself not to make judgments, your brain is designed to jump in with solutions whether you want it to or not. You have no choice—the judgments are going to appear before you’ve even thought about whether or not you want to make them.
Chances are those judgments will be reasonable explanations as to why you shouldn’t have to do the thing that makes you uncomfortable that day.
However, when this happens, you do have the option to disregard it, and instead, mindfully approach the practice. This means that you put all of your focus on what you’re doing in the present moment, and nothing else. Keep crowding out the judgment with mindfulness and get through the practice.
If you end up with poor results, such as a bad workout, bad meditation, or even a resentful meal, this does not mean that you failed. You succeeded by staying consistent and that consistency will lead to better results in the future.
Of course, none of this can be done unless you trust your practice.
You can’t trust your practice until you know that its right for you. So, before you start a new habit, take the time to figure out what change will truly work for you.
This should be something that will sustain you if you sustain it. For example, a mildly challenging exercise routine or a dietary change that is not too strict (usually focusing on adding something good, at first, before eliminating something bad)—practices that you know will improve your well-being and make you feel better. Once the practice starts making you feel better, you will find motivation in that.
What about you? In what ways have you maintained consistent practices in your life?