NOTE: ’Better’ is subjective and has nothing to do with image, success or the opinion of others. By ‘better’, I mean being more satisfied with life, healthier, happier and knowing that you are doing your best, and following your unique path.
I’ve been talking for a long time about morning routines, or rituals. I even made a very simple E-Book, that you can download for free here.
Why do I talk so much about it? Because I recognise the power of routines… or, would you like to call them differently, habits perhaps? In fact a good routine, or morning ritual, is made up of a string of habits put together. And it’s the power of those little habits that will determine the power of our routines. And ultimately, how we live our life.
We all have good habits and bad habits, and many of us grow up believing that those habits are who we are, our personality. We’ve all said things like: ’I’m an early riser’ or ‘I can’t get up early, I’m a night owl’; ‘I’d love to lose weight but I don’t like exercising’; ‘I really like take-aways’, etc. Let’s start by recognising that we are not our habits.
Our habits are things we do, and we are not just the things we do.
Therefore, if our habits are things we do… we could simply ‘do’ better things! Why don’t we just stop ‘doing’ the things we know are bad for us or harmful in the long run? Why don’t we just pick up those healthy and high productivity habits we really want to do? Unfortunately, it’s not that easy.
Many factors are at play here and perhaps it’s not all about willpower or personality. I used to think I didn’t have enough willpower to get up early, or that I was lazy for watching one more episode of (whatever I happened to be binging on) instead of picking up a book, or exercising or writing that blog.
Does it sound familiar? Yes, most of us have been there. I dare say, all of us!
What I didn’t realise is that we are wired to take the easier route to anything… therefore, it was much easier to just stay in bed than get up… or it was easier to just continue watching than change activity… Ah, so it’s not me, it’s my genes, my human conditioning.
But here is the trick… What if the easier route was the one we really want to cultivate? What if it was easier to get up, what if it was easier to pick up the book than watch telly? Then, we’d just do that!
I mentioned earlier that we are not what we do, and of course we are not, we are much more than that. But we create an image of ourselves based on what we do (I’m lazy/ I’m an early riser / I’m a smoker/ I’m a doctor/ an actor/ I am vegan/ I am sporty/ etc.) mixed with our circumstances, social and environmental (I’m Spanish/ I’m an only child/ I’m tall/ short/ blond/ single/ married/ a mum/ etc.) And once that image is fixed in our brain…
…then, of course, we are going to pick up the habits and do the things that best suit that image.
It’s easier to put on your running shoes and go out if you believe you are a runner, not so much if you’ve always told yourself that you are not a sporty person and hate running.
If we change the image we hold of ourselves, then we will pick up the habits that best suit that image, those will become the ‘easier’ options and you won’t need to call in the heavy artillery of ‘willpower’.
“The most effective way to change your habits is to focus not on what you want to achieve, but on who you wish to become.” – James Clear, Atomic Habits
If you change your mindset to becoming a non-smoker it becomes much easier to give up smoking than if you tell yourself ‘I’m giving up’. The words ‘give up’ are already telling you that you are still that person, but you are making a sacrifice and sacrifices are hard. But if you are a non-smoker, you just act according to your new personality.
All right, all right, I know it’s not that easy. You aren’t going to get up one morning and just say: ‘I’m an olympic swimmer’ and, like magic, go to the swimming pool and beat your best time. Simultaneously, you need to implement the habits that the person you want to become adopts; in this case, you need to start showing up at the swimming pool consistently.
Forget about the result, just focus on the habit. Because you don’t need to think about beating your best time, you need to show up to the training every day, like an Olympic swimmer would do, and the results will come’
For a while, my yoga practice was consistent but slightly ‘stuck’. I always seemed to have the same limitations, physically and mentally. I used to think: ‘that’s as far as my body goes’ or ‘I’ll skip this because it’s not possible for me’. After a while I started conjuring images of a better and stronger yoga practice, and just telling myself that I was that yogi. I continued with my practice, not pushing or wanting a particular result but testing and just showing up consistently… and lo and behold… I started doing things I couldn’t before.
Almost without realising I became the person I aspired to become… my habits made me that person, but the image I projected of myself reinforced those habits.
The Bhagavad Gita (one of the most important books on yoga) talks about not being attached to the result, just doing ones dharma or duty. Go to the swimming pool, practice your daily routine, do your ‘duty’, follow your dharma, and the results will come… We should be reinforcing our habit, in this case of going to the swimming pool or practicing yoga, for the pure satisfaction that the habit brings us by itself, not for a possible future reward.
I really want this transformation for you as well. I really want you to become the best you want and can be, because I know it’s never late, because I’ve been through it. We are all different, we all have different goals and aspirations, but mostly, we all want to live long and healthy lives, we all want to be successful, in whichever definition of success you want to apply.
Moreover, we all have the capacity to become ‘better’, healthier, happier… so we should all have a go at it!
How can you start? Small. Slowly. And maybe, like I do, with a habit tracker.
What do I mean by start small? That’s to me one of the most important parts of building any new habit.
Do the smallest, achievable thing you need to do. For example, you’d like to read more, but you are too tired when you finally go to bed…Start with one page, or 5 min. Only that. Don’t push yourself, by the end of the month you’ll have read quite a lot, or even finished with your book.
Seeing your progress will motivate you to continue… and as you continue reading every night, it will become a habit. With time, if you are consistent with the habit, you’d have changed your self-image to that of a person who reads books.
What about yoga? I always maintained that 10 min of yoga daily is much more beneficial than 90 min once a week. That’s how I started and the habit stuck. To start with it’s not too much of a commitment, it’s only 10 min. Those 10 min will help you feel better already, they’ll give you a boost of confidence and your endorphins will be happy, further expanding on the feelings of wellbeing.
So you’ll do it again next day, and next day… and when it becomes a habit, you become the type of person who does yoga every day… you change your self-image. And that reinforces the habit.
Don’t look at the final goal, because goals change over time… look at the small steps you can take, the tiny habits that will take you toward the person you want to become.
I do have much more to say about the subject, as you can see I’m really passionate about that. I am especially passionate about how the habit of daily yoga can help us re-shape our whole life and image of ourselves for many different reasons… so perhaps I’ll have to write another blog.
Meanwhile, if you’d like much more in depth and comprehensive advice that I could ever give you… I highly recommend ‘Atomic Habits’ by James Clear. If you’d like to know more about habits and get practical advice to form new habits or get rid of unwanted ones… read this book. Or listen to it, like I’ve just done. Alternately, you can visit his website and read some of his articles. https://jamesclear.com/
And if you’d like to develop the habit of daily yoga, let me help you!!
Accountability can be a positive force when we are building new habits, that’s why I’m everyday LIVE at 8am, UK time, via FB and Instagram, offering you a free short 15 to 20 min practice based on Sun Salutations (to which sometimes I add some other ingredients to help you get stronger and add variety).
Or contact me for very affordable private online classes Private Yoga Online to do at your own pace and time.
To finish, I’d like to leave you with one of my favourite quotes from ‘Atomic Habits’:
“Success is the product of daily habits—not once-in-a-lifetime transformations.” James Clear
Actions you can take:
- Check out ‘Atomic Habits’ by James Clear.
- Decide what habit you’d like to cultivate and what’s the smallest step you can take towards it today. Schedule it in your diary or maybe add it to another routine you already have.
- Find a way to be accountable for your new habit (tell a friend, write it down, make a contract…)
- Make yoga your new daily habit. Join me live every day at 8am for a short yoga flow to start the day! In Instagram or in this Facebook group .
- If you have any more yoga questions, please get in touch! You can also book an online group or a private class with me.