Blog posts and habit math

I’ve been attempting to write a post a day for about two weeks now.

I’ve missed a few days.

What have I learned from making the commitment? And — more or less — sticking to it?

I’ve fallen in love with the math of compounding, of watching tiny habits practice day after day build up a level of success and confidence.

As author James Clear points out in the opening to his book Atomic Habits:

“improving by 1 percent isn’t particularly notable— sometimes it isn’t even noticeable— but it can be far more meaningful, especially in the long run. The difference a tiny improvement can make over time is astounding. Here’s how the math works out: if you can get 1 percent better each day for one year, you’ll end up thirty-seven times better by the time you’re done. Conversely, if you get 1 percent worse each day for one year, you’ll decline nearly down to zero. What starts as a small win or a minor setback accumulates into something much more.”

I’m staying focused and concentrating on my process, not my outcome.

Staying with the process and not becoming fixated on the result is the heart of habit and, ultimately, identity change. Clear puts it this way:

“It doesn’t matter how successful or unsuccessful you are right now. What matters is whether your habits are putting you on the path toward success. You should be far more concerned with your current trajectory than with your current results.”

That’s what I am doing — staying fixated on my trajectory.

When I miss a day, I’ll get back at it the day after that. I’ll not let two days go without a writing a post.

In this way, I learn — bit by bit, day by day — to make change and trust the person I want to be: a notice-er, a thinker, a compassionate witness-er, a person who makes time for public (and private, too) writing and teaching and learning.

The 1 second commitment

When we make a commitment to practicing something, anything — say playing guitar for an hour a day, meditating for two minutes in the morning, turning our phone off at night — that practice is not actually about playing guitar, about meditating, or about time away from the phone.

It’s really about training the muscle that says no to the voice in your head that wants to talk you out of doing that thing you committed to doing.

We want to get to a point that no matter how we feel (I’m not getting anywhere, I’m miserable, I’m too exhausted, I’m hungry, I’ll do it tomorrow) and no what what the voice in our head is saying, we simply keep our commitment.

Most of the world thinks they get credit for reading about how to keep a commitment or listening to a podcast about how to keep a commitment, or, if they are feeling a little bit more energized, that they get credit for “trying” to keep their commitment.

These things don’t count, I am sorry to say. I wish they did.

Keeping a commitment to yourself is a form of training. As the Zen coach Cheri Huber says, “We are training to be the person we have always wanted to be, the person we can trust with our life.”

Keep your commitment to yourself as if your life depends on it. Because it does.

If you have to scale the commitment back, do that. Don’t skip the practice all together. If your commitment is to play guitar one hour a day and you just don’t have time and the voice in your head is saying all sorts of things to you about what is more important, then play for one focused minute. If you can’t do that, just simply pick up the guitar and hold it for 10 seconds or 10 slow breaths.

I know that sounds absurd.

But only the person who has not yet had the courage to keep even 30 seconds of her commitment would laugh at such an idea.