0267 – be humble in the face of environments

It’s humbling to discover how easy it is for me to fall back into old patterns and old routines. I enjoyed 5 days of minimal social media and Internet-ing in Cebu. Even then I spent more time on Reddit and Imgur than I would’ve liked, but it felt like I was more disengaged than usual– almost as if the fact that I was on a holiday kept me from taking anything too seriously.

I landed two nights ago, and since then I’ve been trying to pay attention to my actions, behavior, feelings. I was planning to sleep as early as possible, but somehow that didn’t seem like a huge priority. Well– at the very least, I’m out of home and on the train by 10am, which is somewhat earlier than usual. And I feel somewhat well-rested, though that might be more because of the holiday than because of the last couple of nights of sleep. Either way I think it’s become very quickly clear that I’m not nearly in as much control of myself as I like to think I am. Even when I think I’m in control– ESPECIALLY when I think I’m in control– I’m probably not. And this should scare and trouble me, because it’ll stop me from living a fulfilling life, one with presence. As Tim Urban said about procrastinators who manage to survive– we might be happy with our lives, but we’re rarely happy IN our lives. I feel that a lot. Our instant-gratification monkeys dominate us, and yet they know that they’re ultimately not in control.

I really, really need to reconcile my beliefs about parenting, education, etc with my own personal life. I was quite awed by a loved one’s ability to be hyper-aware of problems outside of herself while being simultaneously overwhelmed by her own circumstances. I must be going through the exact same thing. I am aware of all of these things outside of myself (or I think I’m aware, because I have all these explanations and theories– often adjusted after-the-fact to fit things in a comfortable narrative, as always)– and yet I don’t seem to be aware of the things that matter, while they matter. Only later on, much later on.

So maybe that should be my primary focus– apart from constantly talking about my intent to make things better for myself, to live more fully, to learn to better manage my meatball, I should be simply paying attention to myself as though I were something beyond myself, something out there to be explored and navigated. Because I am, as everyone is.

I think the holiday and the return, and the ebb and flow of my mental states and emotions, makes it really clear that environment is a huge determinant of how I feel at any point in time. It’s also the thing that I tend to manipulate the least. I know that going on a holiday makes me feel better, and there is something about a messy, dirty house that I find exhausting. There is something about my bedroom, maybe, that keeps me from waking up and jumping out in the morning. Maybe it’s the prospect of dishes in the sink. So I should do my dishes every night. That much is pretty clear.

I’ve talked about doing a sort of motivation/inspiration wall. I know that reading passages from the Power of Now tend to put me in this nice, meditative state. So I should totally just rip out the pages and plaster them on the wall (figuratively speaking). I need cues and structure and boundaries, just as much as I believe that kids need cues and structures and boundaries in order to learn and grow properly. Maybe I should rewatch Colin Powell’s talk about how kids need structure.

But I can also just reason from first principles. There’s something about the meeting room at work that makes me work harder, so I should totally work in there more often. I’ve set aside a study for myself, I should use it better.

Basically I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about identity, which is nice, and I’ve been trying to will myself into certain behaviours… I should use environments and cues and stuff more. What’s the first thing I should do? I should do an X effect for early sleeps. Early wakes. I told myself I’ll message somebody I trust. I wonder if there’s an accountability buddy I should use, in particular.

I’m scattering my thoughts a little too far now. It should be simpler than this. I need to get more work done at work, which means timeboxing, and I need to timebox with different environments. I’ve said this for months and months, but I’ve never gotten around to doing it. Why? Do I think it’s silly? A little bit, but nobody will care if it means I get more work done. Also people seem to have their own little patterns and habits. I can do the same. I should. I’ll do that today.

Now I’m at work. I have an hour before lunch. I should get one decent thing done before I have lunch. I need to break my day up more. This is a real chance, a real opportunity, and it’s the only one I get right now. There is no guarantee that tomorrow will happen, and I have a long history of data points that reveal to me that I should take each day as it comes, each minute as it comes.

I have a hundred words to go. Let’s attempt to summarize… a change in environment (and then a reversion to the previous environment!) reveals to me that my behavior is far more affected by environment than I dare to admit. So I should change my environment frequently. Concrete steps? I’m going to work in the meeting room after lunch, because I can. Or at the desks at the end. Whatever it is… my main task for today is to change my environment. Let’s go.

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