Old habits are hard to break. New ones, like meditation, are equally hard to create. Especially when they go against old habits. Think about it for a second. To break old habits and create new ones requires a double dose of motivation and self-discipline.
Recently, I made a startling discovery about the statistics behind creating new habits. And in my research into creating healthy habits, one thing stood out. There is one factor above all the rest that merits your attention. If you pay attention to it, your likelihood of success is going to increase a lot.
The Shocking Statistics Behind Habit Creation
First, let’s take a quick look at the research to see how likely you are to succeed in creating your new meditation habit. According to data cited by the Benson-Henry Institute (BHI) for Mind Body Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital, only 8% of us actually fulfill our new habits tied to New Years resolutions over the long term.
Excuse me, but that stinks. Do you agree?
The BHI goes on to say that after just one month, only 60% percent of us are keeping up with our (New Year) resolutions. Five months later, that percentage gets cut by more than half. So what’s the upshot? Clearly the science and research are telling us that the odds are against us.
I plan on being the exception to that rule. Are you with me? But how exactly? What’s the secret to beating odds so clearly stacked against you?
Recently, we wrote about 5 keys to creating a meditation habit that sticks. Those are important and necessary. But there’s more to the picture. In fact, there is one thing that you have to be aware of if you want to succeed over the long haul.
What is it?
Are You Willing To Pay The Price?
In the words of My Morning Miracle author and motivation coach Hal Elrod, you need to be willing to pay the price. And yes, there is a price to succeeding with your new habit, whether it’s meditating, hitting the gym, losing weight, or spending more time with your kids every day.
You see, many of us embrace our new habits with zeal. We’re inspired! Like someone who sees the wide open expanse of the ocean for the first time. We rip our clothes off with abandon and sprint into the tidal surge.
But wait, didn’t you notice those giant waves rolling in and crashing down? Have you ever tried to swim out past the really big surf? It’s exhausting. You get tossed around like a plastic doll.
In the same way, when we passionately embrace resolutions for change, brimming with innocence and inspiration, we often make the same fatal error. We don’t take our resistance to change seriously. We don’t account for it at all. Because the truth is, we all have waves of resistance that emerge from the deep like the waves that crash down on us at the ocean.
This resistance is, for most of us, our undoing. More often than not, it spells T.H.E. E.N.D. for our best-intentioned attempt at new growth.
How To Manage Your Resistance
The key to creating any new healthy habit, especially something like meditation, is preparing yourself for the discomfort, inconvenience, and ambivalence that inevitably (and often shortly) follows the inspiration. Don’t get me wrong, meditation is awesome. Of all the life changes I’ve made, it’s had the biggest impact.
But the fact is, it takes work and requires change. And most of us need to manage our strong emotional resistance to real and lasting change. Our failure to do this is one of the biggest reasons for those lack-luster statistics cited by BHI.
But what does it actually mean to manage your emotional resistance? It means you need to think, see, and feel beyond your short-term inspiration and understand that you are going to get fed up, bored, and probably want to quit. That’s just part of the bargain.
What does that look like when it comes to meditation? Here are a few inner voices of resistance that you can probably expect to hear.
- “I have no idea if I’m doing this right.”
- “Meditation just isn’t for me.”
- “I can’t tell if I’m making progress. Nothing’s happening.”
- “I get sleepy when I meditate.”
- “I don’t feel peaceful at all”
- “Meditation makes me more stressed.”
- “I don’t have the time to meditate.”
- “My mind won’t go quiet. It’s too busy. I can’t meditate.”
Can I let you in on a little secret? That isn’t your voice. That’s the universal voice of resistance that we all hear when we start meditating. And let me tell you, it gets craftier over time.
But the beauty of meditation is that this voice doesn’t need to go away. The whole point of meditation is that you ignore all the junk in your mind. Whether it glitters like gold or stinks like your old dirty laundry. It doesn’t matter. In meditation, you leave it all alone.
Looking Beyond Your Inspiration
And when it comes to creating a new habit, this is what Hal Elrod is talking about when he says that you have to be willing to pay the price. We each need to be willing to make progress without the benefit of a positive emotional backdraft like inspiration. More to the point, we need to bear all manner of discomfort if we want to succeed.
Inspiration is valuable for many things, but not for sustaining a long term habit. It’s more like the ignition switch in your race car which sparks the engine into life. It’s awesome for shooting you out of the gates at top speed, but not so good at getting you around the race track after the first few laps.
You need something beyond mere inspiration to win the race. You need self-discipline. That self-discipline is what carries you through the discomfort to the other side, where your new habit flowers into a self-sustaining habit. That’s the goal.
If you manage your expectations and if you’re willing to pay the price, you will get to the other side. Then you’ll enjoy the glorious experience of momentum and confidence and all the positive dividends that come from your new hard-won and well-earned habit.
And there’s one more small benefit I should mention. You’ll also be part of that small group of individuals who defy the odds! You’ll be the one who succeeds in your resolution to create a new habit and a better healthier you.