Let’s talk about Jerry Seinfeld.
If you are too young to know who Jerry Seinfeld is, you probably still wear your shirt tucked in, don’t you? Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
Anyway, I have no idea if this is a true story or an urban legend, but it’s a good technique no matter what. So here’s the thing. You get yourself a big one-year calendar with bite-sized squares for each day, and you hang that sucker in a prominent place. Where ever you write, or practice music, or paint, or do kick-ass arm balancing poses, or attempt interpretive dance to the squirrel chatter coming from your deck, whatever, that’s where you hang your calendar.
Day 1. You do your thing: you practice your violin for 5 minutes or paint for 20 minutes or quilt for an hour. Up to you. You do your thing, that day. You show up. You place an X on that day’s square.
Day 2. Repeat. Show up, do your craft, mark an X on that day.
Day 3. Ditto.
Get the idea? Every day that you show up at your desk, or piano, or studio, you mark an X.
And pretty soon, you see a long string of X’s on the calendar that continue to grow. But if you miss a day, you have to take down the calendar, throw it away, and start all over. Back to Day 1. And you think, I don’t want to break this mother$*@!ing chain! It’s easier to sit down for 10 minutes and do something, even if your heart is not in it. Because when you show up and sit your ass down, sometimes you heart will get the idea and follow you. Sometimes.
You can read more about the “Don’t break the chain” idea here.
But I have never done this thing with the calendar that I just described. It sounds great! It sounds super! But it didn’t entirely appeal to me.
Along the way somewhere, I heard another idea which is actually a mild form of self-punishment and being a person with a somewhat fiery temperament it appealed to me quite a bit. The plan is this: you make a deal with yourself, that you are going to Do Your Thing every How Ever Often You Decide, but if you don’t do it, there are Cash Consequences in the form of a Somewhat Painful Donation to an Organization That You Detest.
Let’s take an example. Say your “thing” is quilting, the frequency is three times per week, the cash amount is $50, and the organization is Westboro Baptist Church. Because every time I’ve mentioned this idea to friends, they get all animated and googly-eyed and immediately suggest Westboro Baptist Church. If you miss one of your appointed days, you agree to pay Westboro Baptist Church the sum of $50. And I don’t mean Monopoly money.
The amount needs to be something that you can pay without harming yourself financially, but it needs to be an amount that will cause you some angst.
This setup appealed to me more than the “don’t break the chain” calendar idea, but I didn’t do this either. I’ve made my own hybrid and it involves mason jars because I think they are one of the best all-purpose objects ever manufactured.
Here’s what I do, and I’ve been doing it now for 4 whole days. I made a promise to write every day, even if just for a little while. Every day that I show up and work, I put a quarter in my mason jar. Even though it’s only been a few days, I can already visualize a jar full of quarters, then another jar, until I have jars and jars of quarters all through my office. I don’t know what I’ll do with them. Maybe I’ll fly to Amsterdam or maybe I’ll give it to a good cause. Although a trip to Amsterdam would be an excellent cause.
But. If I break my “chain” and miss a day, I have to empty out the jar – lo! – ALL the jars – and give that money to some organization that I detest. I haven’t decided yet what that organization is, despite all the mentions of you-know-who above. But in keeping with one of my mantras to “Begin Anywhere” I just started, knowing that all I need to do to find a detestable organization is to turn on the TV.
I guess this isn’t very yogic because it seems to focus on punishment. But it works for me, 4 days in a row.
Make that 5.