Good Habits Die Quickly, Bad Habits Linger

I had this really great plan to write an entry here every day a couple of months ago. I figured it would be a good way to shake out the cobwebs in the morning, get my brain on the right track for writing, give me a chance to share the inane thoughts that clutter my mind. But I don’t do it. The stakes could not be lower and I still don’t do it.

I’m in the process right now of a massive personal overhaul. I’m doing exactly what you’re told you shouldn’t do: I am changing many things, drastically, all at the same time. I am also failing pretty miserably because there are way too many things happening at the same time. I am trying to work out more because exercise helps me feel better mentally and physically. I am trying to lose weight by keeping a food diary. I am trying to write every day. I am trying to adopt new hobbies.

It’s all a bit too much, and I am not doing any one of these new tasks very well, but I am trying to stick with all of them despite my lackluster approach.

For example, after writing that last sentence I gazed away for a moment trying to think what I should write next and then slowly coaxed my cursor over to another tab and lost another half hour of my life to looking up pricing for custom made enamel pins, patches, and stickers. To be fair, that is something I am supposed to be working on as well, but give me a break. I have an advanced degree in procrastination, and I am only hurting myself.

The most distressing part about this revelation that I am lousy at maintaining good habits, and real real good at succumbing to my bad habits is that I know if I were working for someone else, I would find a way to get a task done that I was assigned. If I assign it to myself though, well, good luck with that. I will walk all over myself if it means I get to stare into space or scroll though a Twitter timeline.

If I held myself accountable for my actions, or in this case, inaction, I would likely be experiencing a more robust feeling of self-worth, but things being what they are, I am currently convinced that I am worthless and this experiment in working for myself is crashing down around me. If I am the sole beneficiary of my good habits coming to fruition, why can I not maintain the level of discipline it requires? Do I hate myself that much?

Looking back on previous occasions when I have managed to break out of my self-loathing cycle I notice a pattern: I have little to no recollection of making the decision to move forward. Months or sometimes even years later I look back on what I consider to be a particularly successful period of my life and wonder how exactly I got there. The feeling is similar to when you drive the same route every day until eventually you know you left the house and you know you arrived at your destination but you have absolutely no memory of the travel time between. It feels dangerous and lucky.

Will I look back on this time and think: “My goodness, who knew all that time spent watching the back catalogue of Brooklyn 99 would result in me being a successful liver surgery memoir writer?” Uh nope. Not likely.

At some point it will be necessary for me to compartmentalize what’s happening. To create a pattern, a system I can adhere to.

  • I must write (X) number of words today.
  • I must walk (X) number of steps today.
  • I must go to the pool at least 3x in one week.
  • I must remember to eat enough fiber and drink enough water.
  • I must stop giving up on a task because I am worried I won’t succeed.
  • I must embrace failure and the anxiety that precedes it, comes with it, and lingers after.
  • If I don’t write everyday I will become a better writer more slowly than if I had written everyday.
  • If I don’t read everyday, I will not learn new words, or new ways of forming sentences, or good ways to move a story along.
  • If I don’t fail, I will never succeed.

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