Why do we lose track of the things that bring us the most joy when things get difficult?
I’ve seen this written in dozens of articles and it’s been confirmed through countless anecdotal conversations, along with my own seemingly endless cycles of first-hand experience. The experience of waking up realizing days or weeks of gone by and you’re losing that rhythm…that edge that you had been cultivating. Sleep cycles feel random and more draining than restful. Workouts you looked forward to feel foreign and you forget which workouts even happen on which day. There’s a general feeling of disorder and anxiousness floating about, with little confirmations scattered all over your home (literally).
It feels like something is just off. Like there is a fog obscuring your clarity. Taking away your ability to think and act as you would under ideal conditions. And into this fog, fade the activities you had previously defined to be ‘good’ for you. Muscle memory takes over and we slip into old routines and habits.
A great example I think many of people have experienced would be sustaining an injury to their back or a joint – an injury that is always present in your normal movements. For folks with a dedicated workout routine, it’s easy to see how this would be damaging mentally. Progress and satisfaction gained from hard work and consistency is taken away, which can instantly spiral into lethargy. The physical damage is localized to that injury, but the mental damage can be far more wide reaching. The weight of having progress taken away and encountering another struggle makes it easier to slip into old muscle memory – poor eating habits, sleep schedules, and vegging out on the couch are just a few potential examples.
As days go by where apathy takes hold – numbing us to the new, unwanted routine we are slipping into – the fog grows thicker. Even acknowledging what is happening is often not enough to change it. Bargaining is used to say “well I can start that tomorrow so I’ll just make sure today is the last time I do x things I want to change”. And there’s always a new tomorrow.
This is where it’s important to try to be present and to speak to yourself like you would a friend. And to set reasonable expectations.
Be present to not just acknowledge what is going on, but what you want to change and the easiest way to break through the fog and start small.
Speak to yourself like you would a friend so that you are not unfairly and unproductively harsh on yourself. The loftiest expectations in the world are useless if you are too down to get past the starting line.
Set reasonable expectations so that breaking away from unwanted actions is easier. Maybe you’re behind on reading, or taking a class, or *cough* writing articles for your website *cough*. What’s more approachable – saying you should have finished a book by now, or let’s just read one page and see what happens? Give yourself ground and progress to build on.
I’ll take one page over zero every time.
We lose track of the things we know are good for us and we want to accomplish because they are typically more difficult and then life happens. We get injured, we get busy, we get hungover, we sleep in – and an endless list of other possibilities and combinations lead to a struggle that may damage how we are measuring progress. The ‘unproductive’ side of life is easier, so it can be a reflex.
Some people would say it just means you don’t want it. And there is some truth in there. I’d say that more often than not things always get difficult for some reason and we just lose our way in the fog. Treat yourself well and lower the bar of success so that you can raise it as you build momentum. Lift the fog first, then lift the bar. Just get started.
See you tomorrow, I promise.