I had an epiphany.
Recently, I was disappointed in my inability to keep up with my “wushu52” project; to get back into “wushu shape” at the age of 52, during the 52 weeks of 2022. I posted a video on my Wushu Adventures YouTube channel discussing this, and identified some contributions to this lack of consistency.
With a lifetime of challenge building consistency and focus, this was an effort to see if I could come up with a solution.
I received some interesting responses.
A few thought I was being too hard on myself. I didn’t feel this way at the time, but in retrospect I think my efforts to be proactive with my feelings of disappointment (rather than dwell/sulk on them) came across in a way that was probably overly self-depricating.
A few others said they were also dealing with this consistency/focus challenge in their own training. They shared some ideas on how they dealt with it.
But one person posted up a video on their own YouTube channel which addressed this issue, sharing their thoughts on consistency and will power.
They spoke about will power being a finite resource. A belief that I have also had (and advocated) for many years. But, the way they talked about it sparked a paradigm shift in my approach.
The core idea is that will power is like a battery, and you only have so much you can spend on activities throughout the day. If you want to add more to the day you either have to remove something you are already doing, or be very gradual and deliberate about adding more, since the battery capacity is slow to increase.
But understanding something on an intellectual level doesn’t always translate to implementing it in to practical actions. Something about the way they expressed the two approaches to increasing effort triggered my epiphany.
Suddenly, the years of my life (at least 4 decades worth) where I would create “ideal” plans and schedules flashed before my eyes. I have spent the better part of a half-century figuring out my “ideal” routines. My “perfect” morning routine. My “ultimate” workout schedule. My “best plan” for X, Y, or Z.
Even though all of this practice improved my ability to organize and plan, it never really dealt with the core issue. While listening to this video and their ideas, it struck me that I had never taken the time to write out what I was already doing.
Which is ironic since I have always believed in the power of tracking behaviors in order to improve them.
Rather than dangle a carrot in front of my face with an “ultimate” stack of activities (which is, admittedly, quite enticing), I never wrote out what I currently did as a default routine, and then see how it could be adjusted.
It was so mind-numbingly obvious, and yet I had never approached it in this way.
So, I took out my current “ultimate morning routine” list and wrote it over again with the things I actually did in the morning.
My list went from over 50 items to around 10.
Then I did the same thing for my evening routine list. It went from over 25 activities to 9. And if you take out “non activities” like “stop working” and “sleep”, then it was more like 6.
That means two things:
First, I have been trying to increase my productivity by 5x, cold turkey. That is obviously not sustainable and completely absurd.
Second, just adding on one thing (or removing one thing) from my list would cause a 10% change in my daily morning routine. That is already pretty significant, and certainly nothing at all to turn my nose up at.
Suddenly a lifetime of understanding why I was never able to sustain my various projects and efforts became crystal clear. I was always so “proud” of my ability to create amazing schedules and lists, and yet I never bothered to start from where I was already standing.
It was like planning a trip from Seattle to Boston as if I was already in Chicago.
It is time to change things up. It is time to do things in a sustainable way.
I want to (TRY to) give up ownership of the idea that I have to maintain such a significant increase in effort for an entire year with wushu52. Honestly, I’m pretty impressed I was able to do it for two whole months. If I want to still be in this by the end of the year I need to start from where I currently am, and build things up in a balanced way.
I’ll add one thing to my morning routine, and potentially take one thing off. The list isn’t very crazy. And what I add to it won’t be very substantive.
But it will be a vote for the type of person I am trying to become, and just like any election, the winner comes down to the collective actions of all constituents, and not just any one individual vote.
It is time to cast a new ballot.
And then cast it again tomorrow.