“We are what we repeatedly do.”
“Each day is a day of decision.”
“He is rich who owns the day.”
“Each new day is a blank page in the diary of your life.”
Most of us have read similar lines at some point in our lives, gotten motivated for a while only to gradually slip back into inaction.
When Sreenath started his ‘Power of Everyday‘ project, I had been through this cycle a hundred times over- to the point where instead of leaving me inspired, every variation of these aphorisms was reduced to a feel-good bromide.
However, long before Sreenath formally announced the project, I had seen him reap benefits of maintaining self-discipline. So it was inevitable that when he invited his readers to join him, I would be among the first guys to respond.
I don’t think I am alone in feeling dazed and unplanned on certain days. Life is busy. Breaking out of the uni-dimensional routine of our days is a perennial struggle. My willingness to play a part in Sreenath’s project is a result of my optimism that we’d all benefit from staying mutually accountable to each other about the way we live our days.
1. Wake up before sunrise
Success rate- 19/30
In my college years, I had identified waking up early as one of the keystone habits– a habit that is precursor to the
development of other good habits. However, I have had a long history of failed experiments of waking up early for more than two weeks consecutively.
In order to sustain this habit, it was important for me not to have this seem like a mental and physical ordeal. So, I decided to make this a fun exercise by taking up an implicit, one-sided, and undeniably juvenile competition with the Sun.
2. Do the 7-minute-workout
Success rate- 21/30
At the start of the year, I resolved to run five half-marathons by the end of the year. My second half-marathon of the year was scheduled on June 24 and I was terribly unprepared. Working for long hours on some days of the month made it harder for me to run as frequently as I should have. The 7-minute workout was a significantly less time-intensive exercise routine to maintain my stamina. While nothing could replace a good morning run, this was a decent substitute and it helped ensure that I completed what could arguably be one of the toughest terrains on the Indian marathon circuit with marginal unease.
3. Compose a simple melody everyday (14/30)
Success rate- 14/30
Practicing technique and scales has always been one of my major aversions. To resume practicing more efficiently, I needed to go back to the reason why I picked up my first guitar- to play tunes. Those dreaded arpeggio patterns and the ghastly chord voicings took a back seat, and I started focussing on humming simple melodies over various chord progressions everyday. I failed more often than I succeeded in this endeavour, but this was the most rewarding activity of my day.
Where I failed, and what I learnt?
It’s pretty evident from the numbers that I was wildly inconsistent.
I learnt that developing a habit is mainly about momentum.
Momentum is created or destroyed every day with the first few decisions I make. For example, I went on a 10-day streak on all three tasks, but once I missed waking up early a few days in succession, I couldn’t create a respectable streak.
The biggest problem I encountered was when I woke up late or started my day off wrong, which put me on a downward spiral for the rest of the day.
Most of all recognized that my willpower works pretty much like a muscle. On days where I was exhausted after utilizing my will-power in responding to a plethora of e-mails and answering to unnecessary phone calls, it was harder for me to come back home and sit with my instrument to come up with a melody. On those agonizing work days, I found myself noodling mindlessly on my guitar instead of engaging myself in a focussed practice session.
With all the down sides, I had the opportunity to learn a lot about myself in the process.
This month, I am expecting some stressful days at my workplace and also planning to initiate a side project which would take up most of my time. Thus, keeping with the idea of setting realistic goals, I am deliberately not over-exerting myself and taking up any new goals for this month.
While I wasn’t as successful as I had hoped to be, I am taking solace from the fact that at least I have put in place a system of tracking my progress and keeping myself accountable here.
This is a wonderful project and doing this experiment has reinforced the idea that all I need to do stay happy is become very, very good at living each day. I would like to extend Sreenath’s invitation to his readers in choosing a simple task that you’d like to do every single day and experience the progress first hand, just like I did.
I hope to see you guys again at the end of July.