Notes from How to Live on 24 Hours a Day by Arnold Bennett
As I write this, I have multiple tabs opened up begging for my attention. My thoughts are jumping from one to another all directing me away from writing this post down.
"Maybe I should just read this article - it seems important."
"But, first I think I should put on some music, I'll be able to focus better then."
"I am thirsty, let me get some water."
"Let me just check Facebook feed for a bit."
"When's the Manchester United's match starting? I wonder if Di Maria is fit to play."
This is my mind telling me not to do the important stuff and instead get caught up in distractions.There are multiple things at play here - I fear I might miss out on something 'cool' or 'interesting' if I don't read that article on the hot topic of the day. Most probably, it is the simple fact that writing is much more difficult than passive consumption of information. So, how do I deal with it? One skill:
Ignore your mind.
Allow me to elaborate.
With this new year, did you decide to join a gym or exercise more? May be you decided to eat healthier. Or perhaps, you want to read more. Or…............. Fill it in with whatever you decided to do this year. Although, I didn’t make any this year, I’ve made and broken enough resolutions to know how hard they are to keep.
As the year goes by, we start developing a lackadaisical attitude towards our resolutions, the frequency and intensity of our efforts fades away, and at the end of the year, we are left wondering how it ever came to this. What happened to all the plans we made? I feel, a lot of it has to do with our mind rationalising and giving us reasons to not do the things that matter.
You wake up in the morning, lying on your bed thinking of going for a run. But, isn’t it too cold outside? And you know, you have to reach office. You don’t feel that great anyways, there's always tomorrow.
This book you are reading is too boring, let's watch a youtube video instead.
You want to go out in the city on a photography trip, but it is too much of a pain. Getting off the bed, dressing up, traveling - let's just rest today instead.
So on and so forth.
Notice what is happening. This is you ‘thinking’ these things. Or more precisely, your ‘mind’ thinking these things for you. It is trying to rationalise why you should not do that hard thing and stick to the easier thing instead. This is what it always does. We are designed to reach towards the thing with the lowest barrier of entry.
Ignore it. Shut off this rationalisation. Tell your mind and yourself to hold off that thought for a later time and how grateful you would feel after completing this task. In fact stop thinking altogether. Just go do that thing instead.
Personally, I have found that this is by far the best skill that has worked for me. Every other skill (there were a lot I wanted to talk about), is good but haven’t found them to be useful personally.
To an extent, I have successfully implemented this in my writing habits. This post was written using the same skill. And am now trying to do the same with my running. I just get up, tie my shoes and go. No thinking involved. I push all the thoughts of hunger, tiredness, future engagements (including writing) to the back.
Preparation to practice this skill
- Ensure that you have actively thought out the benefits of doing that particular task.
- Envision yourself at that stage - a leaner body, a new job, more books read - imagine how you’d feel about it.
- Make sure you know that this resolution of yours is good for you, so that at the time of doing it, you don’t argue with yourself against the benefits of doing it. I had made the decision of creating a running habit in full control and awareness. Having known its benefits, it became easier for me to follow through with it.
How to practice this skill
There are just two steps to practice this skill:
- Notice when you skip an important task to do something less important. Take a note of how your mind convinced you.
- Ignore that voice in your head. Shut it off completely.
Like every other skill, this requires practice as well. Sometimes, you will not be able to shut out your mind completely and it will overpower you and make you do things which don't really give you contentment. But, it is OK. It's alright to fail once in a while. Just remember to keep practicing till that resolution of yours becomes a habit and you can leave the crutches of this skill behind.
If this post helped you stay on track with your resolutions, I'd love to hear it. Add in your comments below.