make mindfulness your default mode

How to Begin


I started reading Gretchen Rubin's new book, Better then Before. In it, she writes about forming habits. The part that I was reading spoke to the difficulty of beginning. The first step requires nothing special, really; there is no secret in how to begin. There is no need to wait for the perfect day/time/whatever. Just do it.

That is something I have been struggling with in starting this blog. I have found myself putting off the writing part of it in order to work on the aesthetics. Ooh, I need the perfect header. I don't like this background. I have to add my Pinterest board to the sidebar. Because naturally no one should view my blog in less than perfectly-ready form. Of course, I have taken the first step. I did write a little a bit already. Then I got sidetracked, and maybe a bit scared. Rubin's book also addresses the phenomena of how, when we think about whatever it is that we've been putting off, it makes us feel bad and we push it to the back of our minds even more. This has certainly happened to me.

When it comes to writing, I find that my clearest, best thoughts come in the earliest hours of my morning, which can be a pretty crazy time of day. Hunter wakes up at 5:30 and then there is the whole getting-ready routine. If I can get out of the house early enough, I try to squeeze some writing time in before work. A lot of days this doesn't happen, though. Often I'm left with maybe only ten minutes, and I dismiss it as not being enough time. Or I decide to devote myself to other matters. There is always something else. More often, I end up with time to write later in the day, but I don't even try, because I think I can't gather my thoughts well enough to make it worthwhile.

I can do it, though. I just have to remind myself why. One of my most deeply ingrained habits is walking every day. Throughout college, I walked or biked to campus and work every day, and since starting my current job over six years ago, I've walked at least twice a day, with fifteen minutes at lunch and fifteen minutes before or after work. To make this happen, I've had to arm myself with certain things: tall, fur-lined snow boots; a heavy down coat for those awfully chilly below-zero days; quality gloves, hat and scarf; an audiobook to listen to because it helps me zone out from the sometimes terrible weather. On top of this, I remind myself why I should walk. Being outdoors and breathing in fresh air energizes me and clears my head. It brings more inspiration to my work. The extra blood flow revives me in the middle of the day. It's good modeling for my son. And of course, health reasons. .

Making a deliberate choice to do something every day (or every week, or however you slice it) can be extremely difficult, especially when it requires managing your time in a certain way. Every day. Forever. It's an intimidating thought. That's the way I viewed parenting before I actually became a parent. I always knew I wanted to have children, but when the time to start saying "When?" rolled around, I wasn't quite sure when the right "when?" was. I was enjoying the carefree life my husband and I had, and wasn't so sure I would like to give it up. The other couples in our small group were trying, so we began thinking about it more. Was now the time to decide that we were going to try to add someone to our family, someone who would need us every day, forever and ever?  My husband and I took a favored approach to decision-avoidance: Let's just see what happens! And we promptly got pregnant. Cue the surprise. But at least I didn't have to make the decision. It was made for me.

So many new habits have been formed because I forced my own hand into parenthood: rising early, managing time super-efficiently, spending less money on non-essentials. This doesn't seem to be something I can do with writing, though. I have to make the choice every day, the same way I do with walking.  Writing isn't going to wake me up in the morning with its cries or tug on my leg in the evenings. It doesn't snuggle up to me with a book, squeal with laughter, or blow me kisses. I have to choose writing, and then take action.

Hopefully, as I continue reading Rubin's book, I will find more answers about making my habit stick. For now, though, I will just have to remember to tell myself why it needs to happen...and then make it happen.

What habits do you struggle to begin? What have you found helps you?