Art and Creativity Coaching Articles
It’s January, the month of good intentions! This is the time we are most likely to throw ourselves into new endeavours, trying to improve things physically and mentally – exercise routines, learning new skills, taking time to connect spiritually… Often we attempt to go from zero to a hundred in one week and then berate ourselves for struggling or failing. Suddenly, self-improvement becomes yet another stress to manage! So what’s the best way to introduce new habits so that you enjoy the experience and succeed?
One of my top tips for developing good habits is what I call the “Five Minute Rule”. The idea is – do >fill in the blank< for five minutes every day rather than for one hour every week or so. “What’s the point of that?” you may think. The point is that doing a thing often and consistently shows better results than a sporadic mammoth effort. Ultimately, excellence is born from habit.
It can be really hard introducing new habits into your life. It doesn’t matter how helpful or virtuous or beneficial we know them to be, there remains that resistance inside us against the effort it will take to act on them. Our existing routine shudders and quakes at the idea of change! This is why it’s important to minimise the perceived effort until it becomes almost ridiculously easy: hence the Five Minute Rule. However busy or overwhelmed we are, we can all find five minutes!
I applied the Five Minute Rule while learning to meditate. I was too twitchy and restless to settle for half an hour straight off the bat! I wanted a daily practice but when I attempted long sessions, my meditation became something I resented. I practised for a few days … then a couple of times a week … then once a week … and then I stopped! I’m sure you know how it goes! I was totally fed up with myself and my “lack of discipline”. But it was just my approach that was wrong. Once I applied the Five Minute Rule, I was away! Setting a goal and achieving it triggers feel-good hormones in the brain so that instead of your practice becoming a source of stress, it becomes a positive feedback loop. You wouldn’t go from being a couch potato to running a marathon in one day or even one week! It’s all about building muscle (metaphorically or literally!), as well as ingraining pathways in the brain until it becomes a natural part of who you are. Ultimately, your day will feel incomplete without this new habit. From there you can build up in increments to the duration that works best for you.
If you don’t think five minutes can make a difference, commit to a Five Minute practice for a month and see how you feel at the end of the month. You’ll be surprised!
Change, growth and healing are very rarely achieved by a single, immense act; they are achieved by the consistent five minutes here and there. Each micro-act builds up momentum that eventually becomes unstoppable. Never underestimate the power of the half percent because each half builds up to a whole and ultimately leads to whole-ness, the 100 percent.
Next time you are feeling overwhelmed by anything, commit to the Five Minute Rule – but you have to mean it, especially in the early stages. Honouring those Five Minutes, being grateful and proud of yourself for your commitment, and repeating the same the next day, is a powerful way to cultivate gentle self-acceptance and self-trust.