I’ve had a lot to say over the past 23 days about all of the things you can encounter as you build your practice. You’ll have ups and downs, there will be obstacles, things might feel weird, you might be grumpy. All of those things are part of the process. It’s ok to feel how you feel and you don’t have to assign any particular meaning to those feelings, unless it serves you well to do so.
But what about if the only thing you feel about your practice is dread?
What if the idea of your session never feels good or even neutral?
Let’s be clear, feeling psyched about your practice session isn’t a requirement for building a habit. You don’t have to be excited or even want to do your practice. If you can go ahead and meditate or move without any motivation or enthusiasm. – you can be fueled by stubbornness, anger, or you can have no discernable feelings about it at. If your feelings on the matter are irrelevant to you, or if you can make a practice so routine that you can do it on autopilot, have at it. You don’t need my advice on the matter.
However, if you dread your practice, constantly look for ways to avoid it, or if you feel like you have to climb a metaphorical mountain every single time you consider practicing, it might be time to review why you have chosen this practice and whether it is actually serving that purpose.
If, for example, your practice is about recovering from an injury or dealing with an ongoing issue, you might want to stick with it, even if you dread it, because it will serve you well down the road. You might be able to make it less awful by choosing music or a podcast or show to entertain yourself while you do it, or by getting a friend to join you -in person or online- while you do your dreaded thing and they do something that they dread. You are the only one who can make the call about whether the dread is worth the results.
But, if this practice is something you have chosen with the idea of expanding your life in some way and you are hating every part of it?
Why did I choose the word reconsider instead of just telling you to stop?
Because there is probably a complex thought involved in choosing your practice and in choosing whether to change it. Being told to just drop it doesn’t honour that process.
That being said, it may not be that complex for you. So, if you hate your practice, you wish you had never started, the mere thought of it ruins your day and you have no real reason to continue it, consider this is your official permission to drop it and carry on with your life.
If it is more complex than that, please read on.
Why did you choose this practice?
So, there was a reason you chose this practice in the first place.
Maybe you want something that this practice will bring.
Maybe you started this practice to keep someone else company.
Maybe you’ve been given a medical reason for this practice.
Maybe you just thought you should do this.*
Maybe it was a whim, something you thought you would try.
Those are all valid reasons for starting a practice. (Yes, even the word should. Should is a trap but it catches us all sometimes.) But they may not be reason enough to continue.
And we all dread our practice sometimes, especially at the beginning when our brains are keen on sticking with the old pathways instead of putting energy into building new ones.
But now we are a few weeks into our practices and it’s worth taking some time to evaluate how we feel about them.
And if you are still dreading your sessions all the time (or if you haven’t been able to do them at all), this is your chance to take a close look at your intended practice and the reasons behind it.
Things to (re)consider
1) If you want something that your practice will bring, peace of mind, greater strength, additional flexibility, increased endurance, but you dread your practice so much that it ruins your day or that you can’t make yourself do it, your practice is not serving its purpose. There are very few things that can only be achieved in one way. You don’t have to stay on this path because you have already started walking it. Research different ways to reach the same destination.
If you feel weird about starting over or if you are worried that you ‘wasted’ this time so far, remember that your efforts so far count – even if all of your energy went into avoiding your practice. And you are not starting from the same place you were weeks ago. Now you have more information and you know some things to avoid.
2) If you started this practice to keep someone else company, perhaps you can change your side of things. If they are doing yoga and you can’t stand getting on the mat, perhaps you renegotiate. If you are working together in person, perhaps you can do strength training or regular stretches or meditation or read or write or colour while they get bendy. Or perhaps you can find another way to keep them company and cheer them on while you undertake a different challenge.
3) If there is a medical reason for your practice, you may not have the option to stop trying to do it. I’m sorry about that, I know it sucks.
If you can’t escape your practice, you’ll need to find a way to live with it. This might be a good time to engage for full stubbornness abilities and go for angry self-care, or it might be a good time to pay some attention to the issue as a whole.
You may want to start with exploring your feelings around the whole situation. Sometimes our resentment or frustration around medical issues can show up as our brains refusing to cooperate with the very things that will help us most. I find that freewriting in my journal or recording my thoughts as I complain aloud often helps me to figure out the emotions that are getting in my way.
If you start to wade into your feelings around this and you get overwhelmed in any way, please speak to a mental health professional. Not only is it outside of the scope of these post but I am not trained in guiding people through intense emotional reactions. I don’t want to ignore the fact that there may be deep-seated emotions involved in these things and I don’t want to appear cavalier about how to address them.
If the problem doesn’t seem to be based in your feelings about the medical situation, it will be helpful to get specific about your dread. If the practice painful? Is it boring? Are you annoyed about a lack of progress? And then try to figure out what you can do to address those issues. Can you do a different practice and still help your medical situation? Can you do something to make it more interesting? Do you have a realistic sense of how long it will take to make progress? Can you measure progress in a different way? Can you develop a wildly disproportional reward system (i.e. every set of reps earns you 30 minutes of reading your novel)?
4) If this practice was something you thought you should try for some reason but it is not serving you it is definitely ok to stop.
You can take some time to explore why you thought you should try it and if those reasons are important to you, you can figure out a different way to accomplish the same thing.
There is no reason to feel guilty or bad about not doing something that doesn’t work for you.
Yes, even if you announced it to everyone and asked people to ensure that you stick with it.
You are allowed to change your mind and if someone gets uppity with you about it, try adopting a shocked, haughty tone of voice as you respond with something like, “Surely you wouldn’t expect me to continue a practice that didn’t meet my needs? That would be ridiculous! Maybe you like getting trapped in that sort of thing but I refuse to treat myself that way.” Usually that baffles people so much that they back off.
5) If you started this on a whim but you hate it? The experiment is complete. You have your results. You hate it. Feel free to move on.
Changing your mind doesn’t mean that you give up too easily. It doesn’t mean that you can’t stick with things. It has no meaning at all unless you give it one.
If you get any grief about it, respond that you think life is a buffet and that you have no intention of having seconds of a dish you didn’t enjoy.
Today, I invite you to either recommit to your practice, to change it, or to ditch it, whichever serves you best.
You don’t owe anyone else an explanation about which one you choose and you are the only person who knows what is right for you.
I wish you ease as you figure it out.
And here are your gold stars for today. There are lots of them in the photo because the process in this post may require lots of different little bits of hard work.
Your hard work counts. Your efforts matter.
And, what you WANT and what you LIKE matters.
*There’s that damn word again. *shudder*
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.