Back Up to Move Forward

Let’s say you have a habit, a pattern that isn’t working for you. Maybe it’s frustrating, or starts a torrent of mean chatter in your head, or you just don’t plain enjoy it.

Maybe your habit is starting out your morning by getting online right away. You start by checking email then moving on to Facebook, or Twitter, or just clicking around looking at blogs or news articles, or what-have-you. Next thing you know a certain amount of time has past. More than you realized.

Not so horrible in and of itself. But if it leaves you feeling like you’ve been wasting time, or are still needing something, or just aren’t getting done the things you want to do, then it starts to feel like a problem.

The noticing, that’s the first important part.

If you don’t even realize you’re doing it, you can’t make any changes. But once you have awareness about it you can do something about it. Although it’s possible it can get even more annoying first.

Here’s why.

If you’re anything like my clients, or me, you might try some systems things first. Something like setting a timer, or giving yourself a reward for not doing it (or doing what you want to be doing), or otherwise trying to set it up so you don’t do it anymore. This can be enough to keep your attention where you want it to be.

On the other hand, it can make things feel worse. If those systems you set up to keep you on the straight and narrow don’t work, self-recrimination can kick in. That’s when the “I should have more willpower!” self talks begin. Also, not very helpful.

It isn’t always about your childhood.

Certainly, you can delve into the behaviour, understand what you’re seeking from it, and find other ways to meet those needs. This is great. And also sometimes more time and effort than you want to put into it.

So, you can start by backing up. Look at the steps you take to do the thing you don’t want to be doing. Get all curious researcher on yourself and take some notes.

And then back up some more.

Back all the way up to the point where you have free choice. (Because let me tell you, if you’re already clicking around the internet or standing in front of the open refrigerator or sleeping in instead of working out) you have already fallen down the hole. There’s so much momentum at this point, it’s a gazillion times harder to stop.

So back up.

For the wasting the morning clicking around the internet example, retrace the steps. Really notice the details.

How do you do it?

“I sit down at my desk in the morning. I notice the things I was working on yesterday, my to-do list, a pile of mail. I start to feel overwhelmed and I decide to just quickly check my email.”

Oops, there’s the hole, and person with good intentions falling into it!

So, back up before then. What are you doing?

“Eating breakfast, showering, getting dressed.”

Before that?

“Waking up. Sleeping. Going to bed. Reading. Relaxing. Eating dinner.”

Before that?

“Finishing up work.”

Interesting. How do you finish up work?

“At some point I just get up from my desk and don’t come back to it.”

What would it be like if you purposefully ended your day?

“Hmmm, that would be interesting. If I purposefully ended it, I would neaten up my desk. Leave the thing I want to work on first thing, right in front of me.”

What would your morning be like if you started with a desk like that?

“Oh, so nice. I would know exactly what to do, what was most important for me to start with. I could also turn off my computer. Then when I sit down at my desk, I can start by turning on my computer, which will get me some time to plan my day, even beyond what I left for myself the night before.”

So it turns out, that turning off your computer the night before helps you stay focused and spend your time where you want to, rather than getting lost in email, and falling down the hole.

Imagine doing this for something else.

Perhaps you find yourself not exercising as much as you’d like. Back up the routine, until you find the spot where you can make a change before falling down the rabbit hole.

If you want to exercise in the morning. Lay out your gym clothes next to your bed, and have your gym bag packed and by the door. If you want to do a yoga dvd, queue it up ahead of time and leave the TV tuned to that signal, and put your mat out on the floor. Then when you turn the tv on, it will be there ready for you.

How many other ways can you make one small tweak that will help you do what you really want to be doing?

Remember, the trick is to keep going backwards until you’re at a place where you are unattached and have free choice. I’d love to hear how you’re trying this, or if you have a question about how far back you should be going. Join me in the comments!

Photo by NaturalBornStupid on Flickr.

 

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