Something I picked up to add to my daily journaling from the Tim Ferriss book Tools of the Titans: Starting off with some daily questions and affirmations. Asking myself to write down things I’m grateful for, ways to make today a good day, and then answering the prompt “I am ______.”
Today’s response felt like one worth sharing:
It ties in a little to a recent thought I shared on Twitter:
Thinking about the difference between Actual Biological Age and self-perceived age when in professional situations.
Experience Based Age or Career Based Age feels like a function of time and degree of Imposter Syndrome.
In ridding ourselves of the courthouse and marketplace we do not rid ourselves of the principal worries of our life. Ambition, covetousness, indecisiveness, fear, and desires hardly abandon us just because we change address. They pursue us into the monasteries and schools of philosophy themselves. Neither deserts nor caves nor hair shirts nor penance can extricate us from them. That is why it is not enough to remove oneself from people, not enough to go somewhere else. We have to remove ourselves from the habits of the populace that are within us. We have to isolate our own self and return it to our possession. We carry our chains within us. We are not entirely free. We keep returning our gaze to the things we left behind.
Energy cannot be created or destroyed. It can only be transferred or transformed from one form to another.
The first law of thermodynamics
Sometimes I’ll delete Instagram from my phone for a while. Or set up blockers to keep me from looking at the web version of Twitter (since Tweetbot does a pretty good job of keeping me from falling down rabbit holes).
The other day I put Instagram back on my phone for a moment to check a message someone had sent me there, and within a few taps I inadvertently opened a video with spoilers for the new season of The Owl House.
At which point my brain kicked over to “In for a penny, in for a pound” and I fell down a rabbit hole with the app for several minutes.
The little lifehacks and quick fixes don’t work for me. There are plenty of others who feel the same:
Because bad habits provide some type of benefit in your life, it’s very difficult to simply eliminate them. (This is why simplistic advice like “just stop doing it” rarely works.)
Instead, you need to replace a bad habit with a new habit that provides a similar benefit.
I haven’t found the right replacement for some of the habits that don’t actually bring me any real joy (even if they bring me dopamine). Maybe that’s because I haven’t adequately figured out what need they’re trying to fulfill.
An app or a social network isn’t designed for an individual, but for a broad sense of what humans need and desire. When I let idle moments default to distraction, I lose definition.
I’m no longer here, in this space, doing and thinking and being. Instead I’m riding a current of other people’s decisions and thoughts. Surrendering to it.
And it’s not enough to try to run and hide from it.
The last few days I’ve worked on revisions in Google Docs and Highland 2 for different projects.
You get an expected word salad on your screen when collaborating on a virtual document that tracks changes. It takes a few extra moments to parse what you’ve actually written. Small changes can have outsized influence, interfering with the legibility of a sentence or paragraph. But I can get past that pretty quickly.
Even when the markup is more subtle, like the revision mode in Highland, there’s a false sense of security that comes from looking at something that shows you what you’ve changed.
“Oh, I already revised there. It’s probably solid enough.”
When I used to print drafts out and mark them up in pencil before heading back to the keyboard, the friction of looking between two separate documents made me re-evaluate every change. I always found more tweaks and changes I wanted to make.
I’m not about to call for abolishing digital revision tracking — It makes remote collaboration possible.
Still, additional friction helps me slow down and make sure I haven’t missed an opportunity to put my best work forward. I appreciate that.
I try to meditate every day. Sometimes I don’t. The other day I had reasons for why it just didn’t happen, and I broke a 90 day streak.
I’m supposed to feel bad, right? That’s what a lot of people tell you — That if something is important to you and you don’t do it every day, without fail, then maybe it’s not actually important to you and you’re bad at it.
But look at what one missed day really means.
Here’s one week.
You see the missing day, and that 1/7 (or 14%) looks meaningful.
It’s not a majority. It’s not even a plurality of my week.
But it looks like something to take note of.
Until you look at the view from one month and three months back.
At one month, it looks like a big dip. Remember how I said I had a 90 day chain going?
Now pull back to three months, and you can barely tell where the dip is. It’s just one small curve on a fairly smooth line.
Then look at six months of records.
That dip furthest to the right? That’s the missing day.
It’s nowhere near the biggest dip on this chart. It’s not significant in any real way.
Now look at a full year of keeping track of my meditation:
A single bad day or bad portion of a day comes out in the wash.
Executing on the purpose of the habit can be just as meaningful on executing on the habit itself. I don’t meditate to unlock a trophy in my meditation app. I do it because it helps ground me, and it’s part of how I do the work of surviving with depression. The product of the habit is a better version of me.
There’s a world of difference between giving up on a habit and its benefits versus letting go of the compulsion to keep up a habit at any cost when you have a need to give yourself space for other things.
It’s part of why I like James Clear’s take on missing days from a habit:
Whenever this happens to me, I try to remind myself of a simple rule: never miss twice.
The first mistake is never the one that ruins you. It is the spiral of repeated mistakes that follows. Missing once is an accident. Missing twice is the start of a new habit.