Do you have a resolution that seems like it will never get resolved?
You’re not alone in that!
As the Rewire “expert” on mindfulness meditation, I have to share that it took me many years of starts and stops before I had a regular, daily meditation practice. It’s not that I didn’t deeply want such a practice or that I wasn’t fully committed to getting the benefits. I actually went to a lot of trouble to set up a mediation space in my basement. I got a special cushion to sit on and a space heater. I even set up a timer on the space heater so that, during Winter months, it would turn on 30 minutes before I would arrive to meditate. The efforts always worked for a month or so and then I would slowly fall back into non-practice.
Today, I’m going to share the single most important factor that allowed me to push through the discomfort of maintaining a new routine.
It’s all about the WHY.
Before I get to the why, let’s (re)establish the basic facts about conscious growth.
Fact #1: All growth is change (but not all change is growth)
It’s really important to recognize that any growth you experience in life is a form of change. Whether you’re talking about growing your business, your investment portfolio, or your relationship with your child, what you are really expressing is a desire for change.
By the way, not all change is growth unless you make it so. Moving into a new house can be a big change in your life, but it’s not going to result in personal growth unless you take action to make it so, such as paying close attention to how you react to the inconveniences and stress of moving. We could also use the example of changing jobs. How many of you know someone who was deeply unhappy in their job, switched jobs, and then discovered a short while later that all the same issues and patterns were cropping up?
The interesting thing about growth is that most of us say we want it, but we forget that growth is change — and not just change for someone else; change for us. This growth/change connection takes us to Fact #2.
Fact #2: We don’t like change because change is hard
Not an earth-shattering pronouncement here, but it can’t be said too many times. People don’t like change even when it’s for the better. For instance, I have a… um… friend, yes let’s say “a friend”… who has trouble going on vacation because it messes with
my her routine. The same can be said of new and better technology. A common source of change these days is in Information Technology systems. Even if the new system offers much better features than the previous models, we tend to meet the change with resistance. Human nature pulls us towards what is comfortable, and the familiar is very comfortable.
Bottom Line: Even if you are completely on board with a new practice for personal conscious growth, you’re going to hit a good deal of resistance or, at least, ambivalence.
Finding the right kind of WHY for your change
Sustainable growth depends on a why — a reason to push through the discomfort and stay committed to creating new patterns of behaving and being. But not just any reason will do. When it comes to motivation, our intellect doesn’t usually help us. The lizard brain is deeply connected to core emotions and mostly immune to rational appeals. In order to override the lizard brain’s grip on old patterns of living we need an emotionally-compelling why.
Emotionally-compelling whys that work well are those which we feel deeply like our love of our spouse, children, parents or siblings, or the fear of being embarrassed or losing faith in our ability. Anger is a very powerful emotion, but one which we should use with great caution. (I’ll be talking about anger in a Wireboard article later this year.)
Here are a few examples of how this can work: Your alarm goes off and it’s time for you to wake up and meditate, but you’re tired and the bed is so comfy. Then you remind yourself:
“I am going to meditate right now because I love my kids and want to be more patient with them.” (love)
Or, let’s say you’ve had a long day at work and just want to get home, but you’re trying to spend the last twenty minutes of every day at the office getting organized for the following work day. You say to yourself:
“I am going to stay at the office another twenty minutes because I’m afraid I’ll forget some very important detail I’ll need for work tomorrow.” (fear)
Maybe it’s a beautiful Saturday and though you had scheduled volunteer time with an urban youth program you’d rather spend time outside playing tennis or golf or gardening. Think back to your original emotional motivations.
“I am going to show up today to volunteer so I can help impoverished children.” (compassion)
Draw from your biggest WHY as fuel for growth
There’s a second powerful form of why which is rooted in your own spiritual path. I want to be very clear that we at Rewire don’t have any desire to push people in any particular spiritual direction (including whether or not you have any spiritual direction at all). What we will say is that most of us walk around with some sort of spoken or unspoken belief about the cosmic ordering of reality. Whatever we call that ordering of reality — God, a Higher Power, the Great Mystery— the fact is that it helps us conceive of and connect to a sense of purpose in this lifetime.
Connecting the growth you want to see from yourself with this greater purpose for your life is a powerful motivator for getting past the inertia of habits and familiarity.
I was reminded of the power of spiritual purpose recently when I came across a quote by the highly accomplished Pennsylvania lawyer, Phillip Werner Amram.
In addition to serving his community with distinction, working as special assistant to the Attorney General during World War II, and receiving the award of Commandeur in the French Legion of Honor, he led an American delegation to a Hague convention in 1972. It was at this convention where he said,
“I believe that God placed man on earth to develop himself to the maximum limits of his capability. Any person who does not devote his or her life to this aim is defrauding him or herself but also Our Maker.”
If we can see our desire to grow stemming from the commitment to honor something bigger and better than our lives, we can find the motivation we need to not only step out of our comfort zone, but hang out in that place of discomfort long enough to see our desires for growth become reality.
So, even though growth is change and change isn’t easy, there’s help. When you find yourself struggling to stay on course with your growth goals, remember these two sources of fuel:
- A compelling emotional connection to the task: love, fear, compassion, anger (with care and caution). Call to your mind (and heart) the deep feelings behind your desire to change.
- A profound connection to your spiritual higher purpose. Keep bringing yourself back to what you are here to do in this life — who are you meant to be — and then honoring that higher purpose with your work of change.