We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.
In the final few weeks of this past year, I took some time to reflect on where I wanted to be and how I could build healthy habits to potentially combat my harmful qualities.
I began by doing research on habits that could have a significant impact on various aspects of my life. I really didn’t want to start golfing to deal with my stress, so meditation offered an enticing starter package.
To offer some context, I’m naturally someone who’s very stressed. I tend to sacrifice my drive and ambitions for a constant state of anxiousness. Most of the time, my mind is on the move, filled with thoughts about future work, relationships, and family. It’s something that has affected the way I think and the work I put out.
So, I started a daily meditation practice in a coat closet in Jersey City with the intention to chill out. But, I‘ve been able to get much more out of it than I first anticipated.
- Meditation is just as much for yourself as it is for others.
Going into my first meditation, I had the perception that we practice to simply improve ourselves. However, the beauty of meditation also lies outside the physical practice.
I’ll elaborate more as the story progresses, but the practice of taking time out of your day to sit still and clear your head seems to allow for more mindful decisions and thoughtful conversation with others throughout the day.
If you use a program similar to Headspace, then you know that there are specific meditations tailored to effective communication, dealing with anxiety, or even recovery from sports. Who knew?
These sessions offer a short time for daily reflection. How have we affected others throughout the day and how we can look at these situations from a different perspective? I love correlating sleep and meditation: the smallest amount of effort yields the best results. However, unlike sleep, the practice of meditation involves the process of reflection and awareness, altering our perception of those around us.
You can literally train yourself [with meditation] to feel more compassionate and loving. And research shows that empathy and compassion have tremendous benefits for your health and happiness: improved happiness, lower inflammation, and decreased anxiety and depression.
~ Emma Seppälä, Ph.D.
If most of us could map out our day, week, or even year, we find that most of our time is taken up by obligations. Mostly numerous, chaotic obligations. I’m confident that if most people were offered the ability to teleport to a remote location for ten minutes, far from anyone, they would take it.
We’ve all come home to sit on the couch and watch some television to relax from the work day. However, rarely do we sit without any distraction. That means no music, flipping through emails, Family Feud, or reading. It’s about being present with our thoughts for as little as five minutes.
If you’d like, give it a shot now. You don’t have to sit cross-legged, humming next to a waterfall. A chair is alright. You can even leave your eyes open as you just sit still.
Instead of waiting for that two-week vacation in August to unwind, you have the ability to begin or end each day with a sense of peace.
All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.
~ Blaise Pascal
- Being effortless.
On a typical workday, if your boss asked you to show less effort on your next project, you might feel slightly confused.
As I mentioned before, there are two things that require the least amount of effort to be the most effective: meditation and sleep. In recent decades, our culture has shifted to a rise and grind mentality. It’s important that we remain motivated and show strong efforts in our work and relationships, but it’s just as important to train ourselves to be effortless.
You’d be surprised with the wall of difficulty that comes with trying to show less effort. It’s still something that I continue to struggle with. It’s an interesting shift in perspective that develops in the pursuit of less.
It Isn’t For Everyone
Nothing works for everyone. I have friends that have tried meditation, and it simply didn’t work out. Others have difficulty sitting still and don’t end up getting the most out of the practice. It’s completely normal for something not to connect with someone. Golf just isn’t my thing, so I didn’t pursue it.
What’s important is that we find a constructive habit where we can dismiss our stress or unlock more clarity and mindfulness.
There’s an interesting concept in psychology whereby changing one negative habit or starting a new one can open new doors to more positive habits.
When people start habitually exercising, even as infrequently as once a week, they start changing other, unrelated patterns in their lives, often unknowingly. Typically, people who exercise start eating better and become more productive at work.
~ Charles Duhigg, The Power Of Habit
Personally, by eating a healthier breakfast, I’m more inclined to exercise and eat better throughout the day. Meditation also works in a similar way.
Beginning each day with meditation is a motivator to do healthier things throughout the day. By building this habit of sitting still, it begins to translate to other areas in our lives with more awareness of the health of our minds.
Some Final Thoughts
I’m no expert. I’m continuing to learn more about meditation and become more comfortable with it. This article is simply what I’ve learned so far and my perception of meditation.
At the end of the day, I would encourage everyone to try meditation or sitting still, but also keep an open mind for other exercises.
I hope you liked the read. Feel free to ask questions or share experiences in the reply section below. I’d love to read about other perspectives and experiences.