It's scary making large sweeping promises, even if they're to yourself. There's something about long time horizons that churn our stomachs a little bit. If I asked you to give up sugar for the rest of your life, could you do it? Just thinking about it might make you uncomfortable. I almost never eat sugar and it makes me uncomfortable. If I ask you not to eat sugar just tomorrow, though, it's easy to agree.
Our brains can conceive of forever and they can conceive of just one day, but intuitively forever doesn't just seem like a collection of single days. It seems like something much bigger.
One of the tricks to sticking to habits is to not think very far ahead. Commit to something for a length of time that makes sense, but then stop thinking about that duration. Just think about today.
I have an ongoing bet with my friend Ben where I can't visit any non work-related site on my computer except during meal time. The duration of the bet is three months, but it could have been any length, really. I know that I can avoid visiting sites today, so that's all I really consider. If a day felt really difficult, I'd just think about each hour. Can I avoid those sites for an hour? Sure, that's easy.
The hours stack up into days, the days stack into weeks, and the weeks stack into months.
The interval doesn't have to be time-- it can be anything. When I'm doing a 20 rep set of squats, I don't think of my entire workout or even the set. I just think about each rep. Can I do this one more time? Yep. Good. Now can I do another one? Yep...
You could say that this is all semantics, which is true only if you don't internalize it. There are many different lenses through which the world can be viewed, and this particular one makes it pretty easy to stick to long term committments. If you know to use it when you're having trouble in that area, it's a nice little tool. When you're deciding on commitments, rather than executing on them, you may find it better to take a really long term view and ask yourself, "What could I do every day for years to give myself the greatest advantage?"
When considering my writing, I figured that writing every day would be a small time commitment that could lead to my skills advancing steadily. During the actual writing process, or the moments before I decide to write a post, though, I just think about this one day. Can I write a post today? Sure... I just did. Can I write one tomorrow? Of course-- it's just one day.
Photo is a somewhat freaky statue in a park in downtown SF.
Notice that SETT got even faster? We quadrupled capacity today...
I'm currently in the middle of a new habit to write everyday and publish on a blog for accountability. I called the project the "365 Challenge" because the goal is to write everyday for the rest of my life. I told myself the experiment was only for the month of July (I like 1 month habit experiments). But all I require of myself is to write one post each morning after I meditate. I don't give myself any expectations about tomorrow until tomorrow comes. So far, I'm 7 days strong. It definitely works.
hi ryan :) i like the idea... writing after you meditate. meditation can bring us such clarity. i guess i would ask, what is the goal of discovering you can accomplish your goal and commit to/complete the writings. Are you seeking confirmation that you can be dedicated to something continually? Are you seeking the goal of having the writings, and the process is not important other than staying dedicated to it so that you may accomplish the result? in my humble opinion, there is as much to be said to allowing your life to unfold without controls as there is to dedication and accomplishment. in example, if one day, you are on vacation, traveling... and within that day all of the other amazing plans and experiences you are having are so all encompassing and attention seeking, that you would have to force a break in those moments in order to meditate and write.... is there more intrinsic value to breaking that moment to write, or in continuing in the moment? Just thinking out loud... :)
Hey there. I definitely agree that we must leave room for spontaneity and serendipity in our lives. But that can't be an excuse to avoid building the most helpful rituals into our everyday. Most days, I don't have anything else happening in the morning. If I did, I would plan ahead to wake up earlier or just write later in the day.
For now, I'm building this habit because I want to change my self-identity. We usually don't believe something about ourselves until we see ourselves doing it. I want to see myself as writer and more generally as a creator.
Also, I meditate before writing because that was just the best spot in my current morning ritual. I didn't want to meditate after writing- I would be too tired.
trying to address life in intervals (aka being present) while simultaneously planning 2yrs ahead. interesting ;)
I used to dislike to work. I saw how most people lived their lives, slogging through work that they hated, and I was determined not to fall into that trap. I made the mistake of generalizing, lumping all work together in the same bucket.
Since then, things have changed. In terms of monumental personal life changes, becoming a hard worker is the most recent one I've undergone. About a year ago, for reasons I touched on in this post, I decided that it was imperative for me to become a hard worker. I didn't do it because I had suddenly fallen in love with work, but rather because I had began to feel as though I was behind. And believe me, it wasn't love at first sight.
To fall in love with hard work, you must understand why it's necessary. When I was young I was told that sugar was bad, but I never understood exactly why it was bad, so I kept eating it. Only when I learned how it chemically affected my body did I finally give it up. The same is true of work-- if you don't know why you have to work hard and love it, you'll probably never actually do it.
Work is your gift to the world. That sounds corny, but it's true. And believe me, you owe the world a gift or two. Think of all of the various things that millions of people around the world have done for you to enjoy the life you have. They made up languages, invented stuff, procreated at the exact right times to create your ancestry, and managed to not kill each other in the process. We're lucky to be here, and the high standard of living we all enjoy now is only because of those who came before us. Some, like Einstein, had huge impact, but even people you don't notice, like the janitors, are making your life better.
Three Strategies For More Writing In Less Minutes
We had some wonderful sweeping discussions after the GiveGetWin Tour event in New York. Stepping out of the secluded wine bar we held the after-event in (and thus narrowly avoiding St. Patrick’s revelry), Zach Obront, Janet Lai Chang, Jason Shen, and I got some chicken.
The topic turned to writing. Everyone at the table writes more or less, and it’s at least a somewhat important part of all of our lives. All of my compatriots-in-chicken at the table are good writers and disseminate important thought and pull the world ahead with their pen or keyboard.
The topic turned to my recent wager, where I’m now firmly committed to writing daily for the next two years. I offered around to see if anyone else was interested in getting in on the bet — no? — but then, broadly, how much time does it take everyone to write?
And it comes that everyone at the table takes considerably longer than me to write.