Did you enter 2019 with a bundle of intentions and enthusiasm for the year ahead? Perhaps you started the month full of positive vibes, conquered Dry January, started a new morning routine or kept up your yoga practice consistently. Equally though, perhaps January hasn’t actually been all you hoped it would, maybe you’ve been through challenges and change and faced some demons already. Wherever you’re at on this year’s journey though – just keep swimming.
Change Through Challenge
February is often thought of as one of those dark and gloomy months, but behind the cold weather and cloudy skies, there’s an opportunity for profound personal growth. February may be challenging to cope with, but each challenge we face enhances our ability to adapt, overcome, and learn more about ourselves. Each intention we made at the beginning of 2019 was made for a reason, but now we’ve settled into the rhythm of the year, are those intentions still holding strong?
For many of us, there will always be waves of enthusiasm for the promises we make to ourselves, but each time we do something difficult, we get stronger. Each time we’re willing to get uncomfortable we expand our boundaries and abilities. Resilience and strength of character are often the results of having weathered a storm, adapting to what comes our way and gathering new tools for navigating life.
The ritual of doing something uncomfortable or challenging each day (like taking a cold shower, going for a run, getting up early to meditate, approaching a challenging yoga posture or standing up in front of your work colleagues to give a presentation) all build a strong mind and an ability to overcome bigger life obstacles. The lessons we learn from everyday experience may not seem particularly profound at the time, but they can really be the ones that help us create the habit of being our best selves. The more we repeat these lessons, the stronger the habit of being our best selves is ingrained, and the longer this habit is kept, the more it becomes a firm part of us.
WE ARE WHAT WE REPEATEDLY DO
As philosopher Will Durant once said; “We are what we repeatedly do”, and now American author James Clear is championing the idea of harnessing small daily habits in order to make a big change. And those small habits are really small, just 1 per-cent in fact. He says; “It is so easy to overestimate the importance of one defining moment and underestimate the value of making small improvements on a daily basis. Too often, we convince ourselves that massive success requires massive action. Whether it is losing weight, building a business, writing a book, winning a championship, or achieving any other goal, we put pressure on ourselves to make some earth-shattering improvement that everyone will talk about.
Meanwhile, improving by 1 per-cent isn’t particularly notable—sometimes it isn’t even noticeable—but it can be far more meaningful, especially in the long run. The difference a tiny improvement can make over time is astounding. Here’s how the maths works out: if you can get 1 per-cent better each day for one year, you’ll end up thirty-seven times better by the time you’re done”.
Each action we commit to, even if it is a tiny part of our day, all helps cultivate who we are and attributes to the way we feel. The better we feel, the more likely we are to continue the cycle of positive habits. Even if we have a day where that 1 per-cent seems impossible, we can find even the smallest way of creating change – trying a five-minute meditation or focussing an anxious mind with some affirmations and breathing practices.
True happiness and greatness indeed don’t always come from a massive action, but from hard work and committed practice. As even the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali say, calming the mind is the result of persistent and repeated practice, done over a long period of time. (sutras 1.12-1.16) Becoming our true and best selves is a journey worth taking time over, so keep going, keep swimming.