3 simple tips to start over

3 simple tips to start over

As your ability to live by your intentions increases, you naturally become more aware of all those moments when you are not living by your intentions. It can be very disheartening to see your untrained mind (and sometimes your fearful heart, too) become detached from your intentions. But as you develop the habit of starting over when you find yourself drifting off the path, you also develop the ability to be both true to your inner self and at ease in the world.

Practice: starting over

And how exactly do you practice starting over? Think of it as turning your attention away from your usual reactions—criticizing, judging, nagging, and complaining—all the mental bustle that usually comes to mind when you discover that you’ve lost your intent by a strong emotion. Do not deny your thoughts and feelings or try to make them disappear. Just acknowledge them without passing judgment on them. Appreciate how difficult this moment is and feel compassion for yourself.

Follow that acknowledgment with what I call the “and” exercise, where you say to yourself, “Yeah, I lost track for a while, and now I’m just starting over.” For example, “I feel alienated and think my coworkers don’t like me, and I strike up a conversation with the guy who seems nice to me.” Or: ‘My body feels weak and sick right now, and I’m going to focus on making my child a cup of tea, which I can muster just enough energy for right now.’ You always acknowledge your thoughts and feelings, but then you move on to the ‘and’ exercise to get back into the here and now.


3 simple tips to start over

You don’t forget your goals in the meantime, but your focus is on the here and now in a way that comes as close as possible to how you want to be in such moments. Of course, you regularly connect back to yourself to see if your way of seeking change or achieving your goal is paying off. If not, try something else.

You also occasionally wonder whether a certain goal still fascinates you and whether your goal or your intentions have changed. But you mainly persist in being who you want to be. You develop the power to start over, because you are very committed to achieving your goal, to living from your intentions. That’s why I call this a behavior change.

Your goals are meaningful because they give direction to your life, but your actual life takes place in the endless stream of moments that run together between now and the moment when you eventually reach your goal. Because you focus on the journey and not the end goal, you will find the willpower and inspiration to start over.

If you manage to relate to life as it is, instead of insisting it should be the way you want it, you’re much more likely to influence the how and why of things because you’re not entangled and are in emotional chaos. If you think about it carefully, the practice of starting over is clearly a more effective way to reach your goal than fixating on it continuously.

3 tips to start over

If you want to change any part of your life and it’s hard for you to do it, take this to heart: never let anyone tell you you can’t change; fight vigorously against the inner impulses that distract you when difficulties arise and do not allow that critical voice in your own head, the one that is constantly trying to tell you that there is no chance for improvement, to control your life.

And if you find that you have strayed from the path of your intentions, you simply start over. Starting over is a powerful habit, but don’t be surprised if you can’t get it going right away. Fortunately, there are three simple things you can do to build this ability in a relatively short period of time.

1. Motivation

First, you must be motivated to start practicing again, and you do that by observing what happens when you lose time feeling discouraged, fleeing, or wallowing in your restless thoughts. Over the next week, notice how often you are thrown off balance when things go wrong at work or in your personal relationships. Don’t judge yourself if you don’t remember. Just be mindful that this is happening to you.

Have compassion for yourself whenever possible. After all, it’s painful to get caught in a reactive state of mind. Once you realize how much emotional energy and time you are wasting, you will realize that the practice in starting over is worth it. Then you will feel the ambition, motivation, and conviction to persevere. As Scott Fitzgerald once wrote:

“Vitality shows itself not only in the ability to persevere, but also in the ability to start over.”

3 simple tips to start over

2. Practice

Second, select a few aspects of your daily life that you want to change and start practicing starting over. Perhaps you choose a person you find difficult to get along with, or a particular assignment at work, or perhaps your own behavior toward dieting or public speaking. If you find that you don’t remember for a while, say to yourself, “Yeah, I don’t remember for a while, so I’ll just start over.” The ‘and’ exercise reminds you of your intentions and goals and helps you through the negative feelings back to the present moment.

Try to practice this in no more than two areas for three months, while remaining mindful of all the times you don’t start over in the other areas of your life. You will soon discover the difference. Seeing this for yourself makes you more confident and, as a result, more motivated. Then you add another aspect of your life to the practice of starting over. Be aware of disappointments and forgetting your intentions; after all, you are trying to teach your mind an entirely new automatic reflex.

3. Meditation

3 simple tips to start over

Finally, meditation is like a laboratory to train your mind to think and respond in new waysMeditation is a safe way to develop the ability to start over, because you are only dealing with yourself – nobody notices when you start over. In addition, you learn to maintain your concentration and to focus, so that you are less likely to be thrown off balance in daily life. It also promotes equanimity and calmness, qualities that help you simply return to your intention when you need to start over.

Practicing starting over in meditation is simple: no matter how many times your mind wanders, you simply return your attention to your breath (or whatever you choose to focus on for your concentration), without getting angry at yourself. Don’t be interested in anything but how you get back to your breath, and how well you start over.


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