I was sitting around this weekend thinking about practice. I had just read an article that said that to get good at something one had to spend ten years practicing. Studies show that practicing is the one strong predictor of success in nearly any field.
Then I thought, "what am I practicing?". I'm practicing eating healthy. That's good. I'm practicing rapping. Good too. After a nice long pat on the back I thought of a more important question. What am I not practicing?
I realized that every time I practice a bad habit, I'm enforcing it and making it harder to break. I guess that's obvious, but for some reason it hit me like a ton of bricks. I see myself, down the road, being someone who keeps his living space really clean, pays bills as soon as they come in, gets ready fast in the morning, and doesn't procrastinate. Every day I continue to not do those things I'm making it harder to start doing them.
And what about this mystical 10 years? I'm sure that's accurate for things like sports, being experts on topics, ninja fighting, etc., but some things don't need to take that long. When people talk about personal development they talk about slow and gradual change. Why? I can be a proactive tidy person for one day - anyone can. And if I do something one day, I can do it the next day too. It's like when I started eating healthy, or when I went vegan. I just changed my beliefs on the matter, and that changed my actions.
In a second my beliefs changed to be repulsed by my previous behavior. Having a messy house wasn't about having a messy house - it was about clinging to old habits that detract from my life.
I got up, and did 6 loads of laundry - enough to wash every article of clothing I have. I cleaned up the boxes of stuff that I brought over when I moved in. I did all the dishes and scrubbed the sink. I went into my bathroom and scrubbed the counter and sink. I (with the assistance of the lovely Evan) hung some prints I had bought three years ago. I vacuumed everywhere, including the floor of the closet. I went through my computer and deleted old files, combined iterations of backups, and uploaded 4gb of important files to my online backup.
The weird part is that I was enjoying it. Every load of laundry made me happier. Organizing my closet made me feel good. Getting on the computer didn't appeal to me - I wanted to do all these things that I normally hated doing.
My new approach is to instantly develop new practices. When you decide that it's ok for a change to take years it WILL take years, or it may never get done at all. It becomes too easy to put it off. When you institute a new practice and demand that you stick to it from day one you feel empowered, excited, and immediately accountable. Try it!
Awesome post. I did a bunch of cleaning this morning before finding your blog. I have recently been re-examining why I like being a polyphasic sleeper and what I want to do with all the extra time. Thanks for getting me thinking about what I *want* to be practicing!
I think this is called "flow"...it is some sort of emotional state whereby you are so immersed in a task that it becomes pleasurable, even liberating.
If this practice thing realy works then I'm going to practice making babies with my girlfriend more! In 10 years we can probably make 10 to 12 babies. This is gonna be FUN!!!
I'd also love a forum! I'm eating healthy today because of you Tynan. It's Halloween and I was planning on eating all sorts of sweets, but I realized (even though it's just one day out of the year) I'd still be happier with myself if I kept on my diet instead.
It's awesome to hear that you guys are trying this out too. Please keep me updated with your progress. Sometimes I feel like I should start a forum so that we can all do this stuff together.
Wow, Tynan. I almost did not read this post.
Thanks, man. Well said. I'd type more, but I gotta get shit done. ;)
My recent war that I've been waging has been against stuff. For a while (and by that I mean since 7th grade), I've produced my own income and spent most of it on things from the internet. I've talked about this before so I won't bore you with the laundry lists of my posessions.
Then when I sold my house in North Austin, I was faced with the prospect of moving all that stuff. My most financially productive years were while I lived there, so I bought a ton of stuff. During that period of collection it never occurred to me that I would eventually move. My garage as well as one of the bedrooms in the house because warehouses for my things.
When I moved, I took a pretty extreme approach. I went through every item in the house and made a decision - either I needed it or not. If it was worth more than $50 or so I sold it. If it was worth less than that I put it in a bedroom. If it was worth less than $5-10 I donated it or threw it away. I posted my address on craigslist and let people go into the bedroom and take all that they wanted. Within a few hours the bulk of my stuff was taken away.
A makeup post for yesterday, the seventeenth day of Overcoming Negativity.
It was a good day overall. Not too much went on, and I was dead tired. Things ended up panning out so that bedtime was at 8pm and I slept until this morning (the morning of Wednesday June 26)!
I'm starting to let things go. My room is getting messy, laundry needs to be done, my desk is piling up with papers and things that need to be attended to.
Probably a sign that I'm letting my mental faculties go. I'm just so burnt out right now. Damn.