If you’re anything like me, you saw Chuck’s post on the Authorial Sludgebody yesterday and resolved to follow his beardy, foul-mouthed example: pick up the pace on exercise and more closely monitor diet. Great! You might have even hit certain goals, like getting in an entire hour of exercise (be it all at once or broken into chunks) and avoided sweets or soft drinks as much as possible. Wonderful!
Now it’s the next day. Guess what? You have to do it again.
This is probably the hardest part. Establishing good habits is much more difficult than falling into bad ones. We are creatures that crave comfort, and putting stress on our bodies through exercise is often less comforting than getting in just one more episode of Antiques Road Show or just one more deathmatch in Counter-Strike. But that weight is not going to leave on its own, and your energy levels won’t raise themselves; you have to actively cultivate that habit.
The more consistently you repeat a behavior, the easier it becomes to incorporate it into your daily life. Shooting to go for a run at the same time every day is admirable, but it might not always happen, and if it doesn’t, what then? Skipping it simply doesn’t work (talking from experience, here). You have to carve out time for it, much like you must for writing, or else the creature comforts with which we surround ourselves will start their siren’s song. If you don’t have a concrete goal with which to lash yourself to the mast, you’ll be adrift in the undertow of leisure activities before you know it.
This is a wonderful opportunity for me to remind you that you’re not always going to get it right.
I talk a lot about rejection and failure here, but we face many more defeats every day than just those from outside sources. We miss a deadline we set for ourselves; we break down and indulge in that taste of chocolate; we lose track of time and let some distraction eat up an hour we’d set aside for productive work. I will remind you that these things are not in and of themselves hallmarks of failure; they’re little more than speedbumps and pot holes in the road to our success, and the best way to get there is keep moving forward. Keep trying. Try harder.
While Edison may not be as interesting or as brilliant at Tesla, he did say something I agree with. Instead of failing 1000 times to invent the filament-powered light bulb, his philosophy was that he discovered 1000 ways the filament-powered light bulb does not work. If a day goes by and you miss a chance to get some exercise or writing or other endeavor in, congratulations! You’ve discovered a schedule that doesn’t give you what you want. Sure, you might have dinged another level in your game or gotten another couple episodes of Pawn Stars under your belt, but tomorrow you can hammer out a different timetable, and maybe get closer to some of your other, less convenient goals.
And when you find those timetables, they’re easier to repeat, and repeat, and repeat again.
Success isn’t just talent. It isn’t just luck or fate or knowing the right people. It’s perseverance. It’s resolving to keep trying even if it means disrupting your schedules, stepping out of your comfort zones, thumbing your nose at expectations. It’s doing things that help you rather than hinder you, and doing them again and again, even if the hindrance comes in the form of a delightful hobby or distraction. It’s repetition.
So, that thing you did yesterday when you were all inspired? That calorie goal you met, that soft drink you refused to pick up, that timestamp you hit with one step after another on the walking path or treadmill?
Do it again today. And tomorrow. And the day after that.