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How to Avoid All-or-Nothing Thinking

Lately I've been reading a lot about how great meditation is for you. I'm sure it is -- one study in Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging found that 8 weeks of meditation actually changed people's brains in a way that could make them less anxious. But I found that study via a New York Times piece in which the author's husband undertook a 10-day silent retreat, and spent 2 hours a day meditating.
Two hours?
As readers of this blog know, I don't buy the usual line that we're all starved for time these days. If I wanted to find two hours a day to meditate, I could. It would just involve trading off other things I find pleasant, like reading and sleeping, compulsive email checking, etc.
But it turns out that two hours of daily meditation is not necessary to achieve benefits. Indeed, the meditation study participants spent 30 minutes a day on it. And probably 10 minutes is better than nothing in the pursuit of mindfulness. But it's easy to fall into all-or-nothing thinking. If we can't devote 2 hours to meditation, we tell ourselves, why bother?

I've been realizing this lately with running, too. Between snow, massive work projects, and the usual viral cesspool that seizes my house full of small children come winter, I have not been feeling up for, say, marathon training. I'd hit the treadmill, get bored after 10 minutes, and then berate myself. If I'm not going to run a marathon, why bother?

But of course, this is equally silly as not meditating because I can't go on a 10-day silent retreat. Just because I can't run 10 miles right now doesn't mean "nothing” is the other option. I can force myself to stay on the treadmill for 20 minutes, running as fast as possible to make the most of it. I can walk briskly as I do my errands, rather than slowly (or taking the bus). Is it as good as running 10 miles? Nope. But the perfect doesn't have to be the enemy of good enough -- with exercise, meditation, work, or life.

When have you decided to settle for good enough?


Image courtesy flickr user, HaPe_Gera
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