It was just something I did to try and give myself a bit of momentum when I thought that’s what I needed. But it has developed a life of its own, opening my eyes to things I hadn’t seen before.
And that’s really the bit that’s worth sharing.
In the beginning…
So, you may remember I told you that I’d re-committed to my own work some months back? In a nutshell, one of my friends died, causing me to rethink what I was doing with my work and with my life. Off the back of that, I said no to a job that had been constellating around me. And in the process, I pulled away from a work relationship that was no longer serving me.
That was the catalyst, really.
I’ve always had a good coaching practice. But I was hungry to take it to the next level; to do more writing; and, in time, to develop more online and virtual products so that more people could learn from me.
In the months of hesitancy that I described in the post about my friend dying, part of me had been hiding from what felt like a big responsibility. It’s quite one thing to feel that you have a calling. Quite another to stand in your own shoes and bring it to life.
But in walking away from the job and the colleague, I had to put the big shoes on. But how?
Habits as an alternative to goals
My first knee jerk response was to create a list of new goals, develop a project plan, and manage the shit out of it. I’m masterful at that. Something gets on one of my To Do lists and it’s done in an instant.
But that whole approach didn’t feel right for some reason. Not any more. In fact it felt it was time for another part of me to come into play too.
Then I came across Jamie Smart via another series of synchronistic occurrences. (I’ll save all of that story for another day because I’m sure I’m going to be writing more about all of this over time.)
Jamie has a wonderful book out called Clarity. You should read it.
Amongst other things he talks about, is the view that, just as our bodies have self-regulating immune systems, so do our minds. And that clarity of thought can’t be forced. It’s something that comes in its own time.
I didn’t have real clarity on how to move forward. Sure I have my vision. But the action steps?
And that’s when it occurred to me that the best thing I could do, at least for a while, was simply to support my mental and physical equilibrium as well as I could.
Did that mean that I’d stop working?
Hell, no. I’ve kept doing my client work to the absolute best of my ability.
But it did mean that work – or more accurately, my ongoing obsession with its direction – would cede to my care for myself. And that as I began to feel the benefits of doing that, just where I was supposed to take things next would sort itself out.
Habits emerging from wisdom
And so the idea to create daily habits emerged. A small number of core practices that of themselves indicated to some deeper part of me, and to the wider universe, that I was and am serious about letting go of whatever control I’ve imagined I’ve had before and letting things emerge.
In other words, they had to be the right habits. Things that jived for me. Not things that I had to discipline or somehow force myself to do, that felt punishing in any way, or that would be very hard to instill. Things that were simple. Easy.
The first ones were immediately clear:
- Daily writing (as you can’t be a writer unless you’re writing regularly)
- Maximum two cups of coffee a day (I love coffee. But more than 2 cups a day knocks my whole energy off)
- Maximum two glasses of wine a day (ditto)
- Drink two litres of water a day (since I feel so much better when I’m well hydrated)
- Bed before 10pm (I am a sleep monster, and even on days when I’m up at 6am, this gives me 8 hours sleep a night)
On the writing front, I struggled to begin with. What to write? Where? Another person I admire is Steve Chandler, and he has this ethos that if you don’t know where to start, “start anywhere”. I decided that it was less important whether I wrote here or elsewhere, than that I wrote at all. And so I started a private journal. Wrote there daily, if I wrote nowhere else. Sheer top of the head stuff, which in turn prompted unexpected thoughts and ideas of their own to come forward.
Just keeping with these simple things over the course of those first few weeks was energising in a way that I hadn’t expected.
Something else I hadn’t anticipated was a huge insight around integrity. It simply came to me that, the more I kept my commitment to myself to honour my habits, the more I was in integrity with myself. The more my actions and my intentions were lined up, the truer to myself I felt myself becoming, the better connected to myself I felt.
I began to feel like I was taking myself seriously in a way I never had before.
Not that I have become a slave to my habits. They’ve kind of become like my best wishes for myself. Love for myself in action.
It occurred to me early on that there was no room here for any judgment of success or failure. There’s just noticing. Some days I can tick the box on all my habits. Others I can’t. But every day is its own day.
Later habits emerged as my confidence in the process grew:
- Exercise three times a week (I feel better when I exercise and when my body starts to feel well and strong)
- Eat protein at breakfast (I can maintain my energy so much better if I pay attention to what I eat for breakfast and make sure I get a big dose of protein: quinoa, yogurt, eggs…)
- Do RTM every day (RTM – “Remember the Milk” is an iPhone App, and a way of keeping tabs on my activities. So, even if I’m not being goal-driven, it does allow me to stay on top of vital “to do’s”.)
Along the way, I found another handy little App online called Lift. It allows you to create a list of your habits and to log them every day.
There’s a bit of a community online all cheering one another on for following their habits day on day and it’s quite fun.
It’s also pretty amazing when it logs milestones for you. I recently had 100 days of drinking no more than 2 glasses of wine a day. That felt like a big one.
And when I tell myself that I’m not doing enough writing, I remind myself that, since using Lift, I’ve logged 70 days. And that allows me to see how my mind can sometimes underestimate what I do.
I feel better. My energy has improved massively. People tell me I look better – at least to how I was looking earlier in the year.
Things are definitely clarifying from a business point of view from me. There’s lots of stuff that’s very much work in progress and, where once I might have been anxious about that, right now I’m not.
The experiment continues and I’ll share more when there’s stuff to share.
For now, if you’re curious, join me via Lift. Or jump on the comments and share.
Otherwise, over to you. Have you ever used habits to enable an inside-out kind of change? What was that like for you?