I was so close to not writing this. That last moment where you nod and confirm you’re going to hold of doing something until tomorrow when it was meant for today – I was at that moment and knew I’d regret it if I did it.
Today was just a bit busier for me than normal. Waking up early, I made some cookies and headed off to my parents’ house to visit with them – all within the time I normally work on my personal goals and hobbies. Being in person with folks I cared about and working on other things is the same as being distracted. I wouldn’t be getting the most out of either activity so working on it at their house wasn’t an option. And it was just one of those days where you get back to your place and think “yeah I’m gonna eat cookies and see what corners of the internet YouTube takes me to”. Up until literally this moment, that is exactly what I was doing. I figured that there simply isn’t a following here (yet), so who cares/who would I be disappointing?
The things we often let slip so easily are the agreements we have with ourselves. The things that won’t really impact other people, but they go in direct conflict of something we are trying to achieve for just us – a goal or idea that we have established is important to us and the person we want to be. If something ultimately ends up impacting us when we decide not to follow through, it can be readily perceived as less meaningful and impactful because there is not another person to disappoint or hold us accountable. There’s no one to let down.
There is a lot of good in that viewpoint – it shows respect and concern for others which is invaluable. Respecting others’ time is one of the most genuine things that you can do. But when we break agreements and commitments we have formed only for ourselves in private, we fall out of integrity with ourselves; we have a poor success rate on our commitments and goals which can end up driving the narrative of our lives (more on this specifically tomorrow).
Yes, today was busier than normal and it felt perfectly reasonable to say “hey I’ll write 2 tomorrow” – but this is the perfect demonstration of honoring commitments to yourself and the importance of doing things when you don’t want to. Among all the things each of us may want to do each day or even most days, there is a smaller list of critical items – of “immovable” goals that we feel must get done each day. That by chipping away at them each day, we are building up to something far greater than that small moment we sat down and completed whatever small task (such as writing this article) we had set out to do that day.
Is it a complete failure to miss a goal or habit for day? No, absolutely not. Thinking it is a failure as a strategy to motivate a correction can have the opposite effect – you can begin to spiral further from your goals. In this moment, I am looking at my commitment to writing as a requirement of integrity and consistency for a greater series of things I’m trying to bring about in my life – a commitment made to myself and the immediate world around me – a linchpin for all the other goals and changes I am trying to make. A catalyst. So, I want to give this an added layer of devotion and importance.
Thinking of handling the day to day decisions on making the time and creating the discipline for our habits and goals, I draw a parallel to a scene from BoJack Horseman. A character constantly plagued by substance abuse, narcissism, and the need to be publicly relevant – he has a recurring nightmare of a dark oily substance dripping onto him. Coating him. Consuming him. And as he spirals further in his life and the dreams get longer and more vivid, he is further consumed by this substance. A slow, relentless dripping.
In the show, this illustration is indicative of inevitably and the unavoidable ending of death. The unstoppable force of time and the abyss. Especially driven by the choices we make.
In relation to daily discipline, I see this as relevant but inverted and toned down. It’s not about the race to the end or consuming abyss but the leaks that form in the choices we make and for the life we are trying to build for ourselves.
When we break the key promises to ourselves, doing it humbly and with grace is important to avoid an over-correction – “well I already had sweets for breakfast, I guess today is a beer and pizza day”. Or in my specific example, I didn’t write this morning, I’m tired, let’s just do it tomorrow. These narratives snowball and drive what was a moment into a day. As we make these little compromises every day, they begin to compound and form into habits. Like a leak we hear somewhere in a house but only notice intermittently. We know there is something going on that’s off, but it doesn’t seem too severe. Sometimes we notice it specifically, and sometimes we don’t – but we know it’s there. That slow drip gets faster and louder. And then the next time we look and really take notice, there can be systemic water damage. Always fixable, but when I’ve had these realizations, I sure wish I would have just been a little more diligent and disciplined. That I would have really paid attention to what that leak was and where it was coming from. It was never going to stop dripping just because I ignored it.
See you tomorrow.
Inspirations: Farnam Street – Jim Dethmer, BoJack Horseman