I hope that you have been collecting your gold stars for your daily efforts but have you been taking a moment to really give yourself credit for your hard work?
Whenever I chat with people about their efforts to build a new habit or routine, I usually discover that they are not giving themselves enough credit for the work they are putting in and they dismiss the impact of the challenges they face to do that work.
Since I really want you to be able to recognize all of your efforts and claim your well-deserved credit, let’s have a closer look at your work and at your obstacles.
Dealing With Obstacles Takes Effort
Lots of motivation-minded people try to cheer us on by saying things like ‘we’re all in the same boat’ or ‘we all have the same 24 hours to work with.’ And then they follow that up by some comment that implies that if the reader just focused and got their act together, they too could achieve the ideal results on display.
This is bullshit, of course.
Aside from the glaring lack of awareness of the privilege on display in those phrases, no two people are living the same life or facing the same obstacles. Even people with the same size families living in the same economic conditions with the same educational background and the same basic daily routines are not facing the same challenges. From a strictly chronological sense, we have the same 24 hours in each day but in a practical sense some people have a lot to deal with minute to minute while others have a very smooth path.
You may see yourself as being ‘just like’ your friend who can easily get up at 5am for yoga and chastise yourself for not being able to do that, too. But maybe their internal clock is set to different hours than yours. Maybe their children sleep through the night. Maybe your body is structured differently than theirs and yoga isn’t accessible for you. Maybe you have early morning obligations that prevent you from focusing on yoga at that point in the day. Maybe you are dealing with all of that and your morning starts at 7 and you do a few neck stretches before plunging into your day.
Sure, from a energy burning standpoint, you have put in “less” effort with your stretches than they put into their yoga.
But from a giving-yourself-credit standpoint, you are putting in far more effort. They can roll out of bed and hop on their mat, you have to overcome a bunch of obstacles to do a few a neck stretches.
I don’t really mean to frame this as a competition but since we tend to compare ourselves to others and find ourselves lacking, I thought it might be useful to be at least a bit more realistic about it.
For some habits, on some days, it will be easy to do what we planned. On other days, we have an uphill battle to do our placeholder habit. That is not a failing on our part. That is a victory. And we need to give ourselves credit for that.
In fact, we also need to give ourselves credit for the days that we decide to NOT include our new habit so we can get more sleep, connect with someone important to us, or just to rest. Making that decision is a victory too. After all, we’re not building these habits for their own sake, we’re building them to enhance our experiences in our own lives.
So, instead of being hard on ourselves for doing something “less” than what someone else did, let’s give ourselves credit for the effort we put in to be able to work on our habit.
It’s Still Hard Even If You’re Used To It
And, for heaven’s sake, please object when your brain coughs up things like ‘But it has been this way for so long I should be used to it!’
That ‘should’ in there is a clue to pay close attention.
Even if you are used to things being this way, THEY ARE STILL HARD. Give yourself credit for those efforts. You are still busy. You are still spending a lot of energy just to get through your day.
Denying that is like telling an Olympic weightlifter that their weights must be light because they can lift them. The weight is objectively, measurably heavy. Most people couldn’t easily lift it. It took training and a lot of effort on the athlete’s part to reach that point and no sensible person would suggest otherwise.
The energy and effort you need to do the things required of you every day are unique. What feels easy for you is hard for someone else. What’s hard for you might seem easy for someone else.* Or it might LOOK like they find it easy but they are like the proverbial duck, floating along on the pond with their feet paddling furiously beneath.
The key here is that you give yourself credit for all the effort involved in adding your new practice to your life, even if you are used to challenges in your day to day.
Don’t pretend that the obstacles weren’t there, give yourself credit and make those obstacles part of your celebration of your efforts.
Coax yourself out of saying things like ‘I’m so worn out from getting dressed that I could only do neck stretches.’ Instead, try ‘I’m so worn out from getting dressed AND I still managed to do these neck stretches!’
It will be weird at first but I think you’ll like it over time.
Today, I’m inviting you to notice the challenges you are facing on your path to incorporating your practice into your life and to give yourself credit for them.
If you don’t take the time to notice these things, it can be easy to feel like you aren’t working hard enough on your practices and then you can get into a whole negative mental tangle.**
The truth is most of us have a lot of things to deal with every day and the impact of those things will vary depending on all kinds of factors. Acknowledging their impact is not making excuses or letting ourselves away with anything, it’s being realistic and choosing to have compassion for ourselves.
Here’s your gold star for your efforts today, whether those efforts are applied to your practice, to getting to your practice, to thinking about your practice or to taking the time to notice the obstacles to your practice.
You matter. Your struggles matter. Your efforts count.
*They might also be PRETENDING it is easy but that’s a whole other issue!
**A few years ago, I was having extra trouble focusing on my work and for some reason I decided to make a list to see what might be affecting me. I felt a bit foolish and like I was complaining too much but I made a huge list of everything that was bothering me, even in the slightest. When I looked the length of the list, I had the helpful idea to put it on a timeline. That’s when I realized that I had some challenges that I had been going on for at least 5 years that were still requiring effort at that moment, others were 2 years, 3 years, a few days, weeks or months. Some of those challenges were internal, others were things I was supporting other people through. It was incredibly enlightening and I could immediately conjure up more self-compassion than I ever had before. If your brain is crowded, you might not realize how much you are trying to handle on a day to day basis. Trying something like this could help.
For the second year in a row, I’ll be posting a Go Team! message every day in January to encourage us as we build new habits or maintain existing ones. It’s cumbersome to try to include every possibility in every sentence so please assume that I am offering you kindness, understanding, and encouragement for your efforts right now. You matter, your needs matter, and your efforts count, no matter where you are applying them. You are doing the best you can, with the resources you have, in all kinds of difficult situations and I wish you ease. ⭐💚 PS – Some of the posts for this year may be similar to posts from last year but I think we can roll with it.