This is fun—spending some time thinking about how to make your life (and mine) easier! Specifically, it’s fun to think about how to make easier for us to reach those goals/intentions we made for this year.
I like thinking about ease, but honestly doing easy is . . . well, not always so easy! At least not at first.
Because the first step to doing easy requires changing our minds about how to get things done. And as Tara Mohr says when introducing the concept in the “Let It Be Easy” chapter of her book Playing Big,
For so many of us—myself included—it’s radical to consider that major behavioral change or significant achievements could happen not because of one’s fierce will, struggle or hard work, but because we support ourselves so wisely and fully that change happens with ease.
The idea that we could do important work, or make big changes in our lives, with ease pushes up against a lot of cultural myths for Americans, especially the one about the “self-made man” (or woman, but mostly it’s still a man.)
You know, the independent success who pulled himself up by his own bootstraps with no help whatsoever, or the Lone Ranger who saves the world (except we might note that he actually wasn’t “Lone” and his trusty sidekick was a person of color, but I digress, sort of). You get the idea. We idolize the “no pain, no gain” and “just do it” types who never make excuses and always follow through.
But more and more research is showing that we are wrong.
More often than not, people who are successful reach their goals because they made it easy for themselves to do so.
- They make tiny steps towards habit changes, tying new habits to old routines, as recommended by Stanford researcher Dr. B.J. Fogg (check out his free 5 day program here http://tinyhabits.com/join/).
- They learn how to work with their natural tendencies and preferences instead of telling the tired old story of “this isn’t that hard, why can’t I just get it together!”
Gretchen Rubin’s work is one of many great resources for learning how to work with your natural tendencies instead of against them is. She found that people tend to fall into one of four categories when it comes to how we respond to expectations for ourselves or other peoples’ expectations of us. Guess what? Not a lot of us are “upholders”—the kind of people who find it easy to meet obligations and expectations. In fact some of us are Rebels, so as soon as we make a new rule for ourselves, we’re going to break it. Many of us are Obligers, we find it easiest to meet the expectations of others. Depending on your type, the way you can make it easy for yourself to meet your goals will vary widely and if you ignore your tendency you’re likely to fail.
- They create plans and systems that make the behavior they want to practice the default instead of something that requires a decision or additional action. For example, if we only bring healthy snacks into the house, we are more likely to grab something healthy to eat. If we create a routine that makes every Saturday morning budget time, it’s starts to be easier to do it than to negotiate a new plan with our partner.
- They gather people around them who will cheer them on and hold them accountable – sometimes these people are paid helpers, sometimes not.
- And just like we’ve been trying to do over the past few weeks, (believe it or not) many successful people, 1) exercise self-compassion and curiosity instead of judgement when they get stuck and, 2) create goals that they really want to reach, not focusing on “shoulds” that in reality they aren’t actually ready for or interested in pursuing.
I have to tell you that these more compassionate and EASY methods really do work.
Here’s a recent example from a client (told with permission, of course).
This client is a busy and very dedicated mom with a full-time job, a teen son at home who is a star athlete with a full schedule, and a husband with a challenging, full-time job too. Their schools and jobs require about a 40 min commute, give or take. Her son isn’t old enough to drive yet. As part of her new commitment to finding out what she loves and going after it, she has wanted to start a meditation practice, but kept not managing to do it. She got started last week. Here’s what helped.
- First, she shrank her goal for the week to a size that offered an easy win—from “I will meditate 5 days a week,” to “This week I will meditate one time for 10 minutes.” Easy wins have their own motivating energy.
- She also got an app on her phone that could structure her meditation time for her. No decisions needed once she sat down to get started.
- Then (and she didn’t even really plan on this step related to meditation, but it ended up being a key to her success that she can now build on intentionally) she and her husband renegotiated their driving responsibilities and he started taking over driving their son to/from school a couple times a week which gave her a tiny bit of space in her day two mornings and one afternoon in the week. Guess what she did in the 30 minutes she had after work on that one afternoon? Yup! Meditation time #1. Done.
- In addition, one day she allowed herself to pick up food on the way home from work instead of cooking, which relieved the “I’m hungry now pressure” from her son that tended to cause her to start cooking when she walked in the door and gave her the freedom to run upstairs to meditate instead. Meditation time #2. Bonus round. Done.
- She will tell you that it also helped that she invested in a life coach (me!) for support, accountability and help working through her unconscious fears about trying out this new practice, but you can find cheerleaders and accountability partners in other ways too! The important thing is to avoid believing that you're "supposed to be strong enough to do it all on your own. (Of course if you’re interested I’d love to talk with you about working together. Sign up for a free consulation here!)
I’ll end with an example from my own life that’s specifically related to one of the goals I have for 2107. Remember I said that I want to feel more gratitude? Here’s how I’m making it easy:
1) I told you, my readers, about my intentions—accountability.
2) I bought a beautiful gratitude journal and put it on my dresser where I see it from my bed when I wake up and before I go to sleep. It brings me great joy just looking at it (ask my husband, he's got to be sick of hearing me say how much I love the look of it!) and it's a visual reminder to intentionally practice gratitude each day.
3) It also has small pages and I only do one page a day, so I know it won’t take long to put an entry in it, which lowers my resistance.
So far I haven’t missed a day. Why would I? It’s so easy.
How about you? Can you take one of your goals and find some ways to make it easy for you to start moving towards it?
If you can’t think of a way forward, ask a friend to help you brainstorm. Tell me what you try!
Here’s to thriving!
P.S. I just found out that January 30 is the Fred Korematsu Day of Civil Liberties and the Constitution and there's a new book out about him. I don't know about you, but like the women in the amazing movie Hidden Figures (please go see it!) he's someone we, and our kids should know about. Here's the link to more info about the book and how to get it.