Sunday, February 5, 2012

The Big Rocks

The previous parts of this article are here: Part 1, Part 2, & Part 3.

Changing habits is difficult, extremely difficult. The proof of the arduousness comes not just from the research studies highlighting high failure rates, but also from our own personal experiences. Without doubt, I have myself failed on several attempts of self-improvement. Yesterday, I talked about how setting specific goals and writing them down helped increase my success rate. Today, I would like to talk about a related issue: setting aside time for what we want to do.

Whenever we intend to inculcate a new habit, be it an activity that we intrinsically enjoy or not, we have to set aside time for it. This is because we tend to get too busy attending to urgent tasks, and before we know, the day gets over without we finding any time for the task we wanted to engage in. I have found this to be true even for the activities that I absolutely love. Take music, for instance. When I practice music, I often go into a state of flow. Occasionally, the flow is such that it is almost an ethereal and meditative experience. Yet, I have not been regular when it comes to practice of music. The primary reason, I realize, is not scheduling a specific time for music practice. When I don't schedule time for music, it rarely gets done. If it is so difficult to find time for an activity that I love, why should we be surprised when we falter on a resolution that aims for improvement in an area in which we aren't good at and possibly even hate?

A beautiful analogy that illustrates the importance of setting aside time is the problem of fitting a pile of rocks, pebbles and sand into a glass jar. If people pour the sand and pebbles into the jar first, then there never is enough space for the bigger rocks. However, when they place the rocks in the jar first, and then add the smaller materials, everything fits into the jar. The pebbles and sand easily fill in the spaces between the rocks, and that's how the space inside the jar gets utilized optimally. The same thing happens with respect to our time. We all have 24 hours in a day. That's analogous to we all having jars of equal sizes. Now, when we allot time for the important things (analogous to placing the big rocks in the jar first), we succeed in devoting time for our busy chores (analogous to the filled jar with pebbles and sand). However, when we do not allot time for the things that matter to us, our day gets filled with all kinds of busy stuff, and before we realize, another day passes by without we ever getting a chance to develop the habit that we so intensely want to.

In essence, I believe one key element to successful change is the practice of setting aside time for the areas in life that are important to us. If we don't, most likely, we will falter in being able to find time for these important tasks on a daily basis. However, if we do set aside time, even if for as less as 15 minutes every day, we will have a pretty hardened, new habit by end of 30-40 days.

To be continued ...

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