I'm Totally Addicted to Building Habits and I Love It

Without getting into the medical details, I went to the doctor last week and was told, a little brusquely, that:

  1. The cosmetic disorder I was consulting the doctor on is semi-permanent,
  2. I needed to stop taking the medicine that had been helping most for it,
  3. and there was nothing else I could do.
I felt terrible. It made me aware of my own mortality, which is never pleasant, spoiled my body image, and made me depressed about my prospects for the future. Beyond that, I hated the feeling of powerlessness.

At first, that whole cocktail of negative emotions was just a mess and I couldn't sort out all those different causes of me "feeling bad." But as I thought about it more and examined my thoughts, I was able to parse those apart. What I found was that I cared way more about the sense of impotence than the mortality salience. I took that at face value, but then I realized that was a huge discovery. Because: while I can't do anything about dying, and while I probably can't do anything about the cosmetic defect, I totally can do something about the sense of impotence.

When I thought about that sense of impotence a little more, I realized further that I did not use to feel that way. Years ago, I would have been relieved to not be able to do anything about it. I was lazy and would have been happy to not do anything about it if I could justify it to myself that I was out of options. Now, what bothers me most is the opposite - the feeling that I'm giving up and being lazy. That's actually kind of awesome.

Thus, I resolved to not take no for an answer and do some research on my own. I found a veritable wealth of information on the internet about steps I could take to work on it. Beyond that, one site I found suggested habituating a concrete, triggered twice-daily regimen. I cannot express in words how relieved I was at that discovery. Obviously I'm addicted to doing habits.

It felt shockingly good to me - and not just because I was relieved to be doing something. I really love exploring how I'm going to make the habit work, putting that first foot forward, putting that second foot forward, building momentum. I love talking it up to others and thinking through the whole process of trigger-action-reward. I love setting up my accountability log on chains.cc, clicking those first couple circles, and hearing that silly chime sound it makes. I love knowing that it's not just a one-time experience, that I'll get to do it hundreds or thousands of times. Commitment feels really good when you know you're fully capable of following through on it.

If you're not at this stage yet - and most of you probably are not since it took me over a year of constant, dedicated practice - don't fret. Keep hustling and you'll get there. Keep building habits. That's the only step this time.