Today starts the first day of my “12 habits in 12 months” challenge. Last post, I listed several habits I might choose from, and I’ve made my decision.
And the new habit for September, 2014 is. . .
“Meditate for 15-20 Minutes a Day”
OK fair enough, you say. So what happens when you make a list of habits? Surprise: You’ll want to do lots of stuff.
In the last few days, my list of potential new habits has grown considerably.
With so many potential habits to choose from, I WANT TO DO THEM ALL. I just think about how frikking awesome I’d be if I did all of the things on my list. But the whole point is *not* to do that, but to slowly stack one good trait on top of another.
Of course I don’t have actually wait four months before I cease to stuff my face with carbs or go to the gym . . it’s just that these things won’t be my main focus in September.
“You’d better watch out, I’m telling you why?”
Besides not trying to do it all at once, I’ve instituted a few more guidelines for myself:
- No time-consuming habits without beta-testing. I’m busy enough already. So nothing without trying it out for a week or so to see how it fits into my schedule.
- Habits have to be in line with my long-term goals. “ Learning German sounds nice, but I’m not going to lose money over it . . . sorry. If I can’t explain how something fits in with my longer term goals, it doesn’t make the cut!
- I get one opt-out per month. I’m using stickk.com to keep myself financially accountable. But what do I do if in December I’ve learned that meditation just isn’t working for me? I get to drop it. I’m limiting myself to one per month so I don’t give up everything. I could imagine if my personality were different I wouldn’t want to give myself this easy out, but I know myself well enough to know that I’ll re-up if I find something is life-promoting…even if I don’t particularly enjoy doing it consistently.
- I should be able to give a “time” to each habit. For instance: “I will meditate every day after my morning coffee, or after I finish teaching.” Putting my habit on a schedule increases the likelihood it will happen.
- I need to consciously work on freeing up more time. As the year progresses and I keep stacking these awesome traits, I’ll need to do conscious work to make my schedule more manageable.
So then, why meditation?
Why not the gym, or health, or get organized? I chose this because of one final guideline I’ve given myself: I want my habits to make sequential sense.
What does that mean? It means I want to choose the one thing that will tend to have the greatest impact and make the other things easier to accomplish.
Meditation calms my mind, makes me more prone to consistent and calm decision making, and helps me keep a nice flow to my day. I think that more than anything else on my list, taking this time to center myself every day will have benefits across the board, because it will increase my calm and self control.
Habits and the Pareto Principle
One way you might think of this is the “80/20” rule of habit formation. The 80/20 rule, or the “Pareto Principle” suggests that the bulk of the results come from a minority of the causes. So in this case, if I meditate every day, I’ll tend to do a lot of other positive things as well and increase my overall sense of wellbeing to boot – at least that’s my theory.
So day 1, you’re toast. 364 days to go. See you there.
If you enjoyed this post, you’ll also enjoy learning about how I set up my accountability systems to keep me on track.