My Pa is the high priest of habit not out of desire but out of necessity. His patterned behavior is an adaptation for the less naturally gifted. Pa always thought natural talent was an unreliable role model — therefore he leaned towards the edge of relentless practice.
Like a father does, he transferred this mentality to his son.
My young years were a series of same-same’s that early on felt like despair. With time they turned into rituals that felt like meditation.
Now in my early 30’s with a newborn, I’ve been repeatedly reminded of the magic of a small daily practice.
Here are a few examples:
Meditation for 10 minutes a day
These 10 minutes are only a small portion of the entire day but have a great impact on how I show up to everything else. Sitting quietly for 10 minutes each day has a immediate benefit of slowing me down in a world that wants me to go fast all the time. This practice is cumulative in its benefits too. It’s helped me to stay focused and present on whatever I choose to engage with longer and with more intensity. Whether I’m writing, lifting, feeding my son, or having a coffee with my wife, meditation has helped me be present in that moment.
Reading a minimum of 20 pages per day
This daily practice is usually broken up in two blocks. In the mornings, my reading is usually story based — think novels, poetry and spirituality. In the afternoon, the second block is usually knowledge based — think health, positive psychology and habit-building. This small daily practice of reading is what has helped me write every day. I use these reading sessions as primers to get me in the writers mindset. When I read the voice I’m preparing to write in, it helps me jump in a lot faster — the activation energy to start is reduced which kick-starts momentum.
Cold shower for 2 minutes everyday
When I first started this habit, I could only handle about 10 seconds. But over the last two years or so, I’ve been able to accumulate a tolerance to cold exposure. I decided to build this habit due to its potential benefits with such a small time investment. Cold exposure helps strengthen the immune system, enhance glucose uptake into muscle tissue, and elevate my mood on demand (cold exposure releases norepinephrine which is responsible for vigilance, focus, attention and mood).
Doing the dishes everyday
In the last few weeks, I’ve tried something different with the management of dishes in the sink. Rather than waiting to do them all on a specific day, I’ve experimented with doing them daily as part of my shut down ritual at days end. The first few days felt like tedious. But after that, I realized it takes far less time (and mental energy) to do them daily compared to tackling a mountain of dishes every once in a while. In addition, the habit is a subtle trigger that my “work” day is over and helps me prepare to shut my mind down for the day.
Small amounts of daily practice daily (or at least a few times a week), is how we turn activities into habits. Habits are the medium to progress. However, progress isn’t noticeable in the first few days or even weeks. But with a small daily practice, momentum compensates, and you begin to see the fruit of your effort.
It’s your time.
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