by Leo Babauta
How to Change Your Patterns, or Get Your Groove On
The steps of breaking out of a groove are simple, but they require concentrated effort:
- Decide that you’re tired of the old groove. The old groove isn’t serving you. It’s hurting you. When you decide you’re tired of hurting yourself with this particular patterns, you’re ready to change. Assess whether you’re ready right now.
- Commit to conscious change. When you’re ready to stop hurting yourself with the old pattern, make a commitment to practice and to be very conscious in changing your groove. Making the commitment to someone else, or a small group of friends or family, is a powerful way to commit.
- Set aside time for deliberate practice. You’re not going to change your groove haphazardly. You have to practice consciously and with deliberate effort. Set aside a small practice period each day — just 5 minutes to start with. Don’t put off the task of blocking off your practice period — remember, you’re deliberately practicing a new pattern! I recommend 5-10 minutes every day of the week, first thing in the morning before you check email or your phone or computer. Have a reminder where you will see it first thing in the morning.
- Set an intention for your practice. Before you start, tap into your reason by remembering why you’re practicing. In what ways is this hurting you in your life? Is it hurting your career, health, happiness, relationships, finances, meaningful work, your loved ones? Set an intention to practice in order to make these things better.
- Set yourself a task. Pick something you’ve been putting off (but perhaps not your hardest or most uncomfortable tasks to start with). Commit to doing that task for just 5 minutes.
- Let yourself do nothing else, and watch your patterns. Sit there and do nothing but that task, or do nothing at all. Notice when you have the urge to switch to something else, to get up and get away. Those are your old patterns showing themselves, which in itself is hugely valuable. But just observe the urges, without acting on them but also without judgment. They’re just urges, just feelings that arise, not anything to worry about. Just watch, don’t act, just sit and face the urges. Then return to the task. Over and over, until this is your new groove.
It’s possible to create new grooves, new patterns, that serve you better. I’ve done it dozens of times in my life, perhaps more than a hundred in the last decade. I’m no stronger than anyone else, and so if I can do it, you can too.