February 10, 2015 by Ray Yanek
Somewhere along the line I came to the conclusion that I wanted to be the type of person who continuously grows and evolves, who gets better with age rather than one who lets himself fall stagnant. I wanted to be better for all those around me. I wanted to appreciate and foster the gifts I’ve been blessed with. I’ve written before that, in the past, I treated my mind and body less like a temple and more like a low-rent strip joint and that I wanted to instill healthier, more positive habits into my life.
To accomplish those ends, I’ve challenged myself with, well, various challenges. Big-ass, “Eat-The-Five-Pound-Hamburger” types of challenges. I tried training for ½ marathons, I’ve tried NanoWriMo multiple times, I’ve attempted numerous eating and workout plans, etc.
I wanted drastic results, so I undertook drastic measures. My life became the equivalent of a crash diet and like, Shakespeare would say, I was too like the lightning “which doth cease[d] to be / Ere one could say ‘It lightens’”. My burn-outs were as intense as those many self-improvement projects and soon, old habits rushed into the void, half-finished stories gathered dust and I grew frustrated and disappointed with both myself and the process. Some challenges I did finish, but then I found that I needed to catch up on a 1000 other responsibilities I had put aside in order to complete those challenges. Thus, any momentum I gained, I would lose.
It drove me bat-shit insane that none of my new habits were sticking, that I was nothing more than the cliched ‘flash in the pan’. Aristotle argued that “we are what we repeatedly do” and that “excellence is not an act, but a habit.” Postive habits, not one-and-dones, were what I wanted, but those habits weren’t forming through my crash diet challenges. Because those habits weren’t forming, I would beat myself up and dig myself into a hole. I was doing the exact opposite of what I set out to do. Instead of bringing more positives into my life, I was adding more negatives and the idea to just give up and grab a 12-pack and a pizza seemed like the right choice
But, oddly enough, it was during another one of those big-ass, “Eat-The-Five-Pound-Hamburger” challenges (the one I vowed that, if I screwed up, would be my last) that I learned something important about forming habits and about the foolishness of the crash-diet mentality.
The challenge I was working on was inspired by Ray Bradbury (I learn a lot from Mr. Bradbury and you can read about another of those things HERE). The challenge was to write a short story a week for 52 weeks.
Unfortunately, I only made it for two months until I floundered for various reasons, but still the process behind the challenge made me realize something I failed to realize before.
I learned that if I wrote a measly 4 pages a day, that I could have almost a 25 page short story in 6 days.
Four pages. A very doable amount. In actuality, a very small thing. After awhile though, that small thing became something big.
On top of that if, for some reason, I missed a day or if something came up, it wasn’t that difficult to throw in an extra page of writing here and there to stay on track. It wasn’t the astronomical NanoWriMo word counts that if I missed a day or didn’t quite reach the full goal I felt like I was in the deep, irrecoverable pit of “Oh Shit” and that it would be easier just to give up and start again next year.
That was all.
With dieting, I remember reading somewhere that one of the best ways to making long term changes is to make small changes. You don’t need to cut carbs entirely, just maybe avoid white flour. You don’t need to starve yourself, just eat smaller portions. You don’t need to run marathons, just simply walk for 30 minutes a day.
For a me, a man of extremes and very few shades of gray, it suddenly seemed a novel concept. If I were looking not just for rapid weight lost that would come back a week after I fell off the diet wagon with a resounding “ker-fucking-plunck”, I needed to make changes that I could sustain, small changes.
Maybe I wouldn’t see results as fast, but maybe I would see sustainable results. If I could make small, consistent changes, those small, consistent changes would become consistent habits.
Consistency, that was what I needed.
So I’m setting out not on a challenge this time, but rather a lifestyle change. I’m looking to instill in myself good and healthy habits that I can sustain, not something that will transform me over night, not something that will collapse under its own weight. I’m looking to instill habits that, if for some unavoidable reason I slip, I can jump right back into the next day.
I’m hunting consistency and maybe a little patience.
And I’ll do this by setting small goals, realistic goals for someone who has many responsibilities. I’ll be flexible with these goals and I’ll understand that it’s progress, not perfection, that I’m seeking.
I’m going to blog about those changes here, talk about the ups and the downs, the pros and the cons, the successes and the failures.
I’m going to blog about what I learn from this “Consistency Project”. And maybe it’s that learning and the simple trying that is the most important… and maybe I’ll find some knowledge and tips from you.
If you have any tips on how to learn consistency, I would love to hear from you! Leave me a comment!
Thanks for reading.