Practice Makes Perfect

You and I know we should eat well, exercise regularly and floss daily. The information about the practices that support a healthy and rounded life is well known and easily accessible. Unfortunately, the reality of what we actually do is often very different from what we know we should do. Here’s what I have found: we often defeat ourselves going in by not confronting what it’s actually going to take to do something reliably.

A few years ago I decided I would read the Wall Street Journal each day to elevate my professional awareness.  Failed.  What happened was that when it came time to read, it seemed like too much to confront and I didn’t have the time for it.  I would then usually feel guilty that I didn’t read the paper, which would then get in the way of reading it the next day, etc.  Sound familiar?

What I finally did was confront: What is it that I am willing to actually do as a practice? Not what I should do, not what good people do, but what am I actually willing to do. What I came up with was that I would read the “What’s News” headline section on the front page each weekday.  I scheduled fifteen minutes each weekday in my calendar for six weeks.  Did I do it every day at the time I scheduled? No.  Some days I got to it later than scheduled, and I did get to it all but two days out of the six weeks.  Now it is a habit that is reliable even when it’s not in my calendar.  As a bonus, I often end up reading several articles, as well.

My view is that it’s more beneficial to develop a practice that takes some ground rather than fail at doing everything we know we should be doing.  For example, better to exercise ten minutes each day than three times a week for three weeks and then nothing for two months.

What it takes is being straight about what we are not going to do.  This is often the toughest choice and it is also the most liberating choice.  Let’s face it – there are several things each of us know we should be doing that we’re not.  When we actually make a choice about not doing it rather than blaming the circumstances (I’m too busy, it’s too difficult …) we recover some power.  Then say, what am I willing to take on?

As an example, I’m pretty reliable at eating well, but exercise is the first thing that goes out the window when I travel, which I do frequently. At the moment I know I should be exercising but I’ve chosen to wait until the holidays before I bother myself about it. I’ve marked out time in the calendar so I know when I’m going to confront it. That’s more realistic to me.

I say that what makes the biggest difference are the practices that we are reliable in doing, even if it’s not all we know we should do. I invite you to consider what practices will support your well-being. You might start with being straight about the ones that you are not going to do.Then, pick one that you are willing to take on and reliably do in the face of any resistance that surfaces.  Once you get one in, pick another.

I’d love to keep the conversation going. Get in touch with your thoughts and comments below!

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