Jay Shirley

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The Daily Practice

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Thoughts on a momentary break in habits.

Published: 01 Jan 2013

A month ago I started to feel a bit cramped. I didn’t feel bad at all. I was merely questioning my life, which is a good thing. Maybe I wasn’t really enjoying things as much as I thought I was. Maybe they were just habits. I was so caught up in being reliable with writing (and other things) that I wasn’t sure if I was enjoying it all. I really think I was, but at the time I wasn’t sure.

I decided I was going to try a new writing project and take a step back from my existing goals. This meant pausing my normal private and public writing. Each day I set out to write 500 words; though many things I write are never designed to reach the public. I had some ideas for deeper writings and thought it may be more enjoyable to go down this path. It was complex though, and things like outlines and story boards seemed necessary.

My daily goal of writing became merely working on this larger project. However, this goal was very vague. Because it was vague I ended up, quite naturally, doing less and less. I had brief flickers of motivation that popped up and even a few impressive days. By and large over the last month I languished until, towards the end, I eventually stopped progressing at all.

I quantify what I do so I know exactly how well, or poorly, I am doing. I was not meeting my own standards, which was somewhat expected. But how would this impact the rest of my life and my happiness?

As I let this one habit fade away I found myself struggling with everything else. I realized how much of my routine is based on the time I set aside to simply write. It is my cue for many other positive habits. Without that structured time I was constantly battling an invasion of chaos.

It was very rewarding to have this experience. Intellectually, I knew that if I sacrificed a keystone habit my life would be more disordered. I wasn’t sure how, though. I wanted to see how deep the disorder went. In some ways it was worse than expected but on the whole it was not disastrous.

All in all, I realized the only way to maintain the trajectory in life I want to take was to explicitly define the goals that are important to me and schedule time to accomplish those goals. With that, I naturally build routines which help me maintain and continue the pattern. From there, I succeed. Without these routines I fail.

I don’t want to fail. I want to be amazing0.