Let’s pick up where we left off.
// Who did you have to be?
I had to be compliant enough to do as I was told, to follow along without asking questions, and yet smart enough and disciplined enough to do well academically. I was none of the above. The first 10 years or so of my life were pretty lovely, and I can’t complain about any of that. If I could’ve changed something, I would’ve tried to introduce a bit more of some sort of discipline, some rigor, habit, routine, experiment more with swimming, cooking, trying different things. But that’s not a complaint so much as a wish of sorts.
// Why are you blocked?
Like I said, I was neither compliant nor disciplined. I got really good at getting in my own way. I’m thinking now about how I’m capable of playing video games or watching movies for hours and hours long after everyone else is too tired to continue. I’m trying to channel that right now into my writing – I’m writing this word vomit at 2:47am when I ought to be sleeping.
That said, I’ve committed myself to writing a word vomit a day. So what I need to do, to avoid following in the footsteps of lesser men, is to avoid using the word vomit as an explanation for why I’m not sleeping. Sleeping early and sleeping well is one of my highest intended priorities. But to say “i’m not sleeping because I’m writing a word vomit” is myopic. Why didn’t I write the word vomit earlier? Because I was procrastinating. Because I was looking at random nonsense that wasn’t actually relevant to my main concerns in life. What was I doing? I was looking up random strangers on the Internet. A while before that I was going through my bookmarks – and yes, I did update my bookmarks very well, removing links that are no longer relevant, making existing links more parseable – I did make an hour or two of progress on that. But is that my top priority? No! My top priorities are – writing word vomits and sleeping early.
So the question is – why isn’t my behavior aligned with my priorities? And what do I need to do to close that gap? What are the possibilities?
One possibility is that my priorities aren’t my real priorities, they’re just goodfeels priorities. Escapist priorities. Like having grand, vague goals that can never be achieved.
The way to fix that is to make the priorities really precise. So I have – “publish one word vomit every day” and “sleep earlier and better”. I should replace that with “publish one word vomit as early as possible each day – first thing in the morning”, and “start preparing for sleep at 10pm and get in bed at 11pm every day unless there is an emergency”. I seem to have had some resistance to this for a while. I think because it seems boring and limiting in the short term. Like, why should I have to ‘limit’ myself like that?
As I write this down, it’s obviously silly. It’s obvious intellectually that self-discipline, self-binding, commitment devices – these things bring more freedom. But it’s not so obvious in the short run. In the short run it just looks like pain and frustration, or boredom, or limitations – and it’s an ‘ugh field’ for me. (At this point, I recalled that I once wrote a blogpost about ugh fields, and went looking for it – and funnily enough, the last time I thought about it, I was also writing a word vomit at 3:25am in the morning. It’s 3:02am now. I’ll be done in about 5 minutes or so, so at least I’m making some sort of progress, maybe. Who knows, everything is an illusion.)
Okay, so ugh fields. I need to walk into them. I need to walk into my fear and my discomfort. And I need to take pride in making myself a priority. Take pride in sleeping early because it gives me a clear mind to take on the world. Take pride in writing early because that’s one task done in the morning, one task gotten out of the way, and like Admiral McRaven says, that’s the beginning of a chain reaction. That allows me to do one more little thing, and one more.
What would I want to do next? I’ve learned by now that it’s not helpful for me to try and take on 20 things all at once the moment I feel like I want to be more productive. I have to do one thing first. So let’s say, right now, I finish this word vomit. Then I shower and go to bed. Then I wake up in the morning. I have to do another word vomit as early as I can. Once that is done it will be time to go through my todo list and then elaborate on each thing to turn it into a next action. And then it would be to clean out my email, and follow up on the things that I owe people. I need to make that a part of a daily routine that I really enjoy, and maybe tie it to something like a coffee or something pleasurable so that I really enjoy it. I wrote about this problem in 2015, and I’m writing about it again in 2017. I do NOT want to be writing about it in 2018 or 2019, so the buck stops here. I have been doing regular reviews of my days so far in Evernote – not every single day is perfectly captured, but the habit has been rolling over and it’s been good.
I’m serious about making this work. I really want it to work. I really want to get good at it. I’ve learned to cook for myself, at least a couple of dishes with a couple of different inputs. I’ve learned to squat and deadlift. I’ve bench pressed 60kg and more, which used to seem impossible when I was younger. I know I can break my limits. I know I can become stronger. I will become stronger!