A few months ago I saw a great post on Facebook by a guy I met at the Global Lululemon Ambassador summit last spring.  He’s a very cool guy and unbelievably skilled at handstands.  He was offering an online course – how to master handstand in 6 weeks.  He meant handstand in the middle of the room, no walls, no elaborate setup, just literally popping into a vertical line standing on your hands.  As a devoted yoga teacher and student who happens to love a physical challenge, I thought “I’m in!” I signed up and started practicing right away.  I did ok for the first couple of weeks, so long as I had a wall nearby.  Call me crazy, but I could not really get my arms around the idea of flipping upside down with nothing nearby to catch me in the (highly likely) event that I fell on my head.  Thus, close to a wall I stayed.

Then, life started to get in the way.  I had a hard time finding the time (and motivation) to practice on the regular.  I still kept up with my daily yoga and meditation practice, my favorite cardio workouts, and my marriage, family, friends, and work.  But I could not quite find the discipline and willpower to stick with my efforts to master handstand.  Eventually, I gave up.  Truth be told, I felt badly about this.  I even felt a little ashamed and embarrassed.  I mean, when I say I’m going to do something, I typically do.  So why the goal failure here?

Earlier this week I listened to something interesting on the Ten Percent Happier App – a pretty constant source of inspiration for me.  The conversation was about understanding how habits you are trying to cultivate fit into the larger picture of your values.  The more a particular behavioral change aligns with a strongly held value, the higher your motivation will be to stick with it.  Of course, this makes complete sense.  I reflected back on my failed “I’m-going-to-nail-handstand-in-the-middle-of-the-room” exercise and had an a-ha moment.

See, I don’t really care that much about my handstand prowess.  It’s not truly tied to a high value for me.  I value movement, physical activity, and overall wellness tremendously.  But a handstand in the middle of the room?  The most emotion I can muster about this is “that’d be cool.”  That’s about it.  So, on a scale of 1 to 10, 1 being I could not care less and 10 being I’d go to the ends of the earth to make this happen, I was at about a 4.  Realizing this, I saw right away how and why my determination withered in the face of daily life demands.  And I felt like I could let go of whatever residual self-criticism I felt about walking away from this unmet goal.

If you are trying to achieve a new habit or goal, assess your motivation.  Ponder your deeper why – how does what you are trying to achieve or create align with your most dearly held values?  Measure your motivation on a scale or 1 to 10.  And if you’re at less than a solid 7, consider whether the goal makes sense at this particular moment in your life.  If you really want to be more motivated that you are, contemplate on how you could move from, say, a 6 to an 8.  You may find an accessible answer.  Or, you might decide to walk away from the goal, sans self-criticism.