What are Personal Practices?
Keeping agreements isn’t easy, especially when you’re trying to change deeply entrenched patterns of belief or behavior or lifelong habits. While we are often aware of our shortcomings and have good intentions for changing them, we might not know what to do about them. If you are tired of getting stuck in that same old place, a personal practice can make it easier to commit to making a shift.
Personal practices are simply agreements we make with ourselves to do something particular each day, each week, or each time we catch ourselves following our old behaviors. Generally speaking, a practice is something one does on an ongoing basis. Any time there is a habit to change or a new skill to develop, personal practices are the tool that gets it done. For example, if your dream is to live a life of ease and creativity, and you are trying to change a behavior pattern of overworking and being stressed, you might choose to create a personal practice of meditating for twenty minutes each day. Following through on this commitment by doing that tangible practice will anchor you in your intention to create more time and space for yourself. The added bonus? Doing this will actually move you closer to your dream! Studies have proven that meditation reduces stress, and many people report that it opens up their creative faculties.
An artist I knew once complained that she never had time to paint. We both saw that although she could juggle many things at once, important things rarely got completed. When she told me her dream was to create enough paintings to have her own show, I offered her this personal practice: “For one hour each day, complete what you are doing before you move on to something else. That means, if you are checking email and the phone rings, let it roll into voicemail.”
She was outraged. “This is going to stifle my creativity.”
I calmly assured her that; “A little structure allows for more creativity.”
“Alright, I’ll try it for a week,” she reluctantly submitted.
We agreed that each day she would give me an update via voicemail. Here’s the synopsis of what happened.
Day 1: “I hate this,” her curt message screeched.
Day 2: “This is the wrong practice for me.”
Day 3: “I lasted thirty minutes and made some progress.”
Day 4: “I am wondering why I don’t make my needs a priority. I cried. I think we’re onto something.”
Day 5: “This is amazing. I feel lighter and got so much done.”
Day 6: “I’m going to continue this for another week.”
Her second week was so streamlined that she had time left over to organize her forgotten studio. By week three, she was painting again. After three months she had completed more art than she had in the entire previous year. With newfound clarity, self-confidence, and self-worth, her art was also selling again. Now, her assistant is managing her office, allowing her to happily be where she belongs—in her studio. All of this came about from the simple practice of focusing for just one hour a day.
The Power of Personal Practices
To experience the power of personal practices, first identify where you get stuck or how you sabotage your dreams. What would you like to change or develop? What could you do differently, and how many times a day or a week will you do it? First practice being the person you dream of being, and then soon it will become automatic and a part of you. Just also be sure to celebrate your newly acquired skill! Give yourself positive reinforcement to keep your motivation going.
Let’s talk more about how this process can help. Say, for example, you want to develop a personal practice to overcome a particular habit—like negative self-talk, over-committing, or procrastination. For these kinds of habits, a powerful way to practice is to choose something you will do every time you catch yourself in the act of doing the old behavior. It could be as simple as this: every time you become aware that you’re caught in the pattern, press an internal pause button. Then, do something different right in that moment. Let’s say you have a habit of negative self-talk, and you’re walking down the street one morning and catch a glimpse of yourself in a window. “You look terrible!” says the voice in your head. Press pause as soon as you realize what’s happening. Stop that train of negative commentary and, instead, tell yourself a new story. Actively say something kind to yourself. “You have a radiant smile!” or “You are a successful person!” Remind yourself of your best, most lovable qualities. Don’t let yourself be hijacked by your Doubter or your limiting belief.
Perhaps you recognize that you tend to sabotage your dreams by not taking care of yourself. You work so hard that you burn yourself out, and then you get sick and fail to follow through on your agreements. In this case, you might benefit from new personal practices like committing to getting a massage once a week, going to bed at a certain time each night, or turning off your cell phone once you get home. Often, personal practices require saying “no” to old habits in order to make way for new ones—something we’ll talk more about in the next chapter.
In any area of your life where you recognize a limiting pattern of self-sabotage, design a personal practice that works for your dreams. It will strengthen your commitment, deepen your self-trust, and make you a bigger dreamer and a better person.
Commitment Releases Creativity
Despite all our attempts at fixing our self-sabotage habits, failure is a part of life. However, failure can be one of the greatest sources of lessons. One amazing thing about dreams is that they are not about promises, guarantees, and assurances. They are about things that matter enough to you that you’re willing to put a stake in the ground and commit to them.
When you’ve made a commitment to your Dreamer, you will have a different perspective on your dream than you did when you were just sitting back wondering if it would ever happen. Maybe you once thought you didn’t have the time or money to go after that new piece of business you want; now that you’re committed to doing it and you’ve dealt with all of your negative attitudes and beliefs, you might see the logic of freeing time or resources by giving up something that doesn’t interest you anymore.
Your new outlook, that it makes sense to give up something that no longer has value to you, is a direct result of your commitment to being where you want to be rather than where you are. Refocusing on your life’s purpose (who you are and what turns you on) will assist you in deciding when to give up or walk away from something. In the following chapter, I’ll be teaching you a powerful exercise for saying “no more” to those things that no longer serve your purpose. You’ll notice a lighter, freer feeling as you let go of the old and create room to embrace the new.
Personal Practices Exercise
Meditate or sit in silence for 15 to 30 minutes and consider one of the external obstacles from the assignment in Dream Coach ® Step #5: Deal with Your Doubter, perhaps choosing one that is specifically a bad habit. Now, think of a personal practice that is counter to the bad habit and that will also help you achieve your dreams. Spend the entire day practicing this new habit. Catch yourself whenever the old bad habit comes up, and then reorient yourself to the new empowering practice.