Essential Zen Habits - Deepstash
Essential Zen Habits


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Essential Zen Habits

by Leo Babauta

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Key Insights

  • We struggle with habit change because we have unrealistic expectations of how things will turn out, how others should be, and how we should be.
  • When our expectations aren’t met, we feel disappointed, frustrated and sad.
  • When we turn from our Mind Movie and embrace reality, we overcome our inner resistance to habit change.


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The Movie Inside Our Minds

There’s a projector in our minds, and it’s constantly playing a movie about how we’d like things to be, our ideals about the world, our expectations of how things will turn out, how others should be, [and] how we should be.

The Mind Movie is what stands in our way of making habit changes. It tells us that changing a habit should be easy and fun, but the reality is that we must wander outside our comfort zone.

The Childish Mind is the part of our mind that complains about how things are, that fears discomfort, that just wants pleasure and comfort, that doesn’t want things to be difficult.


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Taming The Childish Mind

  • Gratitude is a great antidote to resistance that we can practice each day, including when our Childish Mind eventually starts to rebel against doing the habit.
  •  Take mistakes in stride, and take the long view that what really matters is not whether you mess up for a day or two, but what you do over weeks and months and years.


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Understanding How Habits Are Formed

  • Consider writing a short journal entry about your reflections, to solidify your learning.
  • Treat habit formation as a learning process, as a way to learn about yourself, your mind, mindfulness, resistance and more.
  • Gradually the habit becomes your new normal and you can expand a bit more, pushing your comfort zone a little at a time”.

Question: “What does the resistance feel like? Is there a way to accept the thing you’re resisting, accept the discomfort, relax into it, and find gratitude for it? What is good about the discomfort?”


40 reads

Going With The Flow

A key habit skill is learning to flow around the disruptions and just keep going.

Notice feelings of discomfort and uncertainty, and stay with them. Get to know them. Get intimate with these feelings.

When we experience groundlessness — a feeling of not being anchored, not certain, things not going our way, a feeling of loss — our minds don’t normally like it.

One of the most difficult tasks we can give to our Childish Mind is letting go of what it really wants, and accepting life as it is, seeing that it’s already enough


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Overcoming The Burden Of Making Mistakes

  • A good practice is to not attach to the outcome. Have a good intention for the habit, but don’t worry too much about how it will turn out because you can’t control that”.
  •  Tell yourself that when you slip and fall, it’s just another lesson that will teach you to be better at change.
  • Mistakes means you’re pushing into new ground and exploring something interesting — if you weren’t, you wouldn’t make mistakes.
  • See every mistake as an opportunity to learn, a thing that you can get better at, the feedback that’s so crucial for improvement.


19 reads

  • Form new, positive habits at least three times before taking on a quit”.
  • The first thing you need to do before you attempt to quit a habit is track it for three days and try to write down every trigger for the habit.
  • Each bad habit meets some kind of need, or you wouldn’t be doing the habit.
  • For each trigger and need, write down a positive replacement habit that will meet the same need.


31 reads

Handling The Urge

Watch an urge gently, without judgment or wishing the feeling weren’t there. Treat it like a friend, kindly. And see that this feeling is impermanent, just arises but will pass, like a cloud. This is the whole meditation: just watch with curiosity and kindness, not attaching to the feeling or needing to act on it.

Tell yourself you can do this, you’re strong, you got this. And be realistic in that things won’t go as planned, but those are learning opportunities. In the long run, you’re going to make it, because you’re worth it.


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The real question isn’t whether you’ll mess up, but what you’ll do if you do mess up


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How to Create a New Habit

  • Pick one new, easy habit you can do once a day
  • Don’t start right away
  • Create a vow
  • Create a space
  • Set a trigger & a reminder
  • Start with a Minimum Viable Habit
  • Focus on enjoying the habit
  • Practice mindfulness
  • Watch your Mind Movie
  • Reflect and journal
  • A daily practice
  • Increase gradually


31 reads

How to Quit a Bad Habit

  • Don’t attempt a quit until several successful new habit changes
  • Track your habit
  • List your triggers
  • List your needs
  • Come up with replacement habits
  • Use techniques you’ve learned
  • Gradual change vs. cold turkey
  • Learn to recognize urges as they arise
  • Form the right mindset
  • When you fail, get back on track and don’t let it derail you


30 reads


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