Monday, 6 March 2017
Self-discipline, habits and growth
Lent 2017, Day 6
One can flop through life following the path of least resistance, doing only what's required. But the purpose of life is to fulfil one's potential, and that requires self-discipline. This, sadly, is not something I understood or appreciated until I was in my late 20s. And today, several months away from my 60th birthday, I realise I could have pushed myself a lot harder to make the most of the cards that I was dealt by nature and nurture.
But life is not about striving for perfection. One will never attain perfection by anyone's measure; aiming for it only brings about disappointment after disappointment. Rather, life is about continuous improvement, incremental change that can, over time, lead to significant improvements in outcomes. Across any field of human endeavour, and starting at any age. It's Never Too Late To Mend!
Introducing good habits and weeding out bad ones, incrementally. And not giving up.
Biggest bad habit: Procrastination. Putting things off - the things you have to do.
[There. At this stage, I know I've been putting off my morning exercise, so I just took a break and did 31 push-ups. A record for this year. I re-started on 1 January with just ten; twenty push-ups is what the US Army expected of its soldiers in WW2 whilst airborne units expected 30 of their paratroopers. Just cracked it!]
Procrastination gets us all, we give into it, some of us are better than others, but for nearly all human beings, the struggle against procrastination is a lifelong battle.*
Obsessive/compulsive behaviour is a tool for implementing good habits. It's been three years, two months and five days since I started logging my fitness and diet every day in a spreadsheet. Friends and family say that this is nerdish, but like my father, I like filling in spreadsheets and looking at the data making a good trend. More walking, more exercises, less alcohol, more fresh fruit and veg. Some self-disciplined people can achieve much without having to use this prop - but for me, it helps.
If there's one arch procrastination thing out there for me, it's Twitter. Times are so infuriatingly interesting! I wake up in the morning and reach for Twitter just to see what that Trump person has done overnight, the Russian war effort in Ukraine, or any Brexit latest. I need to be up-to-date with news, analysis and opinion and Twitter is good for this - but it's a real devourer of time. It's difficult to discipline oneself on Twitter, because you feel that the next significant Tweet will either appear at the bottom or at the top of your Twitter feed. Bad habit.
Good habits need working on, and IT helps. Since the New Year, I've been using Todoist to keep track of all the things I need to do in the working day. Very useful. And from America, home of self-improvement, I'm getting on Medium.com every few days or so some useful articles about Human Growth and Good Habits, some of which are practical and worthy of consideration.
Observing Lent, at first as nothing more than a 46-day period of self-denial, but building up year by year as a time of self-reflection about body, mind and spirit. Making each Lent more significant as a learning and growth time than the year before. Self-denial is but the first stage. The Will Not To Do Something is easier to exercise than the Will To Do Something Hard. I could not have done 31 push-ups just now had I not done 29 push-ups yesterday. And 10 push-ups on 1 January.
Let's all agree that we'll never reach perfection. But we can make today better than yesterday - but that improvement should be remembered and celebrated, even if it's only numbers on a spreadsheet.
*Read this piece about procrastination - it's long, but one of the best, and most humanly written articles about our shared human weakness I've ever read.
This time three years ago:
Putin - tactical genius, strategic failure
[I had - the West had - evidently underestimated the man.]
This time four years ago:
Socialist Realist architecture in late winter sun
This time six years ago:
The Cripple and the Storyteller - part II
This time seven years ago:
The station with no name
[update: W-wa Dawidy station got its sign last autumn]
This time eight years ago:
Lenten thoughts on motoring
This time nine years ago:
Flowers, spring - already