Rooms 482-490: Go Streaking
For those of you who were ready to rip off your clothes and head to the nearest mall, I commend your boldness. Fortunately, that’s not the streaking I’m talking about. I’m talking about the streak that comes when you do something for consecutive hours, days, or weeks in a row. Something that requires persistence and a never-give-up mental toughness. Like the time last month when I didn’t shave for 10.5 days, or brush my teeth for 3 days, or shampoo my hair for a week. Those are streaks to put in your journal, which is exactly what I did.
And for the record, I could have a 104 degree temperature and I’d find the energy to shampoo my hair. Not shampooing is a big deal in my world. And I say this with apologies to every drought-scorched-patch of land across the globe. I also say it with my pledge that water consumption will be a room that I will be walking into soon enough.
For now, let me just say that sometimes you have to embrace the meaningless streak before you can tackle a 40-day fast in the desert.
Rooms 482-490: Go Streaking
Let’s once again acknowledge the simple fact that we’re not here to live ordinary lives. We’re here to transcend our humanness in an effort to realize our Beingness and awaken to our true potential. And I know that sounds heady and lofty, like something unattainable. But that’s the mind talking. And, unless we want to live where the mind lives, we’re not going to listen.
It is attainable. We can realize our potential. But it won’t happen unless we push ourselves to see how far we can go.
In the same way a novice runner can’t expect to conquer a 26 mile marathon until she proves that 1 mile is possible, we can’t expect to realize our own potential until we see what is possible when we string together a series of positive actions.
In other words, this room isn’t about streaks, it’s about mastering the good habits that lead us to a more fulfilling life. Ignore these habits long enough and we’ll end up lowering our bar so low that it takes no creativity or effort to step over it. It’s called going through the motions.
I know habits sometimes get a bad rap. Like resolutions, we don’t want to be told what to do—even from ourselves. And with so many good habits to adopt, it’s hard to choose which ones to chase. Sometimes it’s easier to do nothing.
The problem with doing nothing is that we stop believing in our ability to change. It’s not just a good habit we’re depriving ourselves of, but a glimpse into another world…a foothold into what is possible.
A long time ago, I spent years believing I couldn’t give up Diet Coke. I couldn’t imagine a world that didn’t have me holding a Diet Coke in my hand. But eventually I quit. And when I did, you would have thought I climbed Mt. Everest. The greatest benefit wasn’t eliminating the chemicals from my diet, but doing something I once believed impossible.
This is why our streaks are so important. They show us what is possible if we stay vigilant.
Here’s the plan: spend a few days choosing as many habits as you can. Choose things you really want to incorporate into your life. These habits will become your streaks. Use your imagination and don’t be afraid to mix the profound with the absurd. Treat it like a game. It should be light, fun, and even odd, which will hopefully keep you engaged and moving forward.
Now, you could choose one or two streaks, or a whole slew of them. There are arguments for both ways. It all depends on what works for you. I like choosing lots of streaks. Not just one or two, but five, ten or twenty. For me it makes it more of a game. I have 11 streaks going, with most of them, as of this moment, running between 70-92 days. My wife—she’s a one streak at a time kind of woman.
Your streaks could be anything. How many days in a row can you go without gossiping, swearing, negativity? How many days can you go without sugar, wheat, dairy, Diet Coke, coffee, chocolate or wine? How many days can you write consecutively, do pushups, sleep more than 6 hours, keep your dream journal, run, dance, stand on one foot, not use the word no?
Again, include the absurd, but make sure most of them will make a genuine difference in your life.
You can measure your streaks in minutes, hours or days. Just don’t be hard on yourself, or look at this as depriving yourself. This isn’t about doing without. This is about living with more.
After going through my no shampoo and shaving phase, I started all kinds of streaks—greens every day, 9 glasses of water, pushups, distraction free writing, focused contemplations, running, iPhone photography, contraction-free speaking, and plenty more, most of which are too embarrassing to share.
In any case, I have my list. Now, it’s time to find yours.
Experts will tell you it takes 30 days to start a habit, but, I find that number to be more like 40, or in my case 91. It takes awhile to trick the mind into doing what you want it to do. Split the difference and shoot for 60 day streaks.
Our goal is to get to the point where we do something so routinely that our actions become automatic, working on muscle memory.
The first two weeks will be relatively easy, or at least the first week. By the third week your mind will be looking for the door, or reaching for the remote. Don’t listen to it. When it comes to good habits, the mind is not always your friend. Here is where you need to re-motivate yourself, or even reward yourself for every day you keep going.
Do whatever you have to do in order to get past the resistance, so your habit becomes so ingrained in your day that you don’t have to think about it anymore. You may call it artificial and forced when you begin. And it might be. But, that’s the nature of trying to do good things for yourself. Sometimes we have to trick ourselves into doing what we don’t want to do. Otherwise we’d all be multi-lingual-guitar-playing-author-vegans-with great abs, healthy skin and no food caught between our teeth. We have to work at what we want in our life until it is second nature.
Three quick suggestions:
1. Keep track of your streaks. Get a giant poster board and mark off the days or weeks. Or do what I did and get an app for your phone. Mine is called Good Habits which is available on the iPhone. It’s the first thing I check in the morning and the last thing I check before I go to bed. If it’s not marked off that list, I do it right then. And I’ll be honest. I’ve spent more than a few days doing half of my list between 11:00pm and 12:00am, which isn’t a great idea when you have 40 more ounces of water to drink and miles to run.
2. Forgive your digressions. You’re going to forget, falter and slip. One day I missed my daily greens. But I began again the next day, and now I’m on day 43. Be flexible enough to stumble, but then strong and determined enough to start again the next day.
3. Give yourself permission to drop one habit off your list. Just because we start something doesn’t mean we have to finish it, especially if we know it’s not necessary in our lives, or even if we’re just not feeling it. I gave up the flute on day two. Yes, it was only an iPhone flute, but I did it with no apologies. It's not like the world is going to miss another cell phone flautist.
In his book, Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell talks about how it takes roughly 10,000 hours to achieve mastery in a field. Mastery takes repetition which only comes with habit. I have a friend, Martha, who for 365 consecutive days took a photograph of her garden. Talk about good habits. And don’t think she didn’t ever want to give up, or believe that she had nothing left to photograph. But she didn’t quit. Now she is left with more than 365 beautiful photographs, and in the process, she has trained herself to see things she might not have ever seen. She’s gone from hobbyist to pro. And all it took was one incredibly long, committed and wonderful streak. You can check out her incredible photographs on her Facebook site, Whispers From My Garden: Musings on the Art of Mindful Living. Click here. You won’t regret it.
Along the way, don’t forget to congratulate yourself. You should be proud of your ability to create good habits in your life. It takes strength and conviction, which not everybody has. So when you look at your poster board or iPhone App, and it’s filled with row after row of X’s…give yourself a nice pat on the back for doing what you need to do to change your life.
And finally, remember that your record-breaking streak is not about to-do lists and goal setting. That sells it short. Really short.
This is about consistency, concentrated effort, and systematically bringing what we want into our lives. It’s about stretching our inner and outer muscles and exceeding our expectations.
It’s about proving to ourselves what we’re capable of achieving, and awakening to our own power. One small act at a time.
So what do you say…let’s take off our figurative clothes and let the streaking begin!
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