Posted in Articles, Audio, More Than Steps Podcast

Bend, Don’t Break

Bend, Don’t Break

 

Why you have to be flexible to be consistent.

I’m making some changes to More Than Steps for the winter. I didn’t want to change my routine, but this extreme weather made my regular walks really unpleasant.
 
 

Flexibility is the key to keeping your own practice strong in the face of obstacles.
 

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This was professionally transcribed, but it probably still has some errors. If you catch any, drop me a line at nadira@nadirajamal.com. I’d love to hear from you!

We have really terrible weather here in Boston today, so I am not doing this on my way to the coffee shop as usual. I am drinking my own iced coffee here at home. For some reason, that’s a New England thing, we drink iced coffee in the winter. But I wanted to tell you this story of why this is so strange, that I’m not doing it my usual way.

Now, I created More Than Steps back in July, and I designed the process and the habit of creating my podcast every week by fitting it into an opening that already existed in my morning routine, walking to the coffee shop in the morning to get my morning coffee. But lately that walk has not been happening. We’ve had some really cold temperatures and I was finding that the colder the weather got, the more likely it was that my microphone cable would freeze. It was so rigid I was actually afraid of breaking it, and it was kind of expensive. Plus, today we have 18 inches of snow coming, so I’m pretty sure the café that I usually go to is closed.

Now, I am not a wimp when it comes to winter weather. I grew up in Buffalo for that matter, but this is ridiculous, and so forcing myself to go out, just to record the podcast, isn’t really a smart move. The whole point of the podcast was to fit it into an opening that already existed in my morning routine, and so trying to force it was going to backfire. It means turning something that I want to do, taking a nice walk in the morning, getting some me time, getting my caffeine fix, it turned it into something that I have to do. So, while trying to force my standard routine might help in the short term, but in the long term it would really undermine the whole effort.

So I took a big step back and I asked myself, what’s at the heart of this habit? If I strip away all of the specific details and the specific routine, what’s still left? What matters? Well, one thing is coffee. You know, whether I go out or stay in, I’m still going to have some coffee every morning. So if I continue to associate the habit of creating my podcast with that morning coffee, then I don’t have to build a brand new habit from scratch, I can just adapt it. The second thing that’s important is that creating my podcast always has to be sometime after I do my dance practice and work on writing my book. Those are two of my biggest priorities right now, and for the long term, and so they come before any other work, otherwise they don’t happen. The podcast does matter to me, but it has to come after those two crucial things.

The third thing that matters is that I want to continue doing these podcasts in one take. With a few exceptions, my walking podcasts are all single take recordings. That doesn’t mean that I always get it on the first try, although that has been happening more and more as I get more experienced at this. But what it means is that I’m not allowed to redo things and splice multiple takes together. If I make a small mistake, it stays in, and I’ve already made a couple of small mistakes during this video, but you probably didn’t notice, or if you did, you’ve forgotten already. But if I make a big mistake, I will just start over with a brand new take. So maybe I stop, go get my coffee, and then redo it on the way home. Or sometimes I save it for another day.

The reason I set that rule for myself is so that I wouldn’t get caught up in perfectionism. Because the thing is, if I allow myself to edit, what happens is, I record, I don’t really like it so I re-record some parts, and then I edit and I tweak and I try and mix different takes together, and I get really, really picky. The thing is, is that that takes up so much time and effort, that it makes me just not want to do the project, as a whole. So for the next couple of weeks, I’m experimenting with a way to make these More Than Steps episodes, while still keeping those three crucial things intact; coffee, doing it after my morning priorities, and also making sure that I do them in a single take. So I’m going to be doing that right here, as Facebook Live videos.

Now, I will continue posting the audios to the podcast, as usual, so if you’re listening to this on iTunes, you’ll still get them there. But I’m going to record them right here on Facebook Live. I’m going to do them as I drink my morning coffee, and at that point in the day I’m probably not going to have makeup on. I don’t have any on today. I was shoveling snow, so my hair is wet, nothing on, and I do like you guys, but not enough to put on makeup for you everyday. And there’s a good chance that some of them are going to be done in my bathrobe.

Now, the time and the day may vary. My coffee runs did vary quite a lot. Sometimes I did them right after the writing, fairly early in the morning. Sometimes I did them mid-morning or sometimes I didn’t even go out until lunch time. But the common factor was that I recorded my podcasts the first time I left the house for the day. Now, this is going to work great while the weather sucks, but when my morning walk becomes more attractive I do plan on going back to my original routine. So you will start hearing some of the traffic noises, the birds, the kids playing again, sometime soon.

Now, why am I telling you this? Well, first off, it’s a heads up. The podcast is going to sound a little different for a while because I’m recording it on my headset and not on my crazy cat lady microphone, which is a clip on lav that actually has a windscreen that looks like a cat toy. But also, I’m mentioning it because, if you happen to be on Facebook when I record them, you can watch me do it live. But more importantly, this is a great example of why consistency depends on flexibility. There’s an old saying that the reed that bends in the wind doesn’t break, and you will find that everywhere. I hear it goes back to Aesop and possibly even before him, and that it was mentioned in the Tao Te Ching.

The core of that message is that, in the face of big challenges, being flexible is better than being rigid. A reed bends in the wind and survives the storm, but the rigid oak is uprooted and blown away. This is really important when your goal is to be consistent. Whether that’s showing up for your dance practice, writing your novel, emptying the dishwasher every day, or producing a podcast, stuff is going to come up. Life happens and if you try to stick too rigidly to your routine, you’re going to snap and give up. Instead, you have to be prepared to be flexible. That doesn’t mean giving up on it entirely, just recasting your habit. Sometimes you have to change how you show up, so that you can keep showing up.

The weather here isn’t getting better anytime soon. I’m going to have to go out and shovel again in another hour or so, and then after that it’s going to be freezing for a good long while. So I have to adjust the plan for my podcast so that I can keep doing it consistently. If something else is making it hard for you to be consistent about your dance practice, or anything else that matters to you, think about how you can bend so you don’t break.

 

Your Turn

How has this played out for you, in your dance (or your life)?

Do you have any tips to share with other listeners?

Got a question or topic that you’d like me to talk about on the show?

I would love to hear from you.

Leave a comment below, or better yet, leave me a short voice message. Maybe I’ll even play it on the air!

 

Want More?

Protecting your practice habit is one of the things we cover in my online course, How to Build a Sustainable Practice Habit. A new DIY version is now available!

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