We have all been there isn’t it?
The big resolve to do something, to start anew. An exercise regime, a diet, a new productivity mantra, a new way of working…
This usually follows a bell-shaped curve. Start from zero, an accelerated approach towards a peak, when you are exactly where you want to be…and then a steep fall towards that zero value again, until you abandon it without a trace.
The weight comes back, the exercises stop, the sugar and chips pile on once again.
I am human too, and so have been through many such bell curves. It can get frustrating, since when you look back at it, you reminisce on the progress made, that wonderful peak of achievement, and then back to square one. Lost time, lost effort.
On the writing front though, I have keep going. Non-stop, and I haven’t even counted. All I know is that I started one day in March 2020, and haven’t stopped since.
So what stops us from continuing the good stuff?
I am no expert when it comes to this, but I have learnt a few things on the way. Here they are, in no particular order.
We tend to start on milestone days – Studies have shown that most people start something new on a Monday, or on the 1st day of the month, or on the 1st day of the year (yes, we know that one). It’s a tendency.
We may do this to sub-consciously keep a marker (it’s easier to count), or to start on a ‘good day’, or just out of the force of habit.
My experience has been that I have usually failed to keep it up, if I commence on a milestone day. Continuously writing for instance. I commenced on a day that I don’t even remember, and so I kept going without counting.
Sometimes, it’s good not to count. You don’t count how many days you brushed (from the time you were born), or had a bath, since these are habits, and now come naturally to you. Also, you don’t really remember the first day you brushed, do you?
So, instead of starting on milestones, start to make habits.
Don’t set goals.
Ah, now this one can raise eyebrows. Goal-setting is key to any motivational speaker worth his salt (or his overpriced ticket). We have become a goal-oriented society (spending goals, career goals, hell, even ‘vacay’ goals).
A goal usually marks the end isn’t it? What happens once you achieve it?
Now don’t get me wrong, It isn’t bad to keep goals, not at all.
But goal-setting can lead to the bell-shaped curves that I spoke about earlier.
When I joined Kyokushin Karate, my goal was a black belt. And along the way, I saw many drop out before reaching that mark. Natural.
But what surprised me was people dropping out AFTER they had become black belts. It was almost like they completed a course, not learned an art. It would be like going to painting class, learning how to paint well, and then never painting again!
So, try not to set goals. Instead, make experiences.
Look at every day as an experience, good or bad. If good, you enjoyed those sessions. If bad, well, tomorrow is another day. This way, it becomes a way of life, rather than a goal-oriented race and quitting after winning the trophy.
Next, don’t be hard on yourself.
Stop looking in the mirror and saying – I am the best. (yet another favorite of motivational speakers). While they try to mumbo-jumbo this so called ‘self-assurance’ tool into your daily routine, it really yields to nought in the scheme of things. Don’t do it.
We are humans, and we can fail. We are good or bad relative to what we think and what others think.
I read a thought-experiment somewhere – the gist of it was – try explaining the color red to a Martian. He does not have a concept of color, so how would you explain it to him? Forget that, there is no way of proving that the ‘red’ I see is the exact same red that you see. There is really no way of knowing this.
And so when even this fundamental differs, then what’s there to say of what people think about everything? From your career, to your body, to your capabilities – there are as many yardsticks as people. So stop measuring yourself relative to others.
Pick your own road, think of how you wish to be, rather than what you wish to achieve, relative to someone else. Why be the best, when you can just be? Isn’t that a more calming thought?
Have you ever seen animals competing to be the best monkey, or the fastest cat or dog? They don’t care – they have their own routines, and their own ways of going about life. Humans have evolved to greater levels of thought, isn’t it?
Then why go about silly competition, when you can co-evolve?
Once you start looking at it this way, you stop trying to start, move a bit and then fall back again. Instead, you start to understand what you wish to be (healthy, working happily, feeling fit).
And then you go about it in a very natural manner – no fancy starts, no pressure.
You just start and continue, at your own pace, accepting your own faults, and moving up incrementally.
You may not have a fabulous body in six weeks, but in six years, you will be much healthier and happier than the guy who went for that crash course (btw, the very term crash course should give you a clue, isn’t it?).
And you know what? You wouldn’t even realize that you are doing something different from the others, since the exercise routine would have become a habit. Like brushing.