As a healthy lifestyle coach, making changes in habits in a key part of my programs. And since change starts with commitment, I’m always looking for better ways to support my client’s commitments.
Making your commitments work for you rather than becoming self-defeating experiences is vital to creating effect change. From my own personal experiences and witnessing powerful shifts with my clients, I have found that your commitments can be anchored to a deeper sticking point by following these steps.
- Check in and make sure the commitment is right for you before committing. I see many people jump in to an idea that sounds appealing only to find that really it isn’t the right fit. Taking some time to pause and ask yourself “why am I doing this and what do I hope to gain from it?” is a great first step. The commitments that I see that are able to be held most successfully are because they connect to a deep soul/heart space and have the strongest value. This connection to what really matters and what will get you through the challenging times when your commitment is tested.
- Unwind the pitfalls before starting. By walking backwards from potential problems with the commitment, you are able to either address them ahead of time or gain further clarity about whether the commitment as you’ve laid it out will work for you. Think about the exceptions to your rules, the places that could trip you up. If you are thinking of committing to a specific food plan, think how that will play out in social events or with your family or when traveling. If you’re committing to buying organic for the dirty dozen foods (those most heavily covered in chemicals which is updated annually by the Environmental Working Group) permanently, think about where you are going to get your product – do you have convenient places where you live? And what about when you travel? Do you have money twinges when you compare the price difference for organic strawberries versus the commercial ones? If so, you need to explore the money issue now before you move forward.
- Find your realistic point of being with your commitment. This is what I call your minimum marker– what can you hold no matter what. The point where you can hold firm no matter if you or a child is sick, you’re in a major life transition, or you’re traveling. If you want your commitment to be daily, this is especially important. If your commitment isn’t daily, you have more wiggle room here. In my most recent commitment with Vipassana Meditation – recommended to be done a minimum of twice a day for an hour each time – my goal was to get back to doing two meditations per day. I’d been meditating regularly for years in the morning, but knowing how much I put out energetically during the day, I also recognized that having an afternoon or early evening meditation would be really helpful to my nervous system. So I let go of the time requirement and focused on the twice a day. At this point, I’m finding I get the second meditation in later in the evening that I really want, but at least I’m getting it in. For the timing, I’m holding solid at 30-40 minutes per meditation. Making these modifications is helping me anchor my commitment. At some point I may then be able to expand into the ideal of the practice – or not!
- Mark your success and celebrate. Part of what keeps me going for the long run is to feel good and successful about what I’m doing. Sounds pretty obvious, right? But I find that many people don’t give themselves credit for the amazing job they’re doing and, instead, just move on to the next thing they think they want to or think they should be doing. The lack of self-appreciation can lead to feeling unsatisfied and unsuccessful, as you never see yourself reaching that finish line. So capture your “Yes I’m doing it!” moments. You can use a paper tracking sheet like the one I’ve attached below as a graphic or there are a variety of different Apps that track habits. Though you can use the apps to pay attention to negative habits, I prefer to use them to highlight the positive ones and see your success in implementing them.
- Way of Life http://wayoflifeapp.com/#about
- Healthy Habit https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/healthy-habits/id416687813?mt=8
- Habit Bull https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.oristats.habitbull
- Success Log: Goal Tracker https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=uk.amimetic.successlog
My personal example of a committed habit is with my commitment to have a daily yoga practice. I made this commitment ten years ago as I went into my Kundalini Yoga teacher training program. At this point, I’d already been doing yoga off and on for twelve years. I appreciated and valued the benefits I received physically, mentally, and spiritually and wanted more! But I also knew from prior experiences that I couldn’t be too rigid in my expectations – like having to do it at the same exact time every day or for a specific amount of time – or I would not succeed. At the time, I had two younger children and life was not always predictable. I also knew enough about myself to know that while I crave routine, I need it mixed with variety and diversity.
Finding Kundalini Yoga, which is geared around sets called Kriyas, gave me an opportunity to do daily yoga that had lots of diversity. There are hundreds of Kriyas – which are made up of different physical and breath exercises, mantra/sound, and eye and hand positions to create specific energetic effects in the body, mind and spirit – that are clearly laid out in manuals providing clear instructions on what to do. I had the tool, now I needed to craft how to use it.
For me, commitment has to be doable and realistic to be sustainable. This meant putting point #3 above into practice by finding my minimum point. In terms of my yoga commitment, this meant stating to myself that I would do something from the yogic technologies every day. As yoga is not just the physical postures, this gave me lots of options to play with ranging from breath exercises, different types of meditations, eating and cooking mindfully, or even taking a yogic principle such as ahimsa (non-violence) and exploring it throughout my day. I set no specific time nor tool, just the commitment to use the ancient technology to support my commitment to living my best.
And it worked! I haven’t missed a single day in these ten years because I kept it in line with my needs, my inner workings, my values and made it realistic. I celebrate it regularly by sharing about it and each day by given myself an energetic pat on my back as I make it another day.
Do you have a success story with your commitment? I’d love to hear it!
©2016, Jamie Durner, Ayurvedic Practitioner and Certified Life Coach at Abundant You Coaching in Brookfield, WI