There’s a yogic concept called “samskara” which essentially describes that the more we do something the easier it is to fall into doing it. If you imagine driving a car over and over in the same place in a muddy road it creates ruts and eventually these ruts deepen pulling us into driving in them whether we want to or not.
These ruts are the basis of habit formation, the more we do something the more automatic it becomes. This is hugely beneficial, not having to think about every brush stroke while we brush our teeth frees up mental space and energy to think about other things…like if you have apples to pack in your lunch, or when to have a difficult conversation with our spouse.
However, samskaras aren’t always the benign unconscious habit of the order you brush your teeth in. Sometimes the ruts are the ones that keep us unhappy, stressed, and unfulfilled because its takes less energy to drive in the rut than the energy to pull yourself out of it.
I imagine habits like spirals. At the top of the habit is when you’ve mastered a positive habit, say walking outside daily, which makes you feel good.
When you’re at the top of the spiral it feels easy to be here, you just do it without thinking, and even CRAVE doing it because it’s become what you do and who you are. It feels good and natural to walk daily, in fact your day doesn’t feel right unless you do.
You may notice the benefits start to compound because healthy behaviors motivate other healthy choices. Walking every day has inspired you to add more vegetables to your dinner, drink more water throughout the day, and you start going to bed earlier to get up energized to go for your walk.
When we slide down the spiral we often don’t notice it until we’re at the bottom. We just slowly stop doing the things that make us feel good until we notice we feel bad.
It starts with hitting the snooze button more often because you stayed up too late binge watching shows you don’t really care about while eating snacks you don’t really like.
You’re too tired to go for a walk, so you don’t, even though you know you’d feel more energized if you’d just put on your runners. You feel lethargic and irritable, so you have a glass of wine when you get home to take the edge off even though you know it always upsets your sleep.
Your energy has gone down, but that’s okay because you aren’t doing as much. It feels easy to be here. It doesn’t take any effort on your part, but you don’t feel good and you aren’t happy here.
The spiral is what carries you up to the top or down to the bottom.
Although the way down is often overlooked at first, the way up is noticeably harder. Unlike the way down, the way up takes conscious effort. It takes planning and energy and it’s even uncomfortable because even when we’re miserable where we are, we like change even less.
If you’ve started back at the gym after a long break you know what I mean. It’s hard work at first, and then it starts to feel good, and then it is effortless again. Eventually it becomes just what you do and who you are.
When we are at the bottom, we tend to only see the steep sheer climb of the middle. Forgetting that the top will feel easy and effortless too, and the middle is just temporary. Remembering that the effort will come to an end and is only for a short period of time can help us push through the times when it feels overwhelming.
Like all mountains, they are climbed one step at a time, one meal at a time, one meditation at a time, one boundary at a time. Slowly but surely, we not only climb out of the ruts step over step, and hand over hand, but most importantly begin to transform into the people who do these things because its become who we are. We have shaped ourselves through habits and behaviors.
Our habits are the most overlooked and most powerful driver in our lives. They are unconscious yet they motivate everything we think, what we do, and how we react. Almost everything we are is our habits. There are some scientists that believe that ALL we are is a compilation of habits, they are that powerful.
Codependent behaviors like people pleasing are habits just as much as when you step out of the shower the order in which you dry your body. When you become conscious of your habits and make choices around them, you not only free yourself from their unconscious bondage, but you are also free to forge yourself into the person you want to be.
To get out ruts that don’t make us feel good, and create the ruts that do, we need to intentionally create new habits. To do that well, and more importantly with more ease (because that means we’ll actually do it!) it’s best to do in a community of like-minded loving women who get you, and have your back.
I’ve been busy revamping the Soul Strategy Sessions and will be opening the doors later this month. It’s a deep dive into yourself, revealing not only who you truly are and your purpose here, but also teaching you the skills and tools to live aligned with what’s most important to you, while supporting you in building the habits that are the foundation of the life you want to live AND the person you want to be in it.
This is the time of year that many people start new habits and set intentions (obviously I do!), I’m curious what are you planning on putting your energy into this year? What goals have you or are you setting for yourself? Or do you set goals at all this time of year? Tell me in the comments below.