Ask HaviNote: it is almost impossible to get on the Ask Havi list. This person got in by a. being one of my clients or students, b. flattering the hell out of my duck, and c. making life easy on me by being clear about what the question was and what details I could use.

Here it is:

“Hullo Havi! I’m after some advice and inspiration on getting up earlier to have more time to do things I love in the morning — gots any?”

Oh boy. Do I have stuff to say about this.

Let’s do it. As is usual with the Ask Havi posts, expect a bunch of random points in no particular order, that — she types hopefully — might eventually come together to form some sort of cohesive whole. Or not.

A big (the biggest?) mistake when trying to change a habit.

Too much at once.

If you’re currently getting up at ten past seven and you want to be getting up at five, the worst way to do it is to say I’m getting up at five, dammit. Or else!

That way lies madness. And guilt. Lots and lots of guilt.

And shoulds. And self-thrown shoes.

That’s two hours and ten minutes to beat yourself up about each day. And beating up? Not the most effective thing in the world.

Incremental change is way less violent.

For example?

One day of getting up at 7:07

Two weeks of getting up at 6:55

Two weeks of getting up at 6:42

One week of getting up at 6:33

One week of getting up at 6:17

One week of getting up 6:08

And by that point, deciding to start your day eight minutes earlier is nothing.

It will probably take way less time than what I’ve outlined here, but this is the non-scary version.

Incremental change: note 1

Your monster might say that this is stupid because it takes five weeks and if you weren’t such a dumb-ass lazy good-for-nothing model of pathetic loserdom (okay, that might be my monsters), you could just get up at five tomorrow.

Here’s the thing to tell your monsters:

They are probably right that there are shorter ways to make this change happen. But those ways are not happening.

So you can keep doing the old, familiar thing of feeling horrible about yourself (which official studies of your life have shown totally doesn’t work) …

… or you can spend five weeks practicing in a more gentle way and actually get there.

Incremental change: note 2

Some people really, really resist the idea of incremental change (see the stuff people yelled in the comments section of my post about how I quit smoking), to which I say:

Rock on.

People vary. And that’s a given. So if you personally can’t make peace with incremental change, skip it.

We’re talking about the principle of you having conscious interactions with yourself, not about me pushing any specific technique — go ahead and ignore what doesn’t work for you.

Dissolving the guilt.

Guilt is the great stuckifier, and dissolving it is a big part of interacting with any pattern.

One of the best ways to start with that is just by noticing it’s there.

Whoops. There you are again.

Hello, guilt. You are not the essence of me. You are not the whole of me. You are a temporary part of my experience, and I am learning what I can about you and what you need.

A useful thing for the guilt (and any form of internal resistance, actually) is using even though sentences to sidestep the hard parts.

“Even though I really don’t want to get out of bed, I am allowed to be in resistance. It makes sense that part of me doesn’t want to get up earlier.

“Even though I am feeling hugely guilty (or annoyed or frustrated or anxious) about not being able to shift this yet, I am human. It might take me a while to shift this pattern, but at least I’m learning about it.

“Even though all of my internal thoughts are totally contradictory because one monster thinks I suck for not wanting to get up and the other monster insists that I can’t get up, I am allowed to have contradictory thoughts and desires.”

Morning begins at night.

This is something I took from my teacher, and it has helped me tremendously.

So at night you plant seeds and clues and reminders for your morning.

Maybe this means a sticky note on your alarm clock that says hello my sweet, remember that you wanted to spend fifteen minutes doing some yoga?

Maybe it means setting up the thing you wanted to do in the morning beforehand, so it’s all ready for you if/when you crawl out of bed.

Maybe it means figuring out what will make it easiest for you to get up (warm socks on your nightstand? a light in the bathroom?) and making sure it’s there for you.

Patience: not the most fun thing in the world.

And at the same time, it can be kind of useful to remember that change doesn’t need to happen right this second.

If this pattern has been around for years and years, it can take a while until you learn whatever needs to be learned for it to change form.

That’s normal. It’s not a sign that something is wrong with you.

The thing that Dance of Shiva (which is all about the science of patterns and how they work) has taught me about patterns is that they are their own cure.

Like homeopathy.

The thing that moves a stuck pattern is introducing another pattern into the mix. And when that one becomes automatic and ingrained (which it will), the whole thing starts again.*

* Except that now each time it’s a tiny bit easier because there’s less resistance to letting one thing become another thing.

Stopping here for now.

Holding back the idea flow, because I think this is enough information to assimilate right now.

The more time you spend with both the parts of you that want this new thing, and the parts of you that are grieving the loss of what is familiar and comfortable, the easier it gets to move things.

Because rewriting patterns always involves an element of loss. One thing goes so the new thing can come, and then that new thing will go so something else can come.

And loss is hard. What are you gonna do? Even when the thing you’re losing isn’t what you want, there’s still a hard.

And hard wants love.

So. Giving love to all the hard. And reminding you (okay, reminding myself) that being in this thing of interacting with ourselves is way more important than how we get somewhere or how long it takes to get there.

Comment zen for today.

We all have our stuff.

We’re all working on our stuff.

We’re practicing.

p.s. One more thing!

The once-or-twice-a-year no-cost class thing that my duck and I lead on rewriting patterns is coming up soon. If you have thoughts on stuff you’d like us to cover (or a theme?), you can drop a note in the comments.

The Fluent Self