Last week, I sent out a link for Adriene Mishler's annual 30-day yoga program. I sent it because I know, first hand, how helpful she has been for several of my clients. I also sent it in hopes that I might join up and do it myself this year.
But as midnight turned to morning on New Year's Day, I felt myself chafing at the restraints of an externally-imposed "challenge." This was painfully predictable. As I wrote in my book, in response to being labeled or boxed in any way, my knee-jerk response is generally: Don't fence me in, man! I'm a bird in flight. Just when you think you know where to find me, I've gone the other way.
That resistance is not necessarily a helpful quality, but it is the truth. So when I opened my eyes on New Year's Day, knowing there was precisely zero chance I would follow through with this idea for the next month, I decided, instead, to explore what I was hoping to get from this challenge just days earlier, while I was still living with the fantasy of completing it.
What I wanted was physical strength and a place to go for peace of mind.
If strength and peace of mind were the goals, and autonomy is a core value that drives my daily decision-making. I'm much better served by finding my own ways to meet those needs.
By confessing my experience on New Year's morning, I hope I'm not discouraging you from continuing with Adriene or any other plan that works for you! "Works" is the key word here. What works for you or me or anyone else is going to be as unique as we are. Most of us benefit enormously from a structured plan, but for something to work, we have to want follow through. It has to be a plan of our own making. My response this year was more of a "hell no" than a "hell yes", so I'm listening to that without a shred of remorse.
If you have a plan that's working for you, keep going and enjoy every minute! If you had a plan that didn't work out or are averse to any plan at all (because it feels impossible or inauthentic), take a step back and consider what you need and want right now. The Habit Trip can help you figure that out, or you can just take a minute on your own to consider what feels out of whack and what kind of reinforcement might feel good.
I want more strength (specifically in my shoulders) and a more reliable source for peace of mind. What are you craving?
Once you know what you need, you can brainstorm all kinds of ways to meet those needs, ways that feel rewarding and aligned with how you move in the world. Write them down: big or small, things you've wanted to try or have done before that offered a glimpse of the desired effect. This is play time, a chance to throw ideas out in the open. Just because you write them down, doesn't mean you have to do them. These are some of my journals. Do you have a place you love to write?
Next week, we'll explore functional ways to play around with these habits (or, if you're impatient, you can find that information in Part II of the book). But for this week—just in case you found yourself in a similar position to me on New Year's Day: right off the bat, regretting an impulse to make a change that feels more like prison than liberation—I want to offer an alternative to feeling bad about that. I teach "behavioral change" for a living, and I still fell prey to those "new year, new you" inclinations. What I'm not falling prey to this year is guilt.
If you had an initial impulse to change, it's because you're craving something, and that is the most powerful motivation you could hope for. The reason it didn't work is because you're trying to follow somebody else's idea about how to fill that need. The science shows that when you write things down, you see them more clearly and reap the benefits.
From Chapter 1 of The Habit Trip: "According to Forbes magazine, 'A Harvard Business Study found that the 3% of graduates from their MBA program who had their goals written down, ended up earning ten times as much as the other 97% put together, just ten years after graduation.' Harvard MBA grads shouldn’t get to have all the fun, now should they? We have pens, too. We can benefit from this practice just as well as they can."
So... on paper, write down:
1. What are you craving to help you feel more like yourself?
2. What are a whole bunch of different ways to fill those needs? Make a list of options: all experimental, none required in the long run.
More on next steps coming next week. If we're going to resolve to do anything at all, let's make this year guilt-free, especially when it comes to choices about our own health and well-being. If you need one-on-one help or would like me to speak to your group or organization, don't hesitate to reach out.
Much love, and happy new year!
Can we raise a glass tonight for Georgia? Whatever happens tomorrow, the folks on the ground there have been tireless, relentless, and full of hope, pulling all the rest of us right along with them. This video by Crystal Monee Hall is steeped in joy and steady resolve, "a choir of thunder and rain."
Also, today's podcast from The Daily, "The Georgia Runoffs: 'We Are Black Diamonds'", does a beautiful deep dive into the efforts these activists have made and the tactics we might learn from in the future, nationwide. I'm holding my breath and inspired—no matter the outcome.
We've talked a lot about "microdosing wellness" in this newsletter. If you're looking for miniature ways to make a difference, here are two articles that offer interesting insights.
Can 4 Seconds of Exercise Make a Difference? from The New York Times. This research is about "middle aged and older adults", but the benefit applies to any of us. A little change can have a big impact.
21 Healthy Ways to Welcome 2021 from Prevention. This starts with "Buy a plant", and I'm all there for that. :-)
If you know someone who could benefit from this Monday Message,
please share it with a friend. They can SIGN UP HERE.
Past posts can be found HERE.