How to Make Positive Changes That Last

We all have areas of our lives we’d like to improve and it would be wonderful if it was as easy as setting the intention to change – and voila we’re changed!

But it just doesn’t work like that (at least for most of us). 

Making change is hard, but that doesn’t mean we have to be hard on ourselves as well. That makes change even harder! And also, tends to sabotage our efforts.

In my own experience with making positive changes, I’ve found it helpful to embrace the “two steps forward one step back” model (as long as it’s not a serious addiction).

This is the way we tend to be anyway – let’s embrace it. Rarely do we shoot out on a new path in a linear trajectory.  We have setbacks along the way. 

That doesn’t mean we abandon our intention, or beat ourselves up for “failing,” but that we embrace the step back, knowing it’s part of the journey.

Why Do People Give Up Meditating?

Meditation is one of those positive changes in our lives that can be really hard to make stick (not for everyone but for most of us).

Millions of people learn to meditate every day and millions of people stop doing it every day because they don’t expect the step back.

This is one of the many reasons I tell new students not to start meditating every day.

We have to be realistic about the primary reason most people start to meditate in the first place – to reduce stress. 

Learning to meditate doesn’t mean you’ll never get stressed again.

So what happens is the moment you do get stressed, you’ll start having thoughts to talk you out of meditating: you’re too tired, there’s too much going on, you simply can’t put one more thing on your schedule. It’s too much!

A few days go by and because you “broke” the pattern of doing it every day you’ll convince yourself that you gave it a good try, “but it just didn’t work for me.”

I hear this all the time.

But the reality is there was just a step back. 

Life got in the way, and that’s perfectly normal.

For the first ten years I was meditating I followed the two steps forward, one step back model, with one exception. I’d feel bad about myself when I wasn’t doing it because I was told I had to do it every day.

It’s completely unrealistic to expect that just because something is good for us that we’re never going to go a day without doing it. 

Particularly with the kinds of lives, most people live today. 

We’re not living in monasteries!

Occasionally something has to give for a day or two – it’s not the end of the world.

Instead of making yourself feel bad about it, remember your self-compassion practice. 

Something’s happening, things are a little more hectic than usual – that’s when we really need to be kind to ourselves. That’s when we need to talk to ourselves using words that lift us up, encourage us and acknowledge that we are in a bit of a predicament, but that we’ll be OK.

Just uttering some kind words to ourselves drops our self-talk rate to 300 words per minute and below (versus 1000+ when we’re agitated). It naturally opens up some space in our minds so we feel more at ease and less threatened. 

One of the things we’re doing in our meditation practice is to cultivate more compassion – learning to be kinder to ourselves and others. This is the perfect opportunity!

So when that inevitable step back happens, remember your self-compassion practice, and trust that you’ll get back to the cushion as soon as you can.

2 Responses

  1. The beauty of wisdom lies in its simplicity – and economy of words: “Two steps forward, one step back” + “be kind to yourself” is part of such simple yet self-empowering wisdom. Thanks, Meredith!

  2. I love this “two steps forward, one step back” idea. I can see how it takes the pressure off to be consistent every day, which is something I really struggle with. Thanks so much, Meredith 🙂

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