Lately, I have been self-sabotaging myself like it was a lost art.
Eating poorly. Working lazily. Exercising hardly.
From binge eating Jack-in-the-Box at 1:00 AM, to binge watching episodes of The Librarians while I’m working, to binge ignoring an increasing pile of homework, to binge bingeing other binges …
It has been frustrating, to say the least.
What is frustration, anyway?
But there are a few things I know about frustration:
- It is emotional leverage
- It is fuel for change
- It sucks
Ignore the third one. It’s a given.
The first two are relevant because they mean that I can use this frustration to affect change and motivate action.
At least, that’s what I’ve always believed.
Guilt doesn’t work … for me.
But that is essentially like guilting yourself to be a better person. And although guilt can be effective, it is also weak sauce when it comes to longevity. It only lasts as long as you feel bad about what you’ve done, which in the case of doing things to keep your mind off of how you feel, isn’t very long.
Feeling guilty? Okay, eat this jumbo bag of Pizza Rolls. There … isn’t that better? Now enjoy your newly distended abdomen and lack of mental focus. Hey, didn’t you want to watch the 3rd season of Star Trek: The Next Generation again? Go ahead. I’ll keep you company.
So, if guilt doesn’t give me the leverage I so desperately need, what will?
Well, here’s the kicker: emotional leverage isn’t a viable long-term solution. Emotions — like our occasional hopes that a good video game-based movie will ever get made — are fleeting. They’re effective in the short-term, but anything longer than a fortnight is a crap shoot.
Be the change you want to be
I want to experience change. True change.
And it isn’t like I haven’t tried.
But as Yoda said, there is no try. I must do.
What must I do? Well, I already know that too. Because it isn’t a lack of knowledge that holds me back. I’ve done the research. I know the how to’s.
And it isn’t a lack of commitment that holds me back. Because I’m committed to being a better person. I know this because, if I wasn’t, I wouldn’t be here writing this stuff down on the internet like a good procrastinator of positive actions.
When I was a young man in my late teens and twenties, it was considerably easier to motivate myself to take actions for self-improvement. I wasn’t consistent, but it was easier for me to take action back then. Perhaps my life had less distractions, or perhaps I used self-improvement as a distraction.
But now in my later years, making those changes seems to take a herculean effort. Like I’m clearing out the stables in a single night after 47 years of letting things get out of order. It is not insignificant.
Baby Steps and Tiny Habits
So, here’s the thing. I even know the answer to this.
Because looking at the entire mountain and expecting to climb it at once isn’t how life works. You look at the next hill and climb that. Then the one after that and go there.
Or even better, you look at the next step to take. Break the monumental tasks into small, bite-sized chunks and you turn a mountain of climbing into a dozen small hikes.
If you’ve been reading James Clear for as long as I have, you are no stranger to the science behind habit formation and personal development.
Micro-blogging. No, wait. That’s something else. But you get the idea … just make things small, easy and brain-dead simple.
And on top of that, just do one thing at a time.
Don’t try to improve your work, guitar skill, scholastic performance, culinary skills, Tai Chi mastery and all the other things. Pick one. Only one. And focus on that.
That doesn’t mean you ignore the others.
But it does means you focus on the one.
The One (sans Keanu or Jet)
And when you look at the other areas of your life that still need improvement and refinement — from spirituality to physicality, to financial abundance, to skill development, to social fulfillment — use the frustration you feel that you aren’t putting in full effort on those to fuel your effort on “the one”.
Mastery doesn’t come from splitting your attention among everything you want to do. That is a fool’s errand. Only the joker in the deck tries to be all the other cards. If you want to be king or queen of your domain, then be the best at that thing that you can.
So, as I was sitting in my car this evening, I came to the realization that it was time to determine my “one thing”. Here, you can watch it:
And, right now, I’m picking a “one thing” that has the greatest impact on all the other things:
Call it by other names if you like; health and wellness; fitness; endurance; weight loss — they all equate to the same thing: getting a rockin’ bod.
In my next blog post I’ll talk more about my specific plans and how this journey is going to unfold. But, for now, know that this is the first step — the first tiny increment — in my path to a better me.
One small habit. Compounded over time. Creating an effect on the rest of my life.
All sparked by frustration with where I’ve been, and causing a change in who I will become.