I’ve maintained a daily morning workout practice and evening journaling practice for over 7 years, and a daily meditation practice for over 5 years. My practice of daily blogging is approaching 3.5 years.
There’s a perception that anyone who sustains long streaks of this nature has it “dialed in.” People ask me all the time about my “habits.”
Let’s shatter any myths around this.
None of this is habit. It’s not automatic or unconscious. Every day I make a choice to show up to practice: to move, to meditate, to write, to publish, to reflect on what I’ve learned.
I made the commitment once, but I must choose to honor it daily. Sometimes multiple times a day.
And because I’m a human being and not a machine, there are days when it feels hard. Quite frankly, sometimes I don’t want to show up.
Sometimes it all feels like too much.
It can feel like a lot of work, with little noticeable reward in the moment. I don’t always see the impact of my efforts. That makes it hard to feel a sense of progress, which spurs motivation.
So sometimes, I think about quitting.
When that happens I have my moment about it and then I get on with my practice.
The question I ask myself in those moments is: why?
Why do I keep going when I don’t want to?
First, because I made a commitment to myself. And that means something to me. With my sun in Taurus, it’s part of my nature to be fiercely committed. I’m in for the long-haul.
Second, because I’ve seen, over the years, the cumulative impact of small efforts stacked over time. This is true in any area, both how we build and how we destroy.
The body builds strength through small positive stressors over time, like lifting weights. And we can damage the body through small daily actions, like poor posture or a cigarette a day.
When I’m not seeing progress I remind myself that sometimes progress can be seen only through a telescope and not s microscope.
Third, because over time my rituals have sustained me. There’s the obvious flow of how exercise strengths the body and in turn the body can support us.
And also on a macro level the structure of my rituals has supported me.
Through dark personal times, a year of constant travel, and the past year of quarantine, my rituals have given my days helpful structure that has calmed my nervous system. They have given me a reason to get out of bed in the morning, and something to celebrate before I go to sleep at night.
On days when I’ve done nothing else I could at least end my day by celebrating that I kept my commitment to myself. Don’t underestimate the power of that in building momentum.
Sustainable and Sustaining
If a practice feels like too much for too many days or weeks, I shift the question to something more constructive:
What must I adjust to make my effort more sustainable so that the effort and the results can sustain me?
This is a question that I ask about any area in which I invest my effort, attention, time, energy, and money.
Whether it’s my business, my daily practices, my relationships, community:
How do I make this sustainable and sustaining?
Today is Earth Day, and this is a good question for us to ask about how we are treating the planet we call home.
There’s a simple principle I’ve learned through my practice:
What you sustain, sustains you.
What are you choosing to sustain? How do you sustain it in a way that is sustainable for you? And how does it sustain you?