ONE DAY AT A TIME
The idea of indefinitely or forever can fill us with fear. Our brains can rarely wrap around an undefined seemingly infinite stretch of time. It feels daunting, disheartening, impossible. It sends some of us screaming in the other direction.
But focusing just on one day, just for today, we cease to question our capability and can relax into possibility. Forever feels intolerable, today is achievable.
Keeping a promise to ourselves for just one day allows us to breathe, instead of being buried beneath the burden of indeterminable time. The valve of self-imposed pressure is released and we can dissolve our own overwhelm. We then commit again tomorrow, just for today, and we witness with wonder as the days become weeks and the weeks become months.
THE POWER OF INTENTION
Connecting to our intention behind the action we’d like to take or the decision we’re trying to make can also keep us committed. What is it we’d like to feel instead? What is the ‘why’ within our bones propelling us forward?
Intention is incentive, gently amplifying our souls calling when our mind is resisting and fabricating excuses. And excuses it will make! The pull of past patterns so very intoxicating. Persistent reinstating of our intention brings us back from distraction.
When I got sober, connecting to my ‘why’ was essential for shifting me out my immobilised state. I’d stripped myself of every single survival strategy, every coping mechanism that had kept me alive until that point. Tormented by deafening voices telling me to drink, my inner landscape was utterly brutal. I was raw and vulnerable, teetering on the tightrope between my old self and an unimaginable future. I wanted to jump constantly. I wanted off. I ached for a reprieve, but my desire to get well outweighed my desire to stay the same. Marginally.
So I kept connecting to that desire, that tiny little internal whimper wanting things to be different, wanting to feel different. They said ‘don’t quit before the miracle happens’ and I clasped onto their promise for dear life. Every time the temptation to drink did its little dance, I’d remind myself of this illusory miracle – my intention to transform my suffering into something else, my cavernous desire to get well. It worked. One day at a time.
The same is true for the untangling of all habits, big and small.
Quite frustratingly, a one time declaration is usually insufficient. Repetition is essential. The prospect of neuroplasticity is tantalisingly real, our incredible capacity to rewire and reorganise our brain connections, but the creation of new pathways doesn’t eradicate the old. Our habitual cortical routes remain intact.
It is only through repeatedly realigning our intentions and our actions, revisiting and renewing our commitment again and again and again that we solidify the changes in our nervous systems.
We are often unwilling to tolerate the inevitable inner turbulence created when taking intrepid steps in a new direction. Stretching the boundaries of our comfort zone is scary and unsettling. We awaken all sorts of anxiety, depression, fear and fatigue and our aversion to these feelings will redirect us back the way we came. We find ourselves inadvertently rerouted back to familiarity and ‘safety’ – soothed, but slowly slipping into stagnancy.
Our job is to navigate our way in and around these disruptive feelings, not allowing them to deter us from our course – to hold the tension of wanting to quit while remaining committed to the end goal. A little short term pain for long term gain, resisting the allure of short term gain, which only serves to prolong our long term pain.
With immeasurable amounts of clarity and courage, determination and devotion to our intention, we get to transcend our discomfort and move through it. Witness our internal wailing with love (name it to tame it) and focus far ahead on where we want to be.
If, like me, you and perfectionism are old friends, the tiniest detour off course can feel like tumbling into a ravine. Never just a stumble, always a powerless plummet into defeat. A day or two off can feel like losing our way entirely and it’s easy to give up. Corrosive inner dialogue cements our decision to quit. Inertia comes to play.
Instead of succumbing to the subtle bewitching tones of perfectionistic tendencies, could you consider this an invitation to recommit? Submerge yourself in compassion. Ease your heart open with softness. Lean into the inevitability of imperfection, embrace the mess, and reconnect with your intention.
Most of us by now have been suctioned into a vortex of instant gratification, impatient to our core. We’ve lost our ability to sit with uncertainty, to be with not knowing. Fingertips gravitate to google. We crave convenience, efficiency, answers.
But the day we plant the seed is not the day we eat the fruit. Can we instead re-learn the art of endurance? The power in perseverance? And await with the faintest of awe in our eyes at our own unfolding?