If you're following along with my last few posts chronicling how to get unstuck with starting a new habit, Friday I talked about how to approach your plan to start with a new habit (or break an existing one) and gaining awareness of urges to go rogue from the plan. Instead of acting on that temptation, allowing those urges to be there and pass. This is the key to overcoming the intense desire to sabotage yourself.
For me, there is another piece of the building habits that I think is crucial to mention, because it can impact not only your experience of the new activity, it can transform the outlook of your whole day. If it transforms or slightly impacts even just the days you preform the new habit going forward, then it can potentially improve your whole LIFE.
Really, no joke, push through. I know it's every where... pick 3 things, create a journal around it, feel it everyday. You are like deaf to it by now. It's the truest most amazing advice and yet my eyes glaze over a little each time I read it, but seriously this little secret piece that I really encourage you to infuse into your new habit is this: graditude.
I know. Seeeeee, you don't want to read on! This graditude isn't about guilting you for complaining or because "you should be thankful" this is really a different angle. Stay with me.
Okay, so "bitchy" might be a little strong here, but as you start the new habit, work to break the stuck cycle, if you had one, I mean this inital phase of habit building is the bitch of it. All the things are uncomfortable. Period.
Brains don't typically get amped about change. You can feel like your whole life, or one area of it is in the shitter, try to make changes towards making it better and I'll be damned if the brain doesn't get all "oh now but wait..." on us "the shitter isn't soooo bad".
It loves familiar. No matter how awful it is. It will fight for it.
As you are new to anything, the brain sort of adds discomfort on top of the aforementioned discomfort, whether it's working out or what suddenly might feel like "choking down" 8 additional ounces of water (can we get an eye roll for the brain on this one!? I mean damn). You are likely to find some mental discomfort in taking the action...
Years ago, I read Marie Kondo's The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. Now, I'm not privy to all the goings on of Marie's decluttering TV show... nor do I care. I caught wind it didn't have quite same flavor of emphasis on graditude and joy as her book's voice, so I'm avoiding the show to preserve my own take on what I believe is one of the most life changing rituals I've ever adopted:
Saying "thank you" to my laundry.
Oh geeze, I fear I might loose you on yet another loop of this article, but stay with me.
Graditude is one of the strongest, most powerful emotions we can feel as humans. I think it's impossible to avoid brushing up against the emotions of peace, fulfillment, love and joy as you skyrocket through the feeling of true, deep, abundant gratitude.
But I'll be damned if cute, little ol' precious Marie suggesting I thank my laundry as I folded it didn't push me into not only enjoying laundry and the experience of my clothing, but also into thanking all kinds of other inanimate objects in my life years later... I cannot lie.
Think about it with your favorite t-shirt. It might go something like this while I'm putting up laundry (a typically mundane, pain-in-the-ass task) and scanning my shirt to be sure it's clean and in good tact: "Oh, I love you shirt. I'm so thankful for how your soft, gently worn fabric feels when I wear you and how it lays, fits and feels on my body... You make me look good no matter what I put on with you! I'm so glad I went ahead and spent full price on you all those years ago. Thank you for not staining after I splashed soy sauce on you yesterday. You are my favorite."
Just me or does that not feel so much better than "OMG I hate doing laundry, I wish you'd fold yourself."
I noticed last summer that during the ritual wiping down of the water rower after use in my workout class, that I had started thanking it in this same way as the laundry, but it usually went something like this: "hey you... I really appreciate that ass kicking today. I am not your biggest fan, but I sure do appreciate the challenge you offer me that makes me stronger every time we meet."
I'm not a rockstar on the rower. But gaaaw... thanking it make me feel like a beast. Even if it won. And it did. Daily. But. I noticed how much it changed my experience of the exercise, my whole workout experience, and even my drive home.
This practice conjured up several things:
Speaking of on and on... I mean I cannot stop with this fantastical list, but I'm gonna rip myself away... because I realize I'm skating around the "how"...what to actually thank.
Well, I'm glad you asked. I have some ideas...
You are building this habit to be natural, automatic and mindless. Think about the activities you have to do around this activity: do you have to put tennis shoes on? There you go: Thank your shoes as you put them on and take them off. I bet you a nickel you'll thank them as they carry you through the activity. And you'll notice how incredible your own feet are. All those bones, all those tendons... not just carrying your body, propelling it forward in the ways only human feet can... AhHhmaZinG, yo.
If you are committing to read 10 pages a day, thank the book, it's cover, the pages. If it's digital, thank the phone you read from or the notebook you take notes in. The desk you sit at. I think having a physical stimulus you have to touch to engage in the task means you're less likely to forget to do it. PLUS the elevated emotion associated with this repeated activity will make it all habitual. Which is to say effortless and unconscious.
Drinking extra water: thank the water cup you are taking extra sips from, appreciate it as you sip and set it down between sips. Thank the water itself - hey, 38% of the worlds population doesn't even have access to clean water! HOLY SHIT! You are so blessed! You not only get to drink it, but you waller around in it, flush it down the toilet, and run it down the sink! Make it cold AND HOT! What a wonderful fabulous gift! Love this water and the way it feels in your body as you drink it.
Side note: This might be where we can screw up gratitude: we add guilt. (Yes I double colon-ed). Avoid the temptation to turn this into something to be "guilty" over and get sad about those that don't have something. That attitude doesn't actually help anyone, and steers you AWAY from graditude and love of what you do have. If we all really truly appreciated what we had on a deep meaningful level, we'd change the world. At the very least, we'd change our experience of it.
Try to pick an object that you have to have contact with consistently in the habit. It doesn't have to be a fancy, new and/or great thing. In fact, I actually like to pick something that is old and worn or isn't in ideal condition and a little harder to love. Even better. You have to work on a deeper level, conjuring up positives and even a little compassion for the thing. That extra work always going to be to your benefit. Thank your experience of owning this thing for what it's taught you about your ideal version of it, about shopping, for being an asset, a partner to you as you master this habit... perhaps you couldn't do the habit without this thing. Thank this thing for being faithful on this journey, for what it allows you to do. Shoes, pens, cups, and raggedy sports bras. Thank you all. You are, after all, what I got.
It doesn't have to be an actual thing that you thank. Is there a difficult hill on your run route? Delicious donut you really want to eat in the middle of the table? Thank this challenge like I thanked the rower.
You're acknowledging that it is not only a marveling masterpiece of its kind, with all its multi colored sprinkles or soaring, near 90 degree angle heights... but that even with those assets, you are still the holder of the power.
Repeated, incremental exposure to this thing only makes you stronger, better, faster, right? The more you respectfully acknowledge this thing's power, you're also nodding to the commitment you've made and your power over this thing (even if it's a reach right now).
"Do the thing and you shall have the power." Ralph Waldo Emerson.
I couldn't have said it better myself, Ralph.
You are an incredible human. Just humans are unbelievably great. Our bodies are cooler than the most advanced machines, our minds stronger than a billion dollar computer. The fucking finger nail on my left thumbs astounds me since I regularly try to cut my thumb tip off while chopping dinner. Thank you left thumb nail for saving my thumb tip on the reg. I really do love you so. The nail alone is incredible, I'm not even to the joint, function of the thumb itself and all it allows me to do, hold and experience... including offering glowing or gloomy approve ratings. (Two thumbs up, thumbs).
The object to decide to love is just the vehicle to remind you of graditude. But you showed the F up, boo. Fabulous job. Kudos! That is really what minimum baseline planning is all about. Slow, consistent positive action over time creates compounding interest of wins. That, my friend, wins the race of you becoming the person who does the epic shit you dream about. You could have stayed in bed, ate the donut, skipped the water or the reading time. But you showed up instead.
Whatever you thank, build in a thank you to yourself. Even better, when you snuggle up to bed at night give yourself a little "thank-you-for-today" self-love as you close your eyes. Revel in all the big and small accomplishments of today as you appreciate the cold sheets and your cozy cocoon.
You are the creator of your reality. Thank yourself for showing up to own that truth. Future you will thank you.