Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The Importance of Momentum in Habits

Boy, am I learning a lesson now. But just a few days of rest I thought I've earned and it seems I've unraveled some of my ability to concentrate. Oh I know I can quickly bounce back from this, maybe even in less than 24 hours, but I am understanding again how indulging in old habits can induce retrogression. Furthermore, the struggle, however brief, is always an irritating thing to go through again.

Habits by their nature are repetitive and must be sustained by continued repetitions. As soon as you ignore those repetitions in order to engage in another you'll work to undo one automatization and establish another. Good habits can only remain self-sustaining circles so long as the circles are sustained.

My error is that I thought that my having established a strong concentration meant I could deviate in my practices as a "break" and enjoy isolated incidents of my old habits, such as daydreaming, much like a muscularly built person might allow himself extra rest days from his workouts. To a degree such deviations could be justifiable and even deserved, but the problem with fudging standards is that the fudged practices can quickly become the new standard. I was justified in thinking I deserved a break from my wild productivity, but in the forms I have done so has made it so I've reduced my capacity to sustain such energy.

Before indulging in old habits I must ask myself several questions: Is the old habit of any value in any degree?, do I derive actual enjoyment in its partaking?, and can the indulgence be safely employed without undermining anything hard-established? By failing to search for these answers, I have allowed myself to passively slump into bad form and undo progress. For example, by indulging in daydreaming I was actually boring myself significantly, but by not taking the time to acknowledge this I kept on with the fruitless endeavor and neglected actual values.

From now on I must keep myself constantly aware of this: While a habit may be of ease to maintain, I must always make sure to maintain that first step in the circle. Taking "breaks" with old habits may sound tempting, but the temptation is based on no longer relevant memories and out-of-date values. To go back will give me both discomfort and retrogression. To keep at hand essential things I want to remember, such as the sayings that drive my life, I keep two slips of paper in my pocket to always have ready at hand. One details sayings that guide my actions, and the other documents self-improvement suggestions and warnings. I think to the second one I'll add a note about the importance of being active in maintaining habits, for while they may feel automatic they never become actually so: We must always make the choice to initiate them. With that reminder in hand, I will have little excuse for slacking in my practices again. Maintaining good practices may sound like strenuous work to hold up all the time, but given habituation and the development of the appropriate values I will desire to do nothing else otherwise.

My composure is slightly sloppy right now, but the bounce back should be quick. However irritating, it will only be a brief struggle to regain my abilities. From there I must maintain strength always.

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