When Your Meditation Practice Seems Like A Chore

“Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going.”  Jim Ryun

The other day I listened to 2 radio presenters discussing what new habits they are trying to adopt during the Covid-19 lockdown.

One mentioned they had been meditating daily for 10 minutes. They talked about how they started strong. They meditated regularly for around 3 weeks, but then the wheels started to fall off the wagon.

In their own words, they started to find meditation was becoming ‘a bit of a chore.’

They were starting to see meditation as another thing on a to-do list. It was making them feel more anxious the more they procrastinated about doing it.

Does this sentiment sound familiar to you?

It’s not uncommon. It seems to play out again and again for so many. Whether it is meditation, or exercise people seem to reach a point when the commitment starts to waiver.

But why is this?

And more importantly, what can we do to overcome those obstacles that cause us to give up?

The Vital Resource of Motivation

The benefits of motivation are visible every day in the ways we live our lives. It’s a vital resource that allows us to constantly adapt to changes in our environment.

There can be no better example of this than during the Covid-19 pandemic. Not surprisingly, in an attempt to combat the uncertainty in anxious times the demand for meditation and exercise apps skyrocketed through this period.  

However, with the longevity of the situation, a growing number of reports suggested people’s motivation for exercise ebbed and flowed during the lockdowns. Many struggled to stay on track to keep their health a priority.

The BBC reported; ‘Two-fifths of people say they are doing less exercise in this lockdown than during the first one in spring 2020’.

After months of fluctuating social restrictions, people suddenly lost their enthusiasm. Similar to New Year’s resolutions, motivation steadily faded over time.

So why is it so hard to maintain motivation and enthusiasm over a sustained period?

When our Motivation starts to fade

The motivation needed to start any new behaviour is often very different to the motivation needed to sustain one.

If we are starting to see aspects of what we do, like exercises or meditation, becoming a chore then we need to question and address the aspects of motivation that is giving us trouble.

Let’s consider the story above about the radio presenters and the feeling that meditation has become a chore.

What’s the reality of the situation- the cause of their procrastination?

The practice of meditating is not the problem. The real problem is the approach the person has towards doing the meditation.

What I typically find in these situations is a strong feeling of expectation. We want something good to happen now. Yet when nothing tangible occurs each time then we become discouraged causing us to lose enthusiasm.

We put in some time and effort so where’s the result?

The Importance of the easy short term approach

Somewhere on the journey, we forgot to remind ourselves meditation is not about making something happen now. It’s a matter of being 100% present to whatever arises at that moment.

It’s the same feeling people have about going to the gym or learning any new skill. We expect some wins along the way, but in the short term they are few and far between. This seriously impacts our motivation making it increasingly harder to keep going.

Finding different ways to increase our motivation is essential.  It allows us to change behaviours and make things into habits.

What we need is a behavioural approach that makes any form of exercise easy to practice in the short term that then effortlessly allows for establishing long-term commitment in the form of a habit.

Then we can correct our behaviours in the face of challenging and changing situations.

So what does that look like in real terms?

How to motivate yourself: 3 things to try

If you’re struggling to motivate yourself to meditate, exercise or do any other task, maybe the following 3 ideas will help you maintain your drive and focus.

1. Intention-what’s your ‘why?’ Finding a compelling ‘why’ is a good starting point to increasing your motivation to meditate, exercise or master any other skill.

What is your intention?

If your goal is to practice daily meditation so you can be less stressed or do you want to approach life with more kindness and patience?

Having that clear purpose within yourself will help you to show up every time. If you cannot articulate the intention behind your goal, the motivation needed to achieve it will be hard to find.

If you’re just doing it because you think you should, or someone said it’s cool, you will struggle to push past the resistance.

2. Set yourself up with a routine. Without a scheduled time to do things it becomes a bit hit and miss whether you get things done. We can hope to find the time but things will always get in the way. Creating a routine overcomes that dilemma.

When I first started meditating I knew it had to be done first thing in the morning or it would not happen. Similarly, with exercise, I was always thinking ahead planning what I would do and when.

 How you begin your day more often than not defines it. If you start by prioritising things you give yourself that little bit of inspiration and motivation to last all day.

3. Small steps make it doable every time-. Starting is always the hardest part. Yet when we start small we remove all resistance.

Most people go wrong trying to do too much too quickly. Going from zero to 100 miles per hour is a remedy for disaster. It’s unsustainable.

When I first started meditating I kept it very simple and easy. Three times a day by 3 minutes. This slowly built overtime to two times a day by 15 minutes. Now I regularly find time to meditate twice a day for 20-30 minutes. It’s now a habit.

If you haven’t meditated before 1 minute is a lot more doable than 10 minutes. Similarly, if you haven’t run for some time 100 meters is more doable than 1km.

Keeping it simple and easy is the key.

These small behavioural steps, in the beginning, give us the confidence we need to build momentum. The more we do it the more we are establishing the behaviour into a habit.

Take away message

There’s no one answer as to how to find the motivation that works for you, but hopefully, the tips above point you in the right direction.

We all struggle with our habits and staying motivated over time.  It can seem like a never-ending battle trying to push ourselves to meditate or exercise.

However, developing habits is the long term solution to getting things done.

Do you struggle to maintain the inner drive to get things done?

Maybe you need a little guidance to help fine tune your motivation.  

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