December 5, 2013

Does Our Practice Have Purpose?

“If I didn’t practice, I’d be a stark-raving lunatic. Or at the very least, seriously unhappy—this is why it is non-negotiable.”

Suzanne Sterling, Co-Founder, Off the Mat Into the World

Non-negotiable. After compiling more than fifty interviews with successful people from all walks of life about their personal practices, this theme…”non-negotiable” seems to keep rising to the surface.

People who are deeply committed to their practices consider their commitment to and execution of their practice non-negotiable.

Committed practitioners share a deep understanding of and experience with their practice that clearly illustrates the benefits of practice for themselves and everything they touch. They get that when they don’t practice, they are less present and less effective…they suffer from lack of clarity and energy.

It seems for them that once they have committed themselves to practice, they can’t close their eyes to the way things used to be without it. They just know they have to do it.

In my conversations with friends and colleagues about practice, many of us share this deep understanding of the power of practice. We know that when we are committed to our practice, everything is better. We are more present, have clearer focus and more energy and fun. When we practice, we are better friends, partners, colleagues and parents.

So many of us share this knowledge, this understanding of the impact of practice on ourselves and everything and everyone we touch, yet…sometimes we don’t practice.

Sometimes we don’t practice because we are traveling, or because we’re caretaking a sick kid, or because we’re not well. And sometimes we don’t practice because we don’t prioritize it—we don’t make time or space to practice. We hit the snooze button instead, or kill time on social media, or consider ourselves too busy.

What is it that makes a practice non-negotiable and how do you get there?

From what I have seen, there is no fundamental difference between people who practice relentlessly and those who wish that they would. But, people who are deeply committed to their practice do seem to know something that others don’t: they have uncovered their key motivating practice purpose.

Spend some time with these three questions and you may start to move your needle towards the non-negotiable practice arena too (or have some support in keeping yourself there).

Why do you practice?

Do you perform better at work when you practice? Are you more present for your relationships? Do you just feel better…more clear, focused, energetic, healthy or present?

Connect to the feeling sense you get with your yoga class, or that hike or your meditation session or after breathing deeply and expressing gratitude—whatever your practice might be. How do you feel during your practice? How do you feel afterwards?

For whom do you practice?

Your practice probably has some tangible benefits for yourself. You are more fit, energetic, clear-headed, or happy. This serves you well, but who else does it serve?

Do your colleagues benefit from your increased productivity? Do your kids benefit from your increased energy? Do your clients benefit from your more focused presence? Imagine then that your colleagues, kids, clients, friends and family members not only benefit themselves from your practice but they in turn also are able to be of greater service to others because your practice has touched them in some way.

What happens when you don’t practice?

Consider what Kevin Carroll, author of Rules of the Red Rubber Ball says: “An unexpected circumstance or situation might not allow me to do my practice and the deleterious impact on my energy is… undeniable!”  Entrepreneur Ray DelMuro, founder of Refresh Glass notes that: “My practice helps me focus on the most important tasks that help my business grow and not get distracted by the people or projects who are the loudest.”

Connect to why you practice, then, imagine what happens when you don’t. Which place would you rather be?

After you answer these questions, try your hand at crafting a simple Practice Purpose Statement you can use to support yourself in your practice.

Your Practice Purpose Statement answers the question: why do I practice?

It might read something like this: I practice yoga to feel more calm, clear, energetic and happy. Or: Meditating upon waking helps me to show up as more energetic, creative and productive for my family, colleagues and friends.  Or: My morning run helps me kick ass all day long. 

When you think about it that way, why wouldn’t you want to practice?! And why wouldn’t you want to practice on a relentlessly consistent basis?

Write down your statement.

Then, if you need support committing to your practice, post it where you need it the most. Perhaps you can put it on a sticky note on the snooze button of your alarm clock to support you in getting out of bed with enough time to fit in your practice.

Maybe you post it on your computer screen to remind yourself not to neglect your morning meditation. Or you can share it with a friend and invite them to mirror your statement back to you when you need it. Or, best yet, you can look at it on your own mirror after you practice and give yourself a high five.

Here’s towards your non-negotiable practice and more of those high fives!


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Editor: Catherine Monkman

{Photo: Courtesy of Author.}

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