A glass jar filled with spices and a label that says CHAI

Mastering Habits with Curiosity: Your Key to Success

I love a good cup of coffee. From the moment the scent of freshly ground beans starts wafting into the room, my anticipation of delight grows. And the first couple of sips meet that anticipation with the warm glow of a desire fulfilled, just like the first sips of a cold beer or white wine.

Lately, however, I’ve realized that I’ve become reliant on the buzz. I’m hyper-aware of the feeling of being under-caffeinated or over-caffeinated, sometimes reaching for a second cup to obtain the just-right sensation that makes me feel like I can take on the day with confidence, energy and focus.  But I don’t like the feeling of being needy, where I “need” more coffee to feel my best. So I’ve been psyching myself up to stop drinking coffee for a while.

This seemed like a fine—though ambitious—idea last week. I made my plan for what I would drink instead: black or green tea chai and matcha (this isn’t a “no caffeine” thing, just a no coffee thing). As much tea as I wanted, but no coffee.

Now here it is, the first day of the month, and today I begin with the new regimen. Things start off well enough, as I savor the spices in the chai. Using a small teapot, I get at least 2 big mugs of tea, lightened with a bit of almond milk. Yum.

But then, about 2 hours after being awake, I’m missing the steady buzz that starts my day. My body-mind hasn’t hit that revved-up sweet spot yet, and it feels like something’s missing. And so the mind jumps in:

Really, what’s wrong with a little coffee?
Why don’t you just stop this nonsense and get that buzzed feeling again.
You can always start again tomorrow.
This is a silly activity.

Ahhh, the familiar voice of resistance. It all sounded so convincing, and for a minute I entertained the idea of going off protocol.

This is a critical moment in any change effort, when the momentum of the old ways want to keep going and we need to summon the wherewithal to change directions.

There are (at least) two ways to meet this moment: with will and determination, or with curiosity.

Will and determination are for sure important pieces of the change puzzle, in that we need to persist. But relying on will alone is exhausting for the brain and it eventually runs out.

Instead, I’ve discovered that being curious eases the mind’s freak-out about not getting what it wants in the moment. And so I respond to the voice:

Ok, maybe I could have some coffee today, but what if I just try it for today and see how it goes?

Letting the mind (and body) know that its desired pleasure isn’t gone forever, just for today, ratchets down the alarm bells of resistance.

“One day at a time” is a common refrain in the recovery world, and for good reason. It breaks down the mountain of time into reasonable chunks.

Being curious shifts the attention from a can/can’t focus and makes room for possibility.

The next time you try to start or stop a habit and are meeting some resistance from the mind/body, try using curiosity–tell yourself let’s just see what happens–to get you through some of the hurdles. This strategy works particularly well when trying to do intermittent fasting.

Let me know how it goes!

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