So many times I’ve tried to set a habit and after a while it fades into the past. Other times I’ve had some success in spite of myself which is always so welcome!
I’ve been sorting out what works and what doesn’t work around habits and for me, the main thing seems to be rigidity and expectations that are far too high for success.
For example, if I say to myself I am going to walk 3 miles every morning is a sure set up for failure. Reframing it saying I will do SOMETHING for exercise every day (or most days) is far more relaxed and achievable. Maybe the thing will be going to the mall to do errands and I walk from one end to the other a few times, or maybe after a day of work I’ll come home and swim for half an hour, or maybe if I am up quite early I’ll get a good long walk in. Or maybe if it is a very busy or stress filled day I might only eke out a walk around the block with the dog, but it is something and that is my goal, rather than something I cannot achieve every single day.
The point is that by not being so rigid, I open myself up to success by allowing some air to flow into my decision to create a habit.
I tend to be very hard on myself and set very high standards that are not achievable. Knowing and admitting this to myself has helped me see that I had been setting myself up for failure, not success. Then of course I began to berate myself for being lazy, weak, or whathaveyou because I couldn’t reach the high bar I had set.
I guess I am a slow learner because it took me a very long time to figure this out! Hopefully, you will be a lot smarter than I and realize that when you set the bar “just right”, you have a chance at success.
I tried to start a meditation program years and years ago by getting up at 5 before the family began to stir and get ready for school and work. In theory I loved the idea of being alone in that predawn peace and watching the sun rise after a half hour of peaceful, mindful meditation.
Well, that lasted less than a week because I am not an early morning person. Meditating at that hour for me was not working for my body, mind or spirit. I became groggy and ill tempered in the morning as I fixed breakfast for everyone before they started on their day. I dragged through my own day because I hadn’t had enough sleep. And the next day would be the same and everything built up until I decided my peace of mind and the wellbeing of my family would do much better without the added pressure of a meditation practice that was not working for me. Better to meditate before bed, or in the afternoon before everyone got home. Or just when it seemed to flow naturally into my day.
So there you have it. When you create a new habit or rewrite an old one, take into account YOUR own body, mind and spirit and what is optimal for YOU. Don’t make the habit so tight that it is unachievable. And then allow for some wiggle room so you can tweak your habit to fit all kinds of situations and days which present different challenges.
“Habits are safer than rules; you don’t have to watch them. And you don’t have to keep them, either. They keep you.” Frank Crane
I just got back from a wonderful stroll on the beach searching for shells. I used to look for “perfect” shells along the beaches I would walk but as I have gotten older, I tend to go for the worn ones, the ones that have interesting aberrations on them or interesting shapes, textures, colors. Once when I took a course in Chinese Face Reading the instructor told us she preferred to “read” the faces of people over 50 because until then their stories were still “untold” on those faces. It was the wrinkles and spots and creases that told their tale, she said, rather than the unlined faces of youth. “Youthful faces are beautiful”, she said, “but older faces are so much more interesting…they have more to say.”
That instructor said she would never recommend plastic surgery of any kind except in the instance of “hooded eyes” which can affect one’s ability to see. She said that changing the outside of our faces changed the inside of our beings. In other words, who wants perfection! Let’s go for a life well lived!
Indeed it is the imperfections in our lives that add the spice and zing and interest to a life well lived. It is those same imperfections that teach us our greatest lessons and make us better people if we but allow that to happen. If we don’t get bogged down with the weight of our imperfections we can use them to catapult us to new heights. Indeed, imperfections seem to propel us forward if we use them correctly!
Next time you are feeling pushed towards perfection remember these wise words:
“If you look for perfection, you’ll never be content.”
― Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina
and “When you stop expecting people to be perfect, you can like them for who they are.” (Including ourselves I might add…DSH)
― Donald Miller, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: What I Learned While Editing My Life
We have had a LOT of company this winter, which has provided us with many great discussions and lots of fun. Last night as we spent the last evening with our guest, we talked about having taken many workshops that we have collectively taken around self improvement and consciousness.
My husband asked our guest: “What is the one thing you came away with that has changed your life?” which is a huge question! She thought a minute and said, “Well, probably the thing I use almost every day of my life is what they taught us about criticism and that is that every criticism of another is really self criticism.” She said that in the workshops she took that this came through to her loud and clear. She realizes now that when she begins to criticize someone, she stops and turns her inquisitors eye to herself to see what is it about HER that she is seeing in someone else and that she is critiquing.
And so it is that others are a mirror for us for what we don’t like within ourselves. When we see that quality in another, then, we begin to react by turning our critique over and point it towards “the other”. But it is really that quality in us that we dislike.
It took me a long time to learn and accept this myself. I never wanted to see myself first of all as critical, and second to see myself with some of those qualities I criticize in other but do not want to own for myself!
I was glad she brought this up last night and talked so frankly about how she now knows how to stop and think about that disowned quality that she is ready to pounce on in another. She said she always sees it as a red flag and knows that what she doesn’t like in someone else she often finds in herself.
I thought that was a brave statement to make in front of us. And I was grateful to be reminded of this yet again. I love how truth sets us free if we but take it in and hear it with an open heart!