Three Ways to Motivate Your Practice

Long-term goals are wonderful things, and some of them are shiny enough to be enough, in and of themselves, to inspire a regular practice.

Other times the goals are more nebulous, and the temptations of the GravyHose are far more present and close. So rather than pull up the word processor you pull up Facebook, and rather than laying out the yoga mat you turn on Netflix. Hey, it happens, and there are times when an episode of Arrow is what you need more than writing an entry in your journal. And there’s a neat secret (that I’ll mention later) that is yet another reason not to beat yourself up when you just don’t feel like it.

But at the same time, I would like to share three things that help me reach the “Don’t Wanna – Did It Anyway” state of mind.

Check the Box!

I understand a lot of the ways evolutionary behaviorist explain things, but one that I don’t quite get is why humans like checking off things in lists. There’s something about that blank box or circle that makes you want to put a big green check mark or red X or Please fill in the circle completely when the time is right.

Has anyone tried selling books that are nothing but blank test forms, along with No. 2 pencils? Kind of like a cross between bubble wrap and a coloring book? Seems like that’s a missed opportunity…

Anyway, you can make your own. I’ve got a little row of seven circles each week in my bullet journal for my Morning Rituals of journaling and yoga, as well as my goals of drinking enough water each day and reminding a weekly Master Mind partner to move further towards their goals.

Does it always work? Nope. Notice that picture? That should be starting today, Monday, and you’ll notice that I haven’t checked anything off yet. But that’s just it: I’m motivated to do so. I’m about 65% on the water so far, I just sent the reminder (check!) and the yoga and journaling still has time to happen. Assuming I don’t let things distract me, the unchecked boxes will nag at me until I can fill them.

Sometimes a Bullet Journal isn’t obvious enough; my partner Natasha uses a dry-erase board on the refrigerator to use the same method for her goals. It really doesn’t matter if it’s written in sharpie on your arm or painted on your lawn in chalk; if you want to give yourself an easy nudge towards your practice, make an empty space that only the practice can fill.

Guilt By Association

The second method requires that you not be a sociopath. Simply put, tell people you care about that you’re going to do it. I mentioned that I started up this blog again because someone told me it helped them; I’ve heard that from others, and even have been given support via my patreon when I wasn’t writing. There are particular people who I know will read this, and I care about them, and that makes me write.

I asked my MasterMind partner to encourage me to do more drawing practice, preferably with an eye towards process instead of product, because I need to develop skills, not sellable materials. I will swear, and grumble, and come just short of pouting as I pull out the sketchbook and the pens to draw things that I don’t think are good at all – but I know that when they remind me next, I can triumphantly say Yes, I have drawn! I did the thing!.

Natasha and I even do weekly meetings just to set short goals and hold each other accountable for them. I should note that when I say that “guilt” is the motivating factor, it is not that she lays a guilt trip on me. That’s not her job. It’s the job of my own internal voice to be useful for a change and make me feel guilty if I haven’t done what I told her I would do.

Your kid. Your cat. Your future self. All four billion people on Twitter. Pick one, and let them know you’re going to do the practice. And then, when you’re feeling like it’s just too much, think about them being disappointed, because you have denied them the unique pleasure of knowing that they helped you get closer to what you want. Think of the sad eyes. The shake of the head, the slump of the shoulders.

Then do it.

The Improbable Life of Kathryn Joost

This is not my story to tell. Read the thread on twitter. And remember that the only way to get anywhere is step by step…and the next step is your next practice session doing whatever it is you need to practice.

Oh, and that neat secret? Well, it’s kind of related to those empty boxes in my Bullet Journal (aka “BuJo”). See, normally I don’t have trouble checking those off, because I do them first thing in the morning.

Today, though, we had to get on the road early for an 8-hour road trip. And that meant that I missed that window this morning. But that’s the secret:

There’s always another window.

When we get home, my yoga mat will be waiting there for me. My journal and a pen and a neat new chair to write in. And those boxes will be filled. So even though I’ve been spending most of the trip driving and singing along to musicals and reading sci-fi books, the practice will wait until the motivation catches up with me.

What’s your secret technique to Do The Thing when you Don’t Want To? These work for me, but the point is: whatever it is that kicks your tuchis into gear, do more of it.

Practice makes progress.

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