I like goals. I like habits. I like routines and systems and brainstorming ways to become more productive, more efficient, and more well-rounded.
But I just finished reading the book Atomic Habits, and I’ve realized that those things aren’t actually what I want. What I want is to become the sort of person who does certain sorts of things. It’s not about the things themselves. It’s about identity.
This mindset shift is critical, because it has released me from the confines of numerical goals. The issue with numbers is that...they’re inflexible. And I live in a world where flexibility is essential to my sanity and the well-being of my family members. I’m a mom. Days don’t always go according to plan or schedule. Trying to accomplish goals with numbers attached leaves me stressed and with little patience for the “interruptions” that my children become.
So I’m changing my tactics. Instead of practicing piano for 20 minutes a day, I’m simply going to become the kind of person who sits down at the piano bench and plays every day. Whether it’s one minute, or two songs, or ten minutes with a child on my lap playing along, or five minutes uninterrupted--it doesn’t matter. The number of minutes and the type of practice have become irrelevant. I can become the kind of person who plays piano each day under any one of these scenarios.
Instead of exercising for 30 minutes, 3 days a week, I’m simply going to become the sort of person who doesn’t miss a workout on workout days. If I run the stairs a few times, it’s a win. If I push my kids in the stroller for a power-walk up the hill, it’s a win. And, on the days I can manage an uninterrupted 30 minutes, that’ll be a win as well. Again, the length of the workout matters not. What matters is the kind of person I’m becoming, and every minute of exercise on a workout day makes me into her.
I want to start journalling again. So I'm writing one sentence a night. Just one sentence. That's all I'm allowed. It's not about the journalling, really. It's about becoming the kind of woman who keeps a paper trail of the moments of her life...so that she doesn't forget.
Habits, routines, systems, and schedules are great. But identity is better and far more permanent. Instead of being productive as an end in itself, I want every moment of productivity to mold me into a certain sort of person.
The work of life is far more rewarding, when I think of it this way.
Before the advent of the internet, people acquired their information via printed materials. Books, commercials, ads, flyers, newspapers, etc. Anything someone wanted to share had to be typed, edited, printed, and distributed. Common people shared thoughts and opinions via letters to the editor or flyers on bulletin boards. Academics, journalists, and people with the means of distribution had a near-monopoly on getting their opinions and ideas read by the masses.
When the internet came along, many of these printed materials migrated to the interwebs. Common people could suddenly access essays, blogs, news articles, and other long form writings more easily. Before long, the existence of the internet meant nearly every person was able to publish and distribute anything they had the mind to say.
This created an exponential increase in the volume of thoughts and ideas available for consumption. Suddenly, anyone could publish anything they were thinking at any time. Distribution of thoughts and ideas was no longer relegated to elite academics and journalists--it was available to the common person.
The massive amount of information EASILY accessible and available for IMMEDIATE consumption became a problem for readers. Too much information available; too little time to read it. So, out of necessity, articles, essays, books, and other forms of thoughts and opinions had to become shorter. Shorter, and shorter, and shorter, until the world began to accept thoughts written in 150 characters or less (twitter.) Quickly, opining in single sentences became the STANDARD. People lost interest in ideas developed over pages, chapters, and lifetimes. If a thesis couldn’t be defended in a sentence, it wasn’t worth anyone’s time.
Thus, our attention spans plummeted, and our brains lost the ability to wrestle with complex ideas or delay gratification in any way. And here we are. We can hardly sit and read a couple pages of a book without getting bored!
I am determined to be part of the solution. I am reading THE SAME book each night before bed, until it’s finished. And then picking up another book and doing it again. And, I’m practicing my writing muscles. Long form writing is becoming a lost art, and I don’t think that’s good for our brains, our psyches, our development, or our humanity. We need to be able to focus on and pay attention to thoughts and opinions that are developed over paragraphs and pages. It’s very difficult to create nuance in 150 characters. It’s a little easier to do it in the span of an essay or a book. And nuance creates openings for discussion. Discussion connects us. Connection fosters community, and community makes us human. It’s harder to hurt one another when we’ve sat down over a cup of coffee and discussed an idea for longer than 150 characters in a shouting match.
For these and other reasons, I have resurrected this blog. I enjoy writing in long form, and maybe we can all work on enjoying reading it too!
Thank you for taking ten minutes out of your day to read what’s on my mind. I hope it is generally a ten minutes well spent.
hey, i'm jordan.
i write here because i think our words are worth sharing.