I have struggled with my morning routine for a while. I love the extra quiet moments in bed especially now that it is cooler and darker. I love the slow, peaceful roll into the day's start. And then, at some point in the morning I look back and feel guilty, lazy, indulgent, behind and/or rushed. You know that feeling? When we start beating ourselves up?
It's when I remember that I have other conflicting goals for myself, like meditating and meeting a group for an early workout, that I start to feel bad. Then the mental self-flogging get's more insistent when I remember that I have wanted to start these habits for weeks... ahem, months...
So what's going on? One moment I'm blissfully happy and then suddenly I'm down on myself. It's really a question of owning our choices rather than either letting what's easy in the moment, or thoughts of what we "should do" be in charge.
I could own staying bed and dismiss the idea that I "should" be getting up early, because I made that decision consciously. Or I could own meditating and meeting a fitness group early, and do what is required to make that happen. But somehow I'm not owning anything. I'm just letting what's easy own me.
This is why being unintentional, or indecisive creates so much stress for us. Who's deciding for me? It's not the empowered me. It's whatever is default in the moment. Funny enough, stress goes away when we stop hiding from decisions and take a stand on what we want. So let's look at this situation with intention.
Do I really want to meditate and meet a group of ladies at 6:30 am? Do I want the benefits of a calm mind, social connection, and improving my fitness? And if so, am I willing to pay the price to have these things?
Or, do I value a slow peaceful morning more?
OR, do I need to be intentional about having both? Some mornings are a slow roll, some are get up early and knock it out. If I'm completely honest with myself, what is a possible solution I'm willing commit to, and what do I need to make that happen?
For me, I love the slow mornings but I do it because it's easy in the moment. The easiness is making my decision. I have a preference to meditate and meet a group of ladies for a workout, but I have not yet committed to those things. When something is a promising idea, it's like our child-like, inspired mind is lit up about it, but that child-like mind can't get things done. She doesn't have the grit to wake up in the dark and do the unfun thing in the moment for the later payoff.
Similarly, if we hear choices through the filter of "shoulds," are they our choices or someone else's? And how motivated are we if they aren't truly what we want.
We need to employ the mature us, the adult in us to make the decision then commit and convert the preference into a reality. For coaches, we use the tools of awareness and conscious choice to help people do exactly this.
Awareness & Conscious Choice
Awareness means gaining insight about ourselves by looking at what is real for us so we can own it and move forward. We do this by asking open, curious questions. There are no "shoulds" in awareness. There is no judgement. Here is what I just took myself through to end my daily battle of enjoying sleeping in vs. criticizing myself for not getting up early.
Me: I notice I'm feeling guilting about not getting up early.
Me: Why do you feel guilt?
Me: Because I should get more done in the morning and not waste time.
Me: Where does this idea that you are wasting time come from? (Note: This is an area I might want to explore more)
Me: I don't know. I just know I would feel better if I did the things I keep trying to do.
Me: What is it that you want to do?
Me: Meditate every morning. Meet this group of women for an early morning workout.
Me: Why do you want to do that?
Me: To have a calm mind. So I have more patience with my kids.
Me: And the group of women?
Me: To have more connection, and work out in a way that is something other than running. To build strength.
Me: That all sounds like good things in line with your values. What is getting in the way of having that?
Me: I really like to stay in bed. And if I'm honest, I stay up late. I start reading Twitter and I feel like I need more sleep in the morning.
Me: What would help you get up early?
Me: Turning my phone off at a decent hour. Having a way to be accountable.
Me: What would help that would make it fun, not an obligation?
Me: Maybe have something to look forward to? A treat. Or meet someone there that I already know.
Me: How committed are you to making this change from 1 to 10 with 10 being absolutely nothing can stop you?
Me: A 6
Me: What would help you increase it to an 8?
Me: Deciding to not feel whiney about it any more and just put on some big girl undies and do it. Pick a date. Make it happen. Don't make such a big deal about it. Nothing is stopping me other than me.
Me: Anything else that will help?
Me: Some goals and a way to track progress.
Me: Such as?
Me: I need to decide on how many times a week/a month I'm going to do this. Then maybe find an app to track it.
Over the last 24 hours this is roughly the conversation I've had in my head and I got to solutions and a plan. In asking these questions, I am coaching the part of me that feels less than full empowered (whiney, frustrated, harboring some self-pity). What open-ended questions like these do is create awareness without judgement so there is space to shift perspective from "Poor me, why do I always do this? (victim)" to, "Okay, let's move past suffering and make some decisions to own this" which is to say, bringing this situation to a place where conscious choice can happen.
Is the choice always "do the thing you think you should do?" Absolutely not. Sometimes the choice is, "I don't want to do the thing I think I should do." Or it is boundaries: I'm only willing to commit to X amount of time or resources and nothing more. It isn't either/or. There is a middle ground of options if we can move past the shame and beating ourselves up.
We each get to decide what's good enough, and I think that is the thing we all struggle with most. What if we make the "wrong" decision. Then by not making a decision at all, we stay in the default choice/shame cycle until it hurts bad enough to change. And then we feel jealous of others who make the choices we are beating ourselves up for not making.
When we get to the point where we can make a choice like sleeping in, and when our boyfriend for BFF does something cool while we were sleeping and we don't get jealous, then we know we owned our choice - and that's where there is freedom and less stress.
My questions to you are:
What are the defaults you have long tolerated?
What changes would you like to see instead?
How could you move your changes from a preference or a should to a commitment?
How could you engage the "big you", the adult, the one that has the capacity for grit and ownership, to help the little you (who is hesitating, has excuses, etc.) to make it happen?