by Robin Munson
Years ago, when I was taking the yoga teacher training, I remember something my mentor, Christy, said that has stayed with me ever since. We were talking about how hard it is to be consistent in your practice – whether we’re talking about meditation, or asana (the physical poses of yoga), or for some of us, composing music. We start out with the best of intentions (New Year’s resolutions, anyone?). And then life happens. We had planned to live on vegetables and whole grains from now on, but a friend presented us with a homemade chocolate cake. We were going to study all weekend every weekend, but the sun came out and lured us to the beach.
We were going to meditate for twenty minutes every morning at sunrise, but on the third morning the dog demanded to be walked. We were going to floss every night for the rest of our life – but one night we were so tired that we just forgot. We were going to write a cue a day for the next year, but one day we came down with the flu and spent the next week in bed watching “I Love Lucy” reruns. Sometimes we break our own resolutions repeatedly and we don’t even know why, we just do. But that’s not the problem. The problem is in how we react.
I don’t know about you, but for me, a lot of my life has been a constant inner dialog that goes something like this:
Inner Critic: “Look at that! You didn’t even write in your journal this morning! What kind of a ‘writer’ are you? You’re lazy. You’re stupid. You might as well give up!”
Inner Artist: “You’re right. I guess I’m not worthy of the name. I might as well pack it in!”
Now, that’s a problem! The self-loathing that can result from such a harsh taskmaster can cause many of us to sabotage ourselves.
But here is what Christy shared with us: “It’s what you do eighty percent of the time that counts.” Think about it. A 100% rule would set almost anyone up for failure: “I must meditate every morning at sunrise for 20 minutes.” An 80% rule allows us to be human: “I will set an intention to meditate most mornings for about 20 minutes.” Ahh, I feel better already!
Now I can hear some of you saying to yourselves, “Yes, but what if I don’t make the 80%? What if I forget to meditate for a month at a time? What if I lose my journal and fail to replace it for a year? What if I get on a sugar binge and gain five pounds?” “What if I get distracted with email for a week and don’t write a single cue?” The trick is not to beat yourself up over it. Let the 80% rule apply in the broader sense: “Eighty percent of the time I manage to get to my 80% intention.” Or “Looking at my life as a whole, I have good intentions at least 80% of the time.” In school, an 80% is the equivalent of a “B”. That’s just fine!
When she raises her pointy little head, thank your inner critic for sharing with you. Then go about your business, honoring your human foibles with compassion and a little humor. I’m guessing you’ll feel a lot better for it. I know I do.