Today is Day 100 of my 365 Days of Yoga commitment.
I am amazed at how little I even think about this anymore. It is just something I do. It is just a habit. I do yoga every day. It is who I am. It is how I am. This commitment is what keeps me sane. What keeps me plugged in. What keeps me connected to what is most important to me right now.
I wish I had some miracle switch I could flip to create habits. I wish I could just tell you to follow a certain list of steps and *boom* you'd have a habit. In a selfish way, I wish I had this equation myself so I could apply it to staying motivated to learn to run (again) or actually cooking on a regular basis (instead of having chili five different ways in as many days). I don't have this magic list, but I have learned a lot about building a habit that has sticking power.
I can look at how I set myself up for success with this daily habit. I can only tell you what I've learned so far about how to best set up for success of building habitual behaviors. After 100 straight days of no-matter-what yoga practice.
Focus on the behavior, not the outcome. I didn't set a goal to do a handstand or climb a wall or bring my hand to the mat in triangle at the end of 365 days. I just wanted to practice every day. That's it. And that's what I'm doing. I wanted to develop the focus and the discipline of a practice, not what it could earn or what I could get out of it. We cannot control the outcome of our efforts, but we can control the effort itself. And that is a safe place to place a goal.
Find an acceptable way to get a B and still be successful. In accordance with all of the goal setting guidelines, the behavior goal is very specific: 20 minutes of time on my mat every day. As long as there is one pose in there (child's pose totally counts), I can meditate the entire time. From the beginning, I defined success as time on the mat. Most days, I do at least 30 minutes, sometimes as much as 90. But on the days that doesn't work for whatever reason, I can just relax over a bolster and lay there and it totally counts. Yes, I want to grow my asana practice, but time on the mat is the absolute requirement. A habit doesn't have to be a huge energy or time requirement every day, but I believe it has to be fed in some way each day in order to grow.
Expect it to suck sometimes. Developing a habit is hard. Sometimes I just want to watch Law and Order SVU instead or go out to dinner or hit snooze or whatever incompatible behavior presents itself. Some days it is easy, and some days it is hard. And that doesn't mean that it isn't worth it or that I am a failure or that I just need to quit. It just means that it sucks that day. It just means that I could have spent my energy better that day. Or it means that I could have eaten something different or slept a little more (or a little less) or that my uterus is being a bully. It just means that I need to get my B that day. It just means that I can do the bare minimum that day. And it is okay. Just because it sucks doesn't mean that I need to quit.
Be accountable to someone. I chose Instagram (and reposting on Facebook and Twitter) as my place for accountability. I don't post every day, but I think someone would say something if I missed more than two days. I don't post to brag or to be seen. I post so that someone would notice if I didn't. That's all. I could just as easy talk about my practice every day with my husband or find a Facebook group to be involved in or hire a coach. (Speaking of coach, I am a life coach and have spots for 2 clients. Click here for info if you are intrigued.)
Expect your excitement to wax and wane. Some days, I spring out of bed, brush my teeth, and step onto my mat. Some days, I spend my entire day thinking of what my practice will look like when I get home from work. Some days, all I do is just put in the time - step on my mat and just go on autopilot. And some days, it is 10pm and I'm irritated that I still have to practice. But I get the same benefit of commitment whether I want to do it or not. And some of the days I don't want to go to the mat are the same days that I have the biggest breakthroughs.
On the days that you just can't, try visualization. Some days, though, I feel really bratty, really defiant. It has only happened two or three times, but there have been days when I couldn't make myself move no matter what (and both where physical - either exhaustion or not feeling well). On those I just can't even days, I tried visualization. I cued up a video I hadn't done before, laid on my mat, and imagined myself following along. I closed my eyes and imagined myself moving through the practice. I breathed along with the cues. I imagined myself grounding and reaching. I experienced the class in my mind. And, let me tell you friends, that was an awesome experience. I got the benefit of the stillness and the breath and experiencing the movement without any physical restriction. I also think this could work with the goal of walking on days that weather is bad, or the habit of practicing a musical instrument if stuck in traffic.
Habits are not easy. Our current routines are comfortable and cozy. It is hard to find the stick-to-it-iveness. A balance of determination, space for grace, and realistic expectations truly build the foundation for success.
So, what habit would fulfill your needs today?
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