You think of taking up a daily meditation practice. Or eating more vegetables. Or getting exercise. Or drinking more water. Or being kinder to yourself or someone else.
You decide, “I’m going to do this.” You’re aware that any of these things could help you to live a better life and you think it’s time for a change. You’re tired of your suffering.
But then…you don’t do it. Or, you do it once, or perhaps for a week or two, and it drops off of your radar.
There’s a reason why we don’t do what we say we should. Actually, there are really two.
One is that our old habits are still dictating too much influence over us. When it’s been your habit to go through your morning in a certain way, that old habit has greater sway than the new one you’re trying to establish around a meditation practice. Even with being kinder to ourselves, the old habits of criticizing ourselves as a response to making mistakes will be more practiced and thus more automatic.
The other reason why we don’t do what we say we should? Pay attention to this: we don’t believe that any of it will actually work.
Let’s make a slightly different comparison: if you found out that you were a multi-million dollar lottery winner in a different state, and that in order to claim your prize, you would need to show up in that state within the next twenty-four hours, you’d do whatever it took to get there, right? Let’s say that you lived in California, and the prize was waiting for you in, say, Missouri, but there were no flights to Missouri. Google Maps tells me right now that this would be about a 24 hour drive, and that’s how long you have to actually get there before the prize expires.
If you knew that there was a guaranteed couple million waiting for you, would you just shrug your shoulders and say, “Gosh, guess I won’t get my millions; bummer,” or would you figure out how to get your ass to Missouri, even if it meant enlisting friends to drive with you in shifts all through the night?
I think you know the answer to that question.
I’ll change the terms ever-so-slightly, then: what if it was no longer a guaranteed multi-million dollar prize, but rather, if you took the time to hustle to another state to claim your prize, there was a 50/50 chance that you’d get it? As in, you might show up there and they’d say, “Sorry, we flipped a coin and you did not get the prize, but thank you for trying”?
I’m asking this because how you’d answer this question says something fundamentally about your willingness to take action in the name of possibility. I’m very clear that even with only a 50/50 chance that I’d go to a lot of effort to claim a prize and that prize might not happen, I’d still rather try, than not try. I’d still rather bet on the possibility of things working out the way that I wanted them to, than not bother.
If you really believed—truly, really believed—in the benefits that meditation could give to your life? You’d do it every day. There’s no way you’d waste a second not giving yourself the gifts that meditation can bring. You’d never again tell yourself, “I don’t have the time,” just as you wouldn’t tell yourself, “I don’t have the time” if the multi-million dollar lottery prize was on the line. You’d do it, because you knew that you wanted that outcome.
We don’t do what we say we should because we don’t actually believe that it’s going to “work.” If you sit with this for a bit and really search—why don’t you do the things you know you should? What’s that really about?—you’ll arrive there. First, you might sift through things like, “I don’t do it because I don’t really know how” or “I don’t follow through because it feels really hard to fit that in,” but dig a few layers deeper and you’ll arrive at, “I don’t do it because I don’t really see the point,” or perhaps, “I don’t do it because in the moment, it feels too hard.”
If you knew the multi-million dollar lottery was waiting for you, yours to claim in only 24 hours, you’d do the things that were hard. You’d see the point. You wouldn’t dither about coming up with “good reasons” and you wouldn’t waste time trying to come up with the “perfect route” to drive on to claim your millions and you wouldn’t get lost in comparisons about so-and-so who might have figured out how to get a million-dollar prize better than you and you wouldn’t sit around thinking about how your parents or teachers always criticized you and never believed you—you’d just fucking GO, already.
In other words, there’s a lot less to figure out, than you think there is. Do you believe that meditation will help your life, or not? Do you believe that eating vegetables and getting some kind of exercise in your body will help your life, or not? Do you believe that being kinder to yourself and others is good for your life, or not?
And don’t hem and haw about it—this is a “yes or no” question. Do you believe this, or don’t you? Yes or no?
Really, what do you believe? Because if you truly don’t believe that meditation could benefit your life, then there’s no point in even telling yourself that you should try it just because everyone else says that it’s great. Just go do something else that will benefit your life. This is okay. It’s not a crime to decide that meditation isn’t your thing, but that something else is.
The point is this: if you believe that meditation, exercise, vegetables, gratitude, drinking more water, being kinder to yourself, will truly help your life, then you need to be doing those things, and you need to be doing them consistently and drop the “Gosh, gee, I said I would do this but then I got so busy…”
And if you don’t really believe that these things would benefit your life, then drop the, “Gosh, gee, I should do these things because everyone else says I should…”
You already know whether or not you are in integrity around these things. You already know what you truly believe. You know whether or not you really need to be doing these things and are copping out, or if you actually just don’t want to do these things. Let’s get honest. You already know the truth of what you believe about meditation, vegetables, exercise, water, gratitude, being kind to yourself, adopting more courageous habits, consciously deciding not to get stuck in your fear, and anything else that you’ve ever heard can help you to live a good life.
There’s nothing else to figure out. You either believe that these things could be helpful, and thus you need to be doing them so that you can live an incredible life. Or, you don’t believe that these things could be helpful and it’s time to find out what you believe is necessary for you to live an incredible life.
Let’s drop the middle part where we waste time on “I’m not sure how” or “I don’t have time” or “But someone from my past always told me I would be no good at that.”
Right here, right now, you are able to do what you are able to do, as well as you can do it. All that matters is if you at least try, at least aim for the 50/50 chance that these practices or any others of your choosing can help you to feel stronger and more emotionally resilient.