New Month Resolution #1
Updated: Mar 22, 2021
As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I think it’s valuable to consciously mark time as a way to make gradual changes to one’s behavior. The usual case is the New Year’s Resolution, but it comes only once per year and almost nobody sticks with it for that long. As a substitute, I proposed the idea of a New Month Resolution, the basic principle of which is to choose some habit or activity I want to cultivate, and do it every day of that month. The task should be (a) big enough that it takes a focused effort to get it done (showering doesn’t count), and (b) small enough that one can expect to make real progress in 15-30 mins each day over the course of a month.
Play along from home, if you want. 🙂 (If you do, I’d love to hear about your experience!)
About Last Month, Resolution #0
Last month, I did a trial run for a resolution starting October 9. The goal:
Starting October 9, until (at least) the end of the month, I will sit in meditation for at least 20 minutes each day.
I treated this as a simple trial run, both because it was only 23 days (rather than a whole month), and because meditation is a habit I already work on; I meditate nearly every day, usually for 10 minutes, so all I had to do was increase this to 20.
How did I do? In terms of commitment, I did pretty well. One day, I skipped for no reason at all, and one day I skipped because I was backpacking in the desert and never found a convenient, quiet span of time, but besides that I did it consistently every single day. I practiced in the morning, as I usually do, but set my Waking Up meditation app to 20 mins. Most days, it was not hard to get myself to the pillow.
My meditation pillow, and my plant (Randall)
In terms of concentration, it was much more difficult than I expected. I frequently caught myself thinking about how much time was left, something I’m usually able to avoid during 10 minutes sits. I also caught myself becoming lost in thought for longer stretches, before I brought my attention back to the practice; it felt like I was “killing time” a little bit, and it distracted me more than I’m used to.
Stress was an impediment too. This is a particularly stressful time because I’m applying for jobs for next year, a truly dreadful task. Thoughts about that, and about work or other obligations, frequently came to mind and distracted me. Another impediment, on a few specific days, was alcohol; a few nights per month I go out with friends to have drinks, and the next day my head is very cloudy, making meditation (and concentration generally) very difficult.
Will I continue? I’ll keep meditating for sure, but not always 20+ mins. I’m aware that spending more time likely leads to faster progress, but very often 10 minutes is already a struggle. The whole point here is to make small, consistent efforts, not to go all-out and get burned out. What I may try to do is practice for a longer span on weekends when I have fewer daily stresses; that’s an incremental change I may be able to stick to, going forward.
Should I give myself a score? Ok sure, let’s try it out:
Difficulty (spending the time): 3/10
Difficulty (focusing on the task): 7/10
Likelihood to do it again the day after: 2/10
Last year, I started taking piano lessons in Tel Aviv; to make practice easier I bought a digital piano for my room.
My (very neglected) digital piano
Over the summer, I was traveling for long stretches, and let my practice wither to nothing. I still have lots of sheet music and exercises to work through, and I dust them off when I clean my room, but haven’t turned on the piano in months now. I want to get back to it, and my NMR for this month is to do that.
Starting November 1, until (at least) the end of the month, I will practice piano for 15-30 minutes each day.
Known impediment: I will be traveling in Germany between November 11-13; I expect to miss one or more of these days.
Results and new Resolution will be given on or around December 1.