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My friend Anderson and I have created a tradition of visiting Harbin Hot Springs about once a month. It's a hippie-fueled nudist hot springs resort. The cafeteria serves really good healthy food, the library is a nice quiet place to catch up on reading, and the sun deck is a nice place to sit out and get your vitamin D. What draws me, though, are the large warm pools and the lack of internet access, a combination which conspires to give me a chance to stare off into space and ponder things.

Harbin also hosts events every day, most of them reaching so high into the hippie scale that I can't imagine showing up for them. Last week was an "unconditional dance party", which I'm told is a room full of free spirits dancing around as bizarrely as possible. Needless to say, I watched the clock carefully to make sure that we were busy during the hours of the dance, so that there would be no chance of attending it.

When I brought it up to Anderson, he told me a story:

Following Through

On Chaotically Ordering

All my life I have been terrible at following through. I'm great at saying things and then doing the complete opposite; I'd agree to go to a party and then bail last minute (often knowing full well that was my plan all along); I'd go to the gym twice and not go back for 3 years; I'd start non-fiction books and abandon them three pages in; the list goes on. I stuck to things only when there was something making me, like a friend, or an angry professor, or the threat of losing my job if I didn't turn up. I never really saw this as a problem. Until now.

I realise that committing yourself to a course of action and then following up on that isn't just a good thing to do; it's the only thing to do. All my flakiness, last minute decisions, and lack of a firm answer didn't just paint me as unreliable to other people, but they made me think I was unreliable. I had no trust in myself to follow through on tasks, so I stopped starting them. I stopped trying to do things that were difficult because I knew I'd procrastinate them away until it was far too late. To not be able to trust yourself is not a place you want to be in, because there is no chance you will do anything. Ever.

This has changed recently. I've managed to stick to my no-sugar, no-carb, no-dairy, no-anything-that-will-shorten-my-life-span diet; I'm keeping up with my French practice; I'm going to keep blogging here Mondays and Thursdays, regardless of readership; I'm in the process of "Paring Down" (that's for another post); I make sure that I answer yes or no to plans made with friends, and stick to what I answered. Ultimately, I'm setting myself tasks and I'm seeing them through to the bitter end.

This might seem like rehabilitation, and that's because it is. I was (am by nature, I suppose) lazy, flaky, and generally looking for the easy way out. I've been reading about how this is a hard-wired phenomenon in our brain to take the easy route, do the immediately fun thing and not the long term fun, worthwhile thing, but I don't know how much of that I believe yet. For me, right now, it's just a case of sticking with what I'm doing to the point at which it's completed, or until something physically stops me doing it. As I build my trust in myself, I can start to set myself bigger tasks and more meaningful goals.

It's going to be an interesting few months (years).

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