5 Simple Practices to Create Possibilities
Congratulations, you made it! The year that WAS is in the rear view, and drifting further away with every step we take. This is 2020, and as many of the leaders, dreamers, and seekers in my circles have told me, this is going to be one for the books.
Did you create any resolutions? Did you set any intentions? What are you hoping you’ll gain? What are you yearning to give up?
I have several projects on my list for 2020, and while I don’t want to ruin the surprises just yet, I can say that there’s a lot of potential for this to be my best year yet!
If there’s one thing I learned time and time again in 2019, it’s that the key to creating anything is discipline. Whether we’re building a business, working on wellness, or starting a new relationship, it’s the practices that we keep, the regular things we DO, which bring us toward the goal.
I used to have a bad habit (okay, okay – sometimes I still have a bad habit) of setting lofty goals and wild ambitions without really thinking about the daily practices required to accomplish them. Or, if I knew the daily practices, I didn’t carve out the time to do them. I was an expert in finding other “more urgent” tasks which filled up my minutes and kept me from ever moving the needle on my projects. There’s a resonant expression which says that most people want to have written a book, which is different from wanting to write one.
At the end of December in 2016 I was pretty down on myself. It was a particularly procrastinatory year for me and as I looked back I realized I hadn’t done anything I’d said I would.
A few days later I was lamenting to a friend about my laziness and she told me about “The Iceman” Wim Hof. Wim is known as the Iceman for his feats of extreme cold exposure – he hiked Mt Kilimanjaro in shorts! As torturous as it sounds, for Wim Hof the cold is a teacher. In fact, all over the world his students are willingly climbing into ice baths in the name of optimizing their health and performance.
Whether it was out of frustration with 2016, or out of hope for the new year, I decided to challenge myself – I would end my next shower standing in freezing cold water for a count to five.
Some of you just shook your head: “Nope!”
I admit the count to five took little more than a second. And in the sharp, freezing water my body tensed up like a cadaver, but when I turned off the water my skin tingled and energy rushed through me. I felt myself breathe a little clearer and as my skin warmed a smile crossed my face.
The next day, I did it again. And the next day, again. Three years later and I’m still having daily cold showers. In fact, I feel rather strange if I skip a day!
What I noticed right away when I started this unconventional practice was a sense of motivation. I learned that I could lean into discomfort and be better for it.
This teeny tiny splash of cold water cascaded into an approach to pursuing my goals: first, identify the things that need doing, and then move into the discomfort with open arms, heart, and mind. When I ran from pain and chased pleasure I avoided growing altogether. Having a cold shower filled me with a sense of empowerment that helped me build the discipline to put in the daily work of fulfilling my dreams.
In the spirit of the New Year, and in my quest to help you discover the possibilities you’re looking for in 2020, here are 5 of my favourite daily practices that will help you build the confidence to get where you’re going this year.
Make Your Bed
What a great way to communicate to yourself that you’re serious about the day ahead. Taking a few minutes to make your bed allows you to start the day by checking a box thus setting a tone for getting things done.
Count Your Blessings
One of my dearest friends used to describe his personality as “80% pure anger.” He regularly felt miserable and hopeless. When his partner convinced him to start his morning with a few moments of gratitude his whole attitude changed. The well-researched practice of starting your day by saying a mental “thank you” has the ability to frame the rest of your daily experiences in hope and positivity.
The practice of quietly observing your thoughts has yielded incredible returns to people for thousands of years. So why doesn’t everyone do this? One of my biggest barriers was not being able to see how sitting in silence doing nothing was helping my achieve my goals. In fact, meditation seemed like procrastination to me. Thankfully, I was SO wrong. Start out by closing your eyes and paying attention to your breath. You’ll surprise yourself with results after a very short time.
This practice may have saved my life on more than one occasion. In my early days as a teacher in Accra, Ghana, I felt so overwhelmed and mentally unwell. When I started to write my thoughts in a journal I knew would be read by nobody else I was able to let stuff go, and focus my energy on doing the things that mattered. Take a piece of paper, grab a pen, and write down whatever words pop into your mind. Write until you’ve got it all out. Tear up the paper if you want, burn it even. The work has been done.
Next time you have a shower, challenge yourself to turn the faucet to cold before turning it right off. Steady your breath and stay for a count of five. See if you can avoid rushing to turn it off, and enjoy the rush of energy that follows!
These practices may not directly relate to your personal or professional goals this year, but if you’re able to introduce just one of them into your day-to-day I promise your discipline muscle will continue to grow.
And though I don’t know what you’re chasing, I’m willing to bet that discipline is going to play a key role in getting you there.