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