Monday’s Meditations: On Rules, Habits & Motivations
We live by a series of rules.
The rules of society.
The rules of our families.
And the rules we set for ourselves:
I can’t go to bed until there are less than 10 unread emails in my inbox.
I can’t have more than one slice of cake.
I can’t buy any more new shoes this month.
I have to go to the gym every day this week.
These are the sorts of mandates we place upon ourselves–the standards we intend to live by.
However silly these rules, and however little it matters to anyone outside of ourselves if they’re abided by or not, we make them (hopefully) for sound reasons.
But what happens when we start letting ourselves off the hook? We start to say: I can go to bed with 53 unread emails, can’t I?
It isn’t realistic to expect ourselves to once again abide by the rules we’ve broken. After all, in breaking our rules, we’ve realized no one else around us noticed, and we seem to be surviving.
The only way to reasonably begin upholding our rules is to reconnect with our Why.
Why do I need to get down to 10 unread emails before I can sleep?
Why do I not want to let myself have two slices of cake?
Why do I need to put my shoe shopping on pause?
Why is it important for me to work out every day this week?
The irony is that we institute these guidelines so that we do not have to daily debate ourselves on whether or not to follow them. In doing so, we activate autopilot, which can disconnect us from the original motivation behind the behavior.
Motivations are what get us started until habit takes effect. But when habits fail us or fail to fit us any longer, it is, once again, motivation that revitalizes them, and pushes us to question the rules by which we’ve been living.
Reconnecting with these underlying motivations, we can clearly recognize whether what’s needed is to reinforce or re-write our rules.
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