Believe it or not, I took A.P. Physics in high school. Out of an entire year in the class, my brain decided to care about only one thing:
In short: an object in motion stays in motion.
The reason I cared about Newton’s first law was because I translated its scientific meaning into something that made sense in my world.
In my world, right or wrong, I measure my happiness by my productivity. I have very definite things I want to do, and the stuff I have to do, and if I don’t make progress, I am miserable. It is an internal itch that has to be scratched or else I will tear my skin off (from the inside-out). I don’t know how else to explain it.
Yesterday I dropped one kid off at Japanese school, took another kid to swim class, and then back home to run and finish a few more chores before picking up kid #1. Then it was all about racing back home to get a few more things done, before heading out for a party and a family gathering, before collapsing in exhaustion when we got home at almost 10PM. It was not a good day for writing. By mid-morning I was feeling extremely unsettled about wanting to write but not being able to. I have a big project that I’m working on and not enough hours in the day (and dealt with a few big, useless distractions in the last week). This project nags and nags at me. I’m the kind of person who has to get things done or else my brain spins around in circles obsessing over it.
I feel antsy if I can’t get the big things on my list done: writing, exercise, and uninterrupted time with the kids. These are non-negotiables in my day.
The unrest inside of me stems from what I believe and know to be true about my productivity: an object in motion stays in motion. Newton’s law.
I have to write every day. I have to exercise every day. I have to clean around the house every day. I have to read every day. I have to make time to have uninterrupted time with the kids every day.
Otherwise, bad habits creep into our routines, and I don’t end up doing my priorities. Distractions.
Terrible resistance can easily build inside of my head and make me not want to take the next step, as if a giant brick wall suddenly appears and impedes my movement. It is so easy to get stuck. Blocked. Unable to take make the next move.
As stated in Newton’s law, an “unbalanced force” can disrupt the object in motion. For me, that has been a variety of things. Work. Family. Having babies. Relationships. Distractions. Illness. An overbooked calendar. An endless amount of possible “unbalanced forces.”
I love to travel. But when I travel, I swear, it always, ALWAYS messes with my schedule. First it messes with your eating patterns. I try to eat very clean at home, but when you’re traveling, part of the fun is eating good food in places where you don’t usually go. I’m not going to Paris and turning down their amazing bread and cheese and wine and pastries. Heck no. So that throws me off, because bad habits beget bad habits, and suddenly I find myself on an ordinary day back at home wondering why things don’t feel right, and it takes me a while to realize oh yeah, I can’t keep eating like that.
The same applies to travel and exercise. I find it difficult to run in other countries, especially when I am jet-lagged, unfamiliar with a neighborhood, and on the go all of the time. Also, I don’t travel with my double stroller. I’m a huge proponent of traveling light (as light as you can with 3 young kids). No double stroller means I can’t run. I’ve realized from experience that I can’t give myself days off from exercise. I have to plan to do it every day. Of course things come up here and there when I absolutely won’t be able to run. But take too much time off, and that’s it. I’m thrown off. Trying to re-start is like pulling teeth. I don’t know what it is, but it’s that resistance in my head. It builds and grows and makes it so hard to get started again. Suddenly I start feeling like I don’t like running. I don’t want to run. I’ll make up a thousand excuses in my head about why I shouldn’t have to run. So I don’t. Days pass. Weeks. Now I’ve dug myself into a hole that will take a ton of effort to get out of, and I struggle to go back to the rhythm of a routine.
The same is true with writing. Even when it’s a day or two of no writing, I can feel the resistance creeping into my mind. Writer’s block. Writer’s block happens when you do not write.
Combating the resistance is a lengthy, frustrating effort. It’s much better to stay in the flow. To keep going, rather than go and stop, go and stop, go and stop.
Yesterday I posted on FB: Thought while running today: what if pain isn’t a signal for “stop”? What if pain is a reminder for mindfulness? And then you take the next appropriate step.
People seemed to think I was advising 50+ year olds to bust their knees by overextending themselves.
Although if your body is feeling pain, that may be a reminder to explore why.
I was thinking more along the lines of when I feel too tired to go for a run, maybe I shouldn’t immediately shut down. Maybe I should push a little harder.
If I’m feeling like a relationship is too difficult, maybe the pain that I feel isn’t a signal to shut down. Maybe it is a reminder to dig a little deeper inside of myself and process my thoughts, brainstorm, perhaps look at the relationship a little differently and identify the value in it and work a little harder.
Maybe I shouldn’t give up on dating after a bad date.
Or quit tennis after a crappy day of backhands.
If a job becomes frustrating and painful, maybe giving up isn’t the best response. I’ve had moments when I felt like I just wanted to quit and find a new occupation. Maybe the pain isn’t a sign to quit. Maybe it’s a signal to slow down, be mindful, to become aware. Fix what needs to be fixed. Do something different, but not necessarily stop.
When I feel the resistance infiltrating my mind, making me not want to sit down and finish an essay or type even another sentence, maybe that uncomfortable sensation isn’t an excuse to shut my computer off. Maybe it is a challenge to push back against it and to “unblock” myself by moving forward. Even if it requires a thousand teeny tiny baby steps. Any forward movement is good.
It’s much more likely for us to quit and avoid pain than it is to persevere in these micro-challenges.
When I talk about being mindful and choosing the next right step, I mean push past the pain, examine our thought process, think about our goals, maybe stretch ourselves a little further and do what needs to be done to have forward movement–any forward movement.
If you look around society, there is evidence all over of giving in to our pain.
We are quick to give ourselves instant gratification. Saying something stupid to make ourselves feel good in a moment of hot temper, just to hurt the other person and claim victory. Eating the junk food because it tastes good in that moment, versus struggling with the less pleasurable sensation of deprivation. We’re much more likely to watch that TV program instead of go do some push-ups.
We are more likely to choose pleasure over pain.
But perhaps there is an art to balancing pleasure and pain, to ultimately produce more overall pleasure?
I’m terribly unsympathetic about excuses.
You have a torn ligament? Okay. What can you do? What will your next step be? What’s the timeline? Something other than “I can’t.”
Too tired to finish a project? Sometimes you look inward and know that taking the night off is the best solution for you. Rest is needed. And that’s what you do. You were mindful, you weighed your options, you looked inward, and that was the right conclusion for you.
But taking the day off every day isn’t mindfulness.
There is a difference.
I want to clear up misconceptions about the things that I do. I work VERY hard to keep my weight under control. I was not born with the metabolism of a 10-year old girl. I will never be stick-thin. I do watch what I eat. I exercise. I continue to research diet and exercise. There is no magic or super lucky genetics involved. It’s a lot of hard work. Period.
My house is clean. Every day I make sure the kids pick up after themselves and I stay on top of things. No magic involved. Just a lot of staying up a little later even when I’m dead tired to make sure everything looks good before I go to bed.
The one thing I hate is when people say they don’t have time. Stop saying that. IT’S NOT YOUR PRIORITY, that’s why you don’t do it. There’s a difference. You have time. You choose not to make time for whatever it is you aren’t doing. There is choice involved.
In the end, our life is the sum of our choices.
I don’t mean for this to sound harsh. I just want to show the real side of life. That there is never any magic pills.
I am not perfect at any of this. Every day is a struggle of mind and body and 3-children-with-no-co-parent resistance. Every single day. I get no days off from resistance. The obstacles are never-ending.
I try to combat it with a variety of methods. I fight hard to implement Newton’s law: an object in motion stays in motion.
The more I write, I will keep writing.
The more I move my body, the easier it will be to move my body every day.
Another method of tackling resistance is studying what other people do to implement habits. Habits are everything, and yet super hard.
I study things that people do to keep themselves productive, like morning routine advice.
You can Google “daily habits” and find an endless supply of ideas from different people.
In an attempt to stick with what I’ve identified to be important habits in my life, I started using an app called “7 Weeks.” You can track habits and mark when you do them.
I also use another app called Time Recording. It allows me to check-in and check-out. I use it to log my writing time. This helps me see a number at the end of the day.
I’ve also tracked my habits by hand, like this:
I don’t know which method is better. I find that I get restless with one method, so I go back and forth with what I have in my toolbox of tricks. I probably should stick to one method, but I guess if the end result is the same, then it’s not something I’m going to worry too much about.
I read books and listen to podcasts on the subject of productivity and habits. I consider myself an eternal student of life, and open to new ideas. I feel like I can always do better in everything.
I am never open to “I can’t.” That’s why you’ll see me running after a long day of work, pushing a double stroller with 80 lbs worth of kids in there. That’s why I’ll strap a giant toddler on my back and trek around Japan, even if it isn’t the best way to travel. But it keeps me out there traveling, and in my mind, that’s better than staying home.
I feel like this is all symbolic of my life: pushing through pain, because the alternative is to miss out on the things I want to do in life, and I’m not willing to accept that.
(Just so you know, my minivan is filled with crumbs, my garden is in dire need of weeding and composting, and I still have a pile of filing to do stuffed in my closet. But you know. Everything can’t be on the priority list.)