Have you ever tried to make headway by making change, only to find that it doesn’t stick?
I’ve been studying James Clear’s Atomic Habits in my local book club, and the concepts are so good that we decided to give it a second month for implementation. The ideas are great, but they work EVEN BETTER when combined with the Yoga system. The reminders I’m getting are revolutionizing the way I’m working with clients.
The central idea behind the title is that small changes in our habits add up to big changes in our trajectory over time.
The first and most important principle concerns identity, or ego. It isn’t stated as being the most important in Clear’s method, but as a person who has tried many times to implement new habits to no avail, I can plainly see that in every case, I’ve only been successful when my identity was supported by a habit – never the other way around.
In last week’s livestream, I used an example about my love-hate relationship with practicing music when I was younger. Interestingly, when I started my Yoga practice, it was easy to add into my routine because I identified myself as a guitarist. I experienced a difference in how my body felt almost right away, it was obvious how well it supported me. For that reason, it was a no-brainer to keep it up.
The second point is a Myth-Buster: Clear states that, “The things that feel good now often cause us problems later, and the things that help us later usually don’t feel good now.” This is only true at first! When we’re out of balance, we crave things that keep us out of balance. But when we’re in balance, we want things that perpetuate balance or will quickly bring us back to it if we’re straying from it. Have you ever notice how healthy people seem to more easily make healthy food choices, turn to exercise to relieve stress and are willing to go to bed when we’re tired? This is why!
The third is around rewarding yourself for completing a good habit, which is related to pairing things that you want to do with things you need to do. Back in the day when I started yoga, I was on a very restrictive diet. Every Friday night, I’d go to class as part of a standing girls’ night, and we’d go out for a late dinner afterwards, during which I’d cheat shamelessly on my eating plan. At first, I’d pay dearly for it for the rest of the weekend, but after a few weeks, something changed. I suspect that the Yoga was starting to work its magic. What started off as a cheat day became a legitimate Treat Day, and I still use this principle myself and with my clients.
Back to the concept of rewards and pairings: I practiced yoga on my own all week and experienced the immediate reward of feeling better each time. Every Friday, I’d connect with my friend (something I wanted and needed to do) by going to class (something that I needed to do, but might not have done on my own when it was new to me). The reward for the whole thing was a dinner out.
A wonderful fourth concept is tracking. For years, I struggled with meditation, and I mean STRUGGLED. My practice finally took hold when I began using a mala (meditation beads) and tracking it in my journal. My first “successful” meditation practice occurred over 120 consecutive days, and it changed my life. Since then, I’ve stopped for short periods of time, but I always come back to it because I benefit so much.
One that goes nicely with tracking is, “Never miss twice.” I used this myself before I learned about the book, and it really makes a difference when I fall off the wagon. It happens! And, it (almost) doesn’t count if you get right back on 😉
Setting Intentions is a great one that crosses many traditions: New Year’s resolutions, writing down goals the beginning of a course, project, or term; the beginning of a yoga session, often the beginning of each yoga class. This is the main concept I’m implementing before our next book club meeting, because I’m certain I can use it much more powerfully than I do.
What is one habit you’d like to transform?