“I want it all, and I want it NOW!”
Those lyrics off Queen’s The Miracle album lit a fire under me as a kid. Back then I believed I could seize the world as long as I just had passion.
The next several decades rudely disabused me of that notion.
What I’ve learned through this project is that the path to getting it all is paved with patience. Now that tally training beer away appears to be a success – and one that occurred pretty effortlessly – I want to do more of it. The problem is I want to master two very large behaviors at once: emotions and food.
THE CHICKEN OR THE EGG
Logically, I know the best behavior to train is negative emotions. I’m an anxious, depressed, pessimist, and attempting to rid myself of negativity 5 years ago was one of the most eye-opening experiments of my life. I found that “static meditation” had little carryover to the rest of my day. So, I attempted to note, then counter, every instance of negative thought that arose, from nervousness and tension, to actual anger and massive depressive episodes. I called it “dynamic meditation”.
In the beginning, the results were phenomenal. Life became saturated with joy. I had a grin continually plastered to my face and felt I was cheating at life. I could actually feel myself changing and becoming a different person.
That lasted two weeks.
The system broke apart for the simplest reason - I simply didn’t have a mechanism in place to continue tracking it all.
Now I do.
So why an additional behavior? All my work on food and exercise just seems like a sunken cost. While Structured Randomness has significantly stepped up my eating game, there have been many leaks around the edges to compensate. Eating on weekends is unstructured, and the lack of rigor on what I snack on or indulge in with friends destroys progress. I’m putting in daily hard work, but there are no significant results. That infuriates me.
Also, I consider eating a core process like meditation or mobilizing. Eating effects mood, energy, sleep, and overall health more than anything else.
So in terms of choosing which to pick, it’s a hard decision. As with many items in what seems like a never-ending laundry list of self-improvement, I feel less that like screaming “I want it all” and more like sobbing “I needed to have done it all”.
The bigger question - is it even possible to attempt it all?
TRUST THE PROCESS
Now the case for overreaching lies in trusting this new method. Tally counting significantly offloads change from solely resting on native effort, will, and motivation. These are the factors that limited me to one change at a time. Also, as this project goes on, I want to start experimenting with methods to compress everything down. However, this is dangerous as these behaviors are also both very difficult to change. They are deeply ingrained and discharged continually throughout the day under many circumstances.
Sandbagging may be a way to have my cake and eat it too.
Lydia’s concept is based on the idea that willpower is a response based on a load. Dumping sand bags from a hot air balloon makes it shoot up because there are two opposing forces at work. If you’re working on two behaviors dropping one when the going gets tough assures the success of the other because the system was already trying to compensate for a heavier load. I would drop eating because, as Lydia argues, negativity affects every area of my life.
To do this I would need a double tally counter. I would also need to be vigilant as to how the two changes interact. I can see craving and negativity feeding off each other, potentially starting a comedic landslide of clicks on either side of the counter.
For dynamic meditation, I’m just going to use the same protocols that I used in my old attempt. The protocols for food on the other hand, are a bit trickier. Do I have cheat days? Do I include all alcohol? How do I include the holidays? What if someone invites me out? Will this be a long-term change or a challenge?
I’m betting, oddly enough, that eating will be more difficult, simply because it involves a lot of social pressure, pinpoint discipline, and preplanning (like going to the store and having healthy snacks around or knowing what restaurants have clean items on the menu).
Generally, I’m foreseeing that at some point this is going to get really, really tough. Then it’s going to get really easy as the meditation offloads the stress from eating clean. There is this notion that habits can positively reinforce each other, and I can definitely see that happening here.
Can I do more to offload willpower? Yes, and this is really key. I can track food with pictures, or start the day with motivation or an affirmation or an implementation intention of the day. I can have my meditation responses all written out, and have a sequence of widgets like my ego-depletion protocol. I can also bypass decisions by planning for each thing that could go wrong.
Luckily at this point, I now have a lot of tools to work with.
“Here’s to the future,” Freddie Mercury croons later in the song, “to the dreams of youth.”
Over the long years with this project I’ve been incredibly cautious about grasping too much, knowing that I could very well end up with nothing. As I approach my 40th birthday (and The Miracle approaches its 30th), I realize that mental freedom and a healthy body are perhaps the greatest gifts I can give myself. And the journey to get them might also reignite the passions of my past.
photocred: Freddie by SoniaDee