“What you do every day is more important than what you do once in a while.”—Gretchen Rubin, powerhouse of happiness research.
isn’t that quote simultaneously devastating and inspiring?
the devastation comes from thinking, “holy shit, every day? even holidays? and weekends? and when i’m tired, sad, and hungry?” yup.
but the inspiration is the empowerment that comes from building a stockpile of creative output thanks to your dedication to yourself. over time, the daily nature becomes a given and a self-fulfilling prophecy. to paraphrase Newton, a body that’s working tends to continue working.
incidentally, yesterday i read “Anna Deavere Smith on Discipline and How We Can Learn to Stop Letting Others Define You”, a long-bookmarked post from Brainpickings, the brainchild of super-smart Maria Popova, about Deavere Smith’s book, “Letters to a Young Artist,” which reminded me of this day versus sometimes dichotomy.
the truth of this line made me smile, “People who actually work out every single day have no problem talking about it.”
i’ve experienced this, too. “so, you do yoga every day,” people ask, forming it as a question, then make eye contact, maybe waiting for me to confess, “well, 4 days a week.” but i don’t. i just say, yes. because it’s accurate.
the same goes for all self-regulated tasks we perform. accomplishing goals feels like your “side of the street is clean.” there’s nothing to hide so you’re secure.
conversely, it hurts to talk about your erratic schedule. the myth you’ve devised about your daily life, the, “i’m trying to paint every day…” + rationalization/excuse/tale of woe, creates emotional and energetic drag. the guilt from thinking, “i know i should but i can’t” uses more energy than completing the work.
excuses are tiring because they’re essentially lies. there’s the error—the lack of work done—plus covering for it. as Mark Twain said, “if you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.”
i’ve been on both sides of this divide. while working full-time and taking yoga classes each evening i thought it would be wise to add regular blogging to the mix. it was…not good. i’d sit down to write at 10 pm, wiped out and frazzled but determined to stay coherent and post before 11. in retrospect, i could’ve structured my time more creatively to suit my schedule, but in those days it seemed impossible. the worst part of this “system” was failing on my commitment to myself.
these days, i don’t discipline myself to post completely/mostly original content 4 times a week because i’m under the illusion each post is fantastic. every one could be improved. i publish anyway because i made a promise and i take it seriously.
because in the end, i trust Deavere Smith when she writes,
“what you are will show, ultimately. start now, every day, becoming, in your actions, your regular actions, what you would like to become in the bigger scheme of things.”
what’s the hardest part of creating daily habits? can you stick with changes you make? let me know in the comments!
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