The novelty has well and truly worn off my latest attempt to create a new habit. Six weeks ago it began with the intention to get up very early every day and exercise, meditate and write. As I wrote in the previous post, that intention transformed itself a few times, finally becoming a desire to improve my sleeping habits by training my mind more. (My mind has been an issue for me for years. But my perseverance each time is a demonstration of the habit forming process – repetition over time – because although I did not know it when I wrote this piece, at the end of the year I would finally have a major breakthrough with my mind.)
When the novelty wears off, and we start to struggle, it’s easy to see it as a failure, but that has more to do with our expectations than objective progress (no matter how small). The best thing you can do is reflect on what has happened, learn what you can, and apply your learning each time as you repeat the process again and again. As with everything else on this entire blog, it sounds simple, but can be far from easy.
As things stand now, I feel more tired than ever and even the thought of meditation just makes me yearn for more sleep. It feels as though the wheels have completely come off. Much of this is down to having a one-year-old son and the part he plays in my diminished peace and calmness (which are now a practice in themselves), but it is also typical of how new habits are formed, especially later in life.
Early on it’s straightforward. We create habits effortlessly during our formative years compared to the struggle it becomes beyond our teens. It’s still possible of course, and to a very high degree (depending on our commitment), but it’s not as easy as it once was. So be prepared to fail (to meet your expectations), but recognise each stumble as another stone in the foundation of your next assault on the summit.
When I reflect on what has happened over the past 47 days, it’s easy to see – because I kept a record – that for the first 12 days everything went well, but as the intention changed, the meditation gradually slipped away. The exercises have continued because they are part of an older habit-forming process which is explained here, here and here. And the writing persists between the two extremes thanks to these blog posts, even though the daily notes have ceased.
My learning, therefore, is simple: get back to the meditation. This was substantiated yesterday when, having eschewed the chance to meditate in order to lie down and listen to a podcast, I was reminded, in a concise and almost-revelatory way, of the benefits of meditation and focus.
I will write more about that in the final post of this series, but for now the only thing to do is begin again because, as I have written before: ‘Do what you know is good for you. Do it every day. Even if you don’t want to.’ It’s time, once again, to take my own advice. Fortunately, that novelty never wears off.