Updated: Dec 27, 2021
I first learned about the benefits of meditation around 8 years ago. It seemed like the perfect practice for an anxious, neurotic person like myself.
Since then, I've tried to make a consistent habit out of meditation and failed more times than I can count. The same monkey mind that needs to be tamed with meditation is the one that convinces me that there are better things to do.
Despite my failures, I continue to experiment with different strategies in hopes that one of them sticks. I refuse to give up. The potential benefits of being less reactive, thinking more clearly, and being more present are too important to pass up.
This idea of starting again after failing is what I want to talk about today.
A good client of mine recently expressed his frustration after reflecting on this past year. He wasn't happy with the inconsistency of his training and fitness regimen. He'd make some progress for a few weeks then get derailed due to some life event and drop the entire routine.
I gave him credit for choosing to begin again after stopping. This is far from trivial because it's much easier to give up altogether.
Many people naively believe that once they make a habit out of their desired behavior, they'll stick with it forever. Reality is a bit messier than that.
Our lives are busy. Most of us have a ton of responsibilities and very little free time. To make matters worse, human nature—with its inconsistent moods, inherent laziness, and preference for instant gratification—holds us back from doing what we know is good for us.
It's important to set the right expectations when attempting to build a new habit.
The odds of us making linear progress and sticking to something long-term are slim. And that's ok. Setbacks are perfectly normal and we should expect them.
In the meditation world, there's this concept of "begin again." It refers to coming back to the object of focus (the breath, bodily sensations, sounds, etc.) after getting distracted. People think meditation is about clearing the mind, but good teachers explain that the nature of the mind is to be distracted—building the awareness to begin again after a distraction is the practice of meditation.
I think it's helpful to use this same approach for other habits we're trying to build. Instead of giving up after failing to be consistent, we can choose to begin again. If we learn to accept reality and treat ourselves with compassion, we can slowly move forward towards the life we wish to live.