Tuesday, March 11, 2008

When is Enough Enough?

I've written about dealing with office clutter and email clutter before in this space. Today, let's talk about clutter as a symbol of all those intractable bad habits.

Here's the short version: You may hate your messy desk. You may hate that you get drawn away from work every time your email pings. But until the pain of continuing to do your bad habit surpasses the pain inherent in making a change--any change--you won't do it. Instead, you'll gnash your teeth, you'll complain a lot (in an effort to motivate yourself) and you'll keep right on doing it.

I've been in this situation plenty of times. Yoga is a great example, actually. I'm really interested in doing a daily yoga practice. But the discipline it takes to develop a daily practice is a muscle--one that hurt when I flexed it. I was unprepared for the pain: the nagging I did to myself for hours before my bedtime yoga practice, the berating I did when I found myself glued to my seat watching some horrible reality show or other, and the stiffness of my actual body. I knew I'd feel better if I did it. But I didn't want to. I'm naturally sedentary. It takes a lot to get me off the couch or out of bed.

I did it for a while and then when I got the killer flu in January, my practice all but ceased. Then last night I had a massage. I gave it to myself as a treat after a particularly abundant month last night and as a reward for the very busy week I have in front of me this week. But it had an odd effect: I tossed and turned all night and my back muscles were inflamed. After my morning meditation, I found myself on my mat, stretching those overworked muscles. Doing yoga.

For me, the "pain" was literal. But it doesn't have to be for you. What's important is that you finally find the motivation to let go of the habit that's no longer serving you. Just because you don't like it doesn't mean you're ready to let go of it.

So for today, ask yourself:

* What's the habit that's robbing me of serenity?
* How long have I had it?
* What is it doing to me?
* What is it doing for me?
* How much do I really want to change?

It's a dynamic. It's a dance, letting go of a bad habit. It's not going to happen overnight. But with awareness, you'll start to see how much it's costing you. And then slowly and gently, you'll be ready to let go of it once. Then twice, and then it becomes its own new habit. But you can't will yourself through it. You have to practice awareness before anything will change.

1 comment:

my backyard said...

I can really relate to this. Must have a go at picking up my office tonight.