How I’m Attempting to Pscyh Myself into The Habits I Want
If it’s true that my daily habits are the difference between mediocrity and success, then I want to develop the right daily habits. But, how do I square this with my tendency to rebel against expectations?
The answer: I don’t know.
But I want to find out.
Here are a few ideas I’m working with to try to solve this mystery:
1. Treat this whole venture as an experiment.
I love experimenting on myself. There’s a whole different vibration between If you want success, you have to do x, y and z every day and I wonder how I could set thing up so that I enjoy doing x, y and z every day?
Rather than doing what I’ve habitually done in the past, i.e. make an edict about what I must do, write out a list and then try to hit every item on the list every day from now on forever (or else I’ve failed again), I’m taking a different approach.
I’ve got a working list of things I want to do each day (practice guitar, sing, work on a song, post something to my Patreon page, answer emails and social media questions and comments, go for a walk, stretch, take a shower first thing in the morning to get the energy moving rather than putting it off, read something that inspires me, practice guitar scales and techniques, work on a song for at least 45 minutes, sing, and a few more). Even though many things on that list require very little time, the Rebel in me is already rebelling against having to do all of those things every single day!
But it’s just an experiment! I don’t have to do them all – or any of them. At least not yet. That feels like freedom.
2. Employ reverse psychology when it comes to time and other arbitrary numbers.
Time has always been one of my bugaboos. I threw my watch in a trash can when I was 17 and I haven’t worn one since. One of my big issues with “having a job” has always been time. This is changing, but the old paradigm seems so incredibly counterproductive and anti-human. They expect you to be there at the same time every day and stay there for the same 8 or 9 hours every day. No accounting for the fact that you may be absolutely useless before 10 am or after 3 pm. You still have to show up at 9 am when you’re menstruating. And you have to stay until 5 pm even when they have nothing for you to do.
But the same sense of being pressured into paralysis by time limits applies to my internal expectations. Even if I want to spend 45 minutes working on a song today, as soon as I write than down on a list, it feels like an obligation. And the Rebel in me resists it.
So on Monday I asked: “What if I set a limit that’s so limiting, I have to rebel against it?”
Instead of framing my habit as “I need to write three morning pages a day,” I imagined I only had 10 minutes to write: “You can write your morning pages, but you have to stop at 10 minutes!”
I set the stopwatch on my phone and turned the screen off. I started writing. Instead of feeling like a drag, the writing was exhilarating. I found myself scribbling furiously, trying to get everything out of my head and onto the page before my time ran out. At the end of three pages I looked at my phone: 8 minutes and 59 seconds.
Next I told myself I could only spend five minutes practicing guitar scales – something I enjoy doing once I’ve started but usually procrastinate until I I end up skipping it entirely. I did the same stopwatch trick and by the time I was ready to look at my phone, I’d been at it for 17 minutes and 20 seconds.
I’m not sure this approach is sustainable, but so far so good. In fact, I now plan to buy an old wind-up kitchen timer and see if I can use that to keep the thrill of rebelling against the time limit going.
3. Find something else to rebel against.
Which leads to this idea. What if I could find something bigger to rebel against than my own internal expectations?
Example: Answering emails, Facebook comments and other social media interactions in a timely manner. I suspect if I’d had the daily habit of answering people’s emails and comments for the last 10 years, I’d probably be a man of leisure by now. It’s not that I don’t like interacting with my clients and potential customers. Most of them are the coolest.
I think I tend to procrastinate on this because either:
- I feel obligated to reply to them with the same level of detail they wrote to me; or
- I don’t understand what they are asking me; or
- What they’re asking me is to do unpaid work for them and I don’t want to say no.
What if I could rebel against, say, the struggle to make ends meet every month and use that rebellion to drive myself to develop a set of appropriate stock responses to the emails and requests that confuse me and cause me to procrastinate? What if that ‘bigger rebellion’ could drive me to answer people every day, even on the days when I’m feeling down and inarticulate and like I don’t have much to say?
I’d love to hear your thoughts on some of these ideas. Do you procrastinate doing things you actually love doing? What workarounds or hacks have you found to get past the resistance? How do you psych yourself into doing the things you need to do but don’t enjoy?