By Leo Babauta
When we’re creating a habit—say, meditation or practicing a language—we often try to encourage ourselves by creating an unbroken streak.
100 straight days of meditation! 30 straight days of practicing Chinese! These are amazing accomplishments, and we should let ourselves feel encouraged when we have consistency like this. However, what happens when the streak is broken? When the streak goes down to a Big Zero? This can be incredibly discouraging, and we then often want to give up.
Even more powerful than the consistency of a streak is what I call Practicing with Zero.
The moments when we fall off the plan, when the streak is broken, when we don’t do the morning routine we like—this is when many of us hit the, “Ah screw it” moment. (aka the “Fuck It” moment) It’s like, “Ah well, I blew it, I might as well just give up and blow it even more!” It’s as if we’re happy to throw away all of our gains because we had a moment that didn’t go well.
What if the “Fuck It” moment could be turned into a, “Dust myself off and start again” moment?
What if every time we missed a day, we would just start again. We would let go of whatever we thought our streak was, whatever we were hoping for … and simply take the smallest next step.
This is Practicing with Zero.
When we stumble, Practicing with Zero is simply taking a breath, and righting ourselves.
When things aren’t going according to plan, Practicing with Zero is simply pausing, and deciding how we want to proceed from here. With intention.
Consistency and things going to plan are amazing. Practicing with what happens when things fall apart—that’s probably the most powerful thing we can learn.
Leo Babauta is a regular guy, a father of six kids, a husband, a writer from Guam (now living in San Francisco). He eats vegan food, writes, runs, and reads. He is the founder of Zen Habits which is about finding simplicity and mindfulness in the daily chaos of our lives. It’s about clearing the clutter so we can focus on what’s important, create something amazing, find happiness.
Editor: Dana Gornall
This article was originally published on Zen Habits and re-published with author’s permission.
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