Re-starting the chain

I try to meditate every day. Sometimes I don’t. The other day I had reasons for why it just didn’t happen, and I broke a 90 day streak.

I’m supposed to feel bad, right? That’s what a lot of people tell you — That if something is important to you and you don’t do it every day, without fail, then maybe it’s not actually important to you and you’re bad at it.

But look at what one missed day really means.

Here’s one week.

You see the missing day, and that 1/7 (or 14%) looks meaningful.

It’s not a majority. It’s not even a plurality of my week.

But it looks like something to take note of.

Until you look at the view from one month and three months back.

At one month, it looks like a big dip. Remember how I said I had a 90 day chain going?

Now pull back to three months, and you can barely tell where the dip is. It’s just one small curve on a fairly smooth line.

Then look at six months of records.

That dip furthest to the right? That’s the missing day.

It’s nowhere near the biggest dip on this chart. It’s not significant in any real way.

Now look at a full year of keeping track of my meditation:

That single missed day? That’s nothing. Barely worth noticing.

Thinking back to how even the best professional baseball players have “low” batting averages, this looks like further evidence toward the point that there’s value in being gentle to yourself and setting realistic expectations.

Discipline for the sake of discipline isn’t a virtue.

A single bad day or bad portion of a day comes out in the wash.

Executing on the purpose of the habit can be just as meaningful on executing on the habit itself. I don’t meditate to unlock a trophy in my meditation app. I do it because it helps ground me, and it’s part of how I do the work of surviving with depression. The product of the habit is a better version of me.

There’s a world of difference between giving up on a habit and its benefits versus letting go of the compulsion to keep up a habit at any cost when you have a need to give yourself space for other things.

It’s part of why I like James Clear’s take on missing days from a habit:

Whenever this happens to me, I try to remind myself of a simple rule: never miss twice.

The first mistake is never the one that ruins you. It is the spiral of repeated mistakes that follows. Missing once is an accident. Missing twice is the start of a new habit.

Atomic Habits