July 23

5 ways to harness the power of daily practice to change behaviors

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For the last 42 consecutive days, I practiced yoga in my local studio. In the process, I experienced a transformation that reinforced the power of daily, purposeful practice to change behaviors.

It wasn’t planned, but it wasn’t an accident, either. Call it happenstance.

It started simple. After practicing for seven days in a row, I remarked that was a first. That led to a 21-day challenge. That gave way to the 40-day transformation: showing up and mindfully practicing yoga for 40 consecutive days.

Am I transformed?

Yes, yes I am transformed (if you watch Phineas and Ferb, read that last bit in the voice of Phineas).

My body is different. My shoulders unlocked, my right hip flexor released (after nearly 20 years), and I’m standing taller. Physically, I feel grounded. And I know it is only the beginning of the journey.

The transformation runs deeper, too. The changes in my attitude and thinking are as dramatic off the yoga mat as on. The change is positively impacting my writing and business, too.

Most of all, the experience reinforced the power of daily practice to change behaviors. Starting with my own. Ultimately, the same lessons and insights apply to guiding others through their behavior changes.

Based on my initial reflection, here are five ways to harness the power of purposeful, daily practice:

1. Commit to it

Make the mental commitment to practice daily. For me, getting to the yoga mat was a top priority for the day. At the studio. It was a commitment supported by the entire family and ultimately the studio.

If 40 days feels a bit overwhelming, start with two weeks. As two weeks works, progress to 21 days. If that goes well, keep the chain going and expand to the full 40 days. Maybe longer.

2. Schedule it

The commitment gets easier as it gets more ingrained in the schedule. At the beginning of each week, I picked the classes that worked with existing commitments and put it on the schedule. Then stick to the schedule.

3. Practice mindfully

The key is *purposeful* practice. More than just showing up, make the time to engage mindfully. Acknowledge the opportunity to practice.

Even on the hectic days, when the time to practice arrived, I embraced it. I took a few minutes to get settled, to get comfortable in the space. During practice, I took note of the changes I was experiencing. I asked questions. I reflected on the answers.

As a result, each practice improved the next. Progress over perfection, with noticeable improvement.

4. Share it

Naturally introverted (believe it or not), I am motivated internally. That means I don’t generally share much. This experience has changed how I view the importance of sharing reasonable goals.

Sharing the experience made it easier.

The supportive teachers and members of the yoga studio both encouraged and supported by journey. With excitement, they would ask, “what day is this?” when I walked through the door.

I looked forward to practice knowing that I would be supported and encouraged. I engaged in some great conversations and learned things I wouldn’t have if I didn’t share.

Once you get started, share it out. Ask for help. Learn to let others support and help you. Weird at first, it’s another benefit. For the record, I’m here to support you, too.

5. Measure it

The easiest measure is how many consecutive days of practice. By itself that is a powerful metric. Some even suggest marking each day in a calendar as visual proof.

As I progressed, I also started to naturally measure things like flexibility and even mood. For the most part, these were subjective — and that’s okay.

Now I’m working on a similar transformation for my writing practice. I’m starting by measuring consecutive days of writing (and needed a restart). I do plan to start measuring other elements, too. Just not sure what.

Start with measuring what you can. As the practice continues, additional measurements are revealed. It’s part of the growth.

Bonus: Journal it

I’m a writer. Writers need to write. Part of that practice for me is daily journaling. I noticed that during the 40-day transformation, my journaling increased — in volume and in the number of times I would journal each day.

My journaling was how I put my experiences into words. Literally. More, it gave me a way to explore the context of the changes. My journaling practice allowed me to make sense of my transformation.

Added bonus: my writing is better, too.

What are you waiting for?

Over 40 days ago, I set out with the simple goal of daily, mindful practice. I knew my body would change. I sensed my mind would change. Still, I’m surprised by the results.

I’m inspired. I’m energized. I’m truly transformed.

The best time to get started was a few weeks ago. The second best time is today. Right now.

What can you start today?

Even without a clear goal in sight, 40 or more days of purposeful practice will transform you. What are you waiting for?

 


Tags

Behavior Change, Change, Changing Behaviors, Daily Practice, Human Behavior, Mindfulness Practices, Practice, Practice Yoga, Writing Practice, Yoga


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