In the last few years I have become acquainted with a very interesting aspect of myself and my elephant, i.e. my subconscious, which has totally blocked the implementation of new, beneficial habits.
I have no idea whether there is a scientific explanation for the phenomenon I am about to describe or whether this is just a Birgit-Special 😉 But maybe you know it too, and that’s why I want to share it with you – and also how I got over it.
The following scenario repeated itself in different situations:
1. I did something new that was good for me – e.g. a Yoga sun salutation in the morning after getting up, or meditating for 10-15 minutes during the day.
2. I was enthusiastic! It felt so good! What a beautiful discovery! -> Decision: this will be built into my daily and weekly routine on a regular basis!
3. Conclusion: And so, for example, “meditating” was added to my daily To Do list. At first it went well, the initial enthusiasm carried me. I just did it, found a gap – without the need for a reminder on the To Do list. But then, after a few days ….
4. Reality kicked in again, everyday life, lots to do. And I notice how at the end of the day I look at the remaining tasks I, “meditate” is also still waiting to be ticked off and I think: “Oh, I HAVE to do that too”.
5. -> What did me so much good at the beginning suddenly triggers other feelings in me. It appears on that list like one of the many “duties” that have to be done. My elephant crosses its arms. Nah, he’s not up for that! There’s already enough on the to-do list…. Now, this too? Seriously?
Somehow I have turned a joyful activity into a duty, my intention has become a “commandment”. And with my elephant, commandments work about as well as bans (see last week’s article).
Commandments cramp. Commandments restrict, commandments are stuffy, commandments take the joy away.
Yes, if you want to achieve something, you need discipline – not everything is fun, I hear you saying.
But the more discipline tries to push or pull my elephant, the more stubborn he becomes.
If it’s no fun, then it’s no good, then there’s no point, he says.
If what I want to do regularly for my relaxation stresses me out, it doesn’t make sense to do it anyway.
To pursue the next goal with pleasure and joy and all one’s strength is the only way to reach the furthest.
So how can I preserve joy?
The following has helped me:
- Change your perspective: Away from micromanaging the To Do list, into the distance – towards the future, towards the goal. Why did I initially want to do it? How did it feel when I accomplished it? What is it good for? How important is it to me?
- A pinch of confetti: How can I decorate it with some confetti so that my elephant has fun? How can I link my intention, my new habit with something joyful to bring back the ease, the playfulness? For example, if you want to eat healthier – cook with friends once a week. Or run in a beautiful area instead of on the treadmill. Or – if you choose the treadmill – listen to your favourite music, an e-book or a podcast …..
- A surprising change: New things create excitement! So change one small aspect, do something differently – e.g. cook something you’ve never eaten before, choose a new route when running – or different shoes, maybe take your daily walk in the fresh air a few steps backwards – surprise your elephant!
- Drama-free consistency: Yes, it’s true, you don’t establish new habits overnight. But maybe drama-free consistency works better for you than rigid discipline? To me, discipline has a patronizing taste …” brrr. Yes, there will be days when you like to do it and others when you have to push yourself. But just do it. Don’t question the whole project if you’re not in a good mood. Just keep going. No pressure, no drama, no excuses, no justifications – just do it.
- Appreciate accomplishments: Works the same way than surprises. What can your elephant look forward to once he has started moving? Stop regularly and appreciate what you have achieved. Maybe you can offer yourself and your elephant a reward when you reach an intermediate goal?
By the way, the meditation is still on my daily list – because if it’s not there, I signal to my elephant that it’s not that important – and that I’ll only do it when I have time for it – which, as we all know, is never 😉
Have a joyful week!