Many practitioners of the Eastern Arts tell me they have no problem with discipline. They are self-motivated gods who effortlessly arise each morning before dawn, jog down to their local park and for the following 3 hours stand immobile, concentrating on little-known techniques such as the Reverse Iron-Nose Breathing Set, or the almost forgotten practice of the Fainting-Cockroach-Eyebrow-Expulsion Moon Dance.
Then, satisfied they have taken sufficient selfies and merged with the Tao, they jog home to upload their morning activities. Then they knock-back a watercress and garlic smoothie, drop into a Plank position for 3 hours and simultaneously work through a self-study course on 17th century Mandarin, before heading off to work.
I’m always impressed when I talk to these people, for I’ve never been much of a example to others. I generally lack such discipline, I easily find reasons to postpone work, I get distracted and I hate getting up whilst it is still dark.
So how can someone with a routine like mine, keep up a motivational practice? How can I break poor habits and adopt new ones when I’m such an indisciplined lout?
After teaching Tai Chi for over 25years, I'm aware that the problem is not exclusively mine. Most new students rarely practice outside the class hours, much as they may be encouraged to do so. Most Instructors and regular students don't seem to understand the difficulties in maintaining a regular practice outside the class, because for them it is not an issue. But for most new students it is, and if its one they don't resolve, then they probably will give up the practice. Numbers show that most new students to Tai Chi do not stay around beyond the first few months.
To help my students at home, I did try to set up a Whatsapp group, that succeeded in getting them to organise socials together, but rarely to train. I've organised SLACK forums where questions can be raised and issues or practices discussed, but again, public forums are not always what is required with a private practice. So then I looked at private motivational apps and in particular one that could be used for trying out something new for a period of time (let's say 30 days) - for example to Read a book, complete an outstanding DIY job, contemplate a change of schedule or routine.
There are plenty of mobile phone apps that will help you accomplish this task - my favourite of the moment is called Streaks. It permits just 6 habits to be pursued, and I add to this a 30 day time limit.
Later, after completing the 30 days, you may want to repeat it or do more. But start with small habits. Small habits that are thoughtfully formed, become part of your daily work, and become part of who you are. Who you are is always alive and always open to change. This is why after 30 days you can decide what you want to do. Change is always an option.
It's a good idea to add habits that you find you have difficulty practising. For example, lots of people add “Walk the dog” or Clean my teeth”. Personally, I think these should be second nature if you are either a dog or teeth owner, but if in your case this is not so, then add them in the app until they become part of your daily routine. Then let go. Change, its all about absorbing routine in order to let it go.
Keep it varied to keep it fresh
I thought this was just me, but then I read this report saying that we achieve more when our routines are fresh and challenging. So, the goldfish has another 20 days to go. I’ll let you know how well he does.
Stand Like A Flamingo and Walk like a Cat are two techniques taught in the Teapotmonk Online courses. Want to learn more about Tai Chi? Check out the Free ebook and Tai Chi Course here.
Streaks app for Android or IOS - more info here.
Change Your Routine - There is a lot of research done on why varying your routines can be more effective than intensifying them. Try Googling the subject or read this as a starter.
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