Here’s what happened when I took a break from coaching…
Everything I was worried about – the great UNKNOWN – has happened. I failed. I am not ‘a morning person’. In summer and autumn, I was flying high and full of inspiration. I was like those self-righteous ex-smokers who have chucked the lighter and found the light. They can’t even imagine the temptation of another cigarette. Why did I ever want to stay in bed? Why do people waste their lives sleeping late? I was loving my morning routine. Fun with Aliya, makeup, davening and even journaling. Summer and autumn mornings were energised, I was crushing all my goals. And then came winter. And the battle got harder. I battled an irresistible need to hibernate. And I’m back to square one. Or am I?
I think the school holidays probably account for my setback. I didn’t need to get up as early. But instead of relishing the break, I started to berate myself. My father has woken up at 5am for over 40 years. He’s used this extra time in his day to finish shas mishnayos twice, learn many gemoras and is making his way through daf yomi. He has such self discipline! Why don’t I? I have so much shame around this issue. I have turned it into a massive moral failing. And I truly think it is. I feel like a bad person. Will this motivate me to jump out of bed like the Code of Jewish Law advises – jumping up like a lion to serve Hashem? Shock of all shocks: shame, blame, comparison and self-loathing are not working at all. So what are my options?
I have tried the ‘be kind to yourself route’, accepting that winter is a challenge. Our houses in Joburg are like fridges, you literally have to go outside in the sun to warm up. I’m trying to manage my expectations of myself and cut myself some slack, but it’s so much easier to like myself when I am up earlier! So I don’t know if this compassionate acceptance route is for me. And I don’t think I can trust myself to tell the difference between self-indulgence and self-compassion.
I also know I need to be careful of all or nothing thinking. I could drop the ‘morning person’ label, and be more nuanced about this morning project. I could take it one day at a time, celebrating the days I manage to get going earlier without making it about my character as a human being. I could and I should but I don’t. I wasn’t getting anywhere on my own, so I went back to coaching with Sterna after a 6 month break. And that’s when I realised, I’m not ready for long stretches of time without coaching. I get stuck in analysis paralysis and I really need coaching to move me forward! Until I can ‘hear’ Sterna’s voice in my own head, pushing me forward and cutting through the rumination – I need the coaching.
So we resumed. “Are you acknowledging how far you’ve come?” Sterna asked me. I admitted I do still have a productive, enriching morning routine – it just starts later than I want. I am still doing shacharis a few days a week – and I love it! I am journaling some days too, for the first time since my 20s! Journaling is something I know has huge value for me. It gives me the space to process stuff that’s on my mind and think about my goals. I’ve wanted to start journaling again for YEARS. And finally I’m doing it! Those two things are HUGE. But all I could see was failure. Sterna advised me to read my blogs again, to remind myself of the progress and reinforce the lessons learned.
In his book Mind Power into the 21st Century, John Kehoe says that acknowledging what you have achieved and all the strengths it took to get there are crucial parts of success. Success breeds success. People often move so quickly to the next goal that they forget to pat themselves on the back for what they’ve achieved. And being in a slump about failure is not a recipe for success! I highly recommend writing down your strengths and then looking at that list often! So go on, what have you accomplished so far this year? What’s great about you?