Using the same example as the previous post – creating a new habit of early morning exercise, meditation and writing – this post is a reminder of the benefit of using everything you learn to make it easier for yourself. It sounds obvious, but it isn’t always what we do. Look at your own life and examine how many times you had to make the same mistake before you learnt the lesson. At the time, we swear we won’t forget, and we assure ourselves (and others) that it won’t happen again, but then it does.
It happens because we convince ourselves that the situation is different this time; we forget our pain from previous episodes; we ignore our procedures; and we repeat old habits. Even when we’re convinced we have learnt, cockiness awaits to lead us down familiar pathways. Fortunately, the greater your level of awareness when going into something new, and the richer your experience of the process, the easier it is to learn the lessons you encounter as you proceed. Moreover, the greater the awareness, the more likely it is that you will identify learning opportunities. And, as always, the more you practice, the better you get.
After 11 days of the new routine, I have two clear examples of using what I have learnt about myself. The first refers to my sleeping patterns, the second to my actual versus perceived resilience.
Sometimes when I wake up in the night, I am unable to get back to sleep. Strangely, I often lie awake for exactly two hours before falling asleep again. It doesn’t always happen, but after an hour, it’s clear to me that I have another hour ahead of me and that I should get up and do something – but I never do. I tell myself that I could fall asleep at any moment (even though I know otherwise) and that it would be a waste to miss out unnecessarily.
Now, because I have an obvious reason to get up, it’s easier to do so and that’s exactly what I did on day 5 of my new routine. I woke up ridiculously early, lay there for an hour and then got up. At 02:24 I found myself on my mat beginning the routine with relative ease. (By 06:30, having spent an hour and half with my 11-month-old son, I was at the end of my tether and needed to sleep for another 2½ hours to recover. Clearly, this new routine needs to find a balance.)
The other example comes from day 6. I almost didn’t make it onto the mat at all because in the middle of the night I woke up shivering, with a slight fever. I couldn’t get warm and, as I fell in and out of a fitful sleep, I took the easy decision to cancel the early morning programme. However, when I woke up (naturally) at 04:30 I felt a little better. Not fully fit, but better than at 2am.
I know from previous experience of my exercises, that even though I may feel under the weather, I can still do something. Even though those exercises may not be too effective, they are still better than nothing. Furthermore, at the very least, I will have exercised my discipline. So I got up, and at 04:40 tentatively began my day. It wasn’t easy and I had to lie down for the last 5 minutes of the meditation, but I did it, and showed myself again that my limits are not where I sometimes think they are.
When you get into the habit of learning and implementing what you discover, you become more observant, more aware of the possibilities available to you, and more likely to learn. It feeds itself. All you have to do is make a start.