The Error Cycle

My life has always followed a pattern that has sort of hindered me from intentional growth. I feel good, productive, and desire to make myself better. So I set a goal or simply run a few miles or whatever. After a few weeks of that I start getting tired of it. Feel it is pointless. This is not the marathon wall, this is laziness and lethargy kicking in. It overwhelms my discipline and my joy and leaves me week and surrendered. I spend some time in this pit of despair until I get fed up with being tired and unproductive. I get a few simple victories and feel good about myself again starting the cycle over. 
This cycle has dominated most of my life. The frequency has changed from time to time. When I first observed it was after graduation and the cycle was several weeks long. 2 good weeks, two bad weeks. As I became more established in my new role in life it changed to a good month and bad month. Then it stated getting less predictable. A good month 2 bad months, a goo week a bad month. Only in the last few years have I been able to curve the pattern successfully. And that has been through knowing myself and sustainable growth methods. These days it's typically a good month followed by a bad day and back to the good month. I'm not sure if this pattern is normal or not. I do have several concepts I have learned to help me fight it.

  1. Attitude - You are who you choose to be. Choose to be awesome despite circumstances, despite feelings. Barney Stinson agrees.
  2. Rest - If you don't take a Sabbath the Sabbath will take you. Bad days, bad weeks, bad months, I even had a bad year, were the results of being burned out from too much work and not getting enough rest. Sometimes a bad day is your body telling you you need rest.
  3. Friends - Sometimes when I'm having a bad day I just call a friend and vent for a bit. As long as you return the favor and let them vent on you from time to time it's a very life-giving practice. Also sometimes you just need some company to get out of the doldrums.
  4. Be yourself - Nothing is more exhausting than being someone you're not. I'm an introvert. When I force myself to be extroverted I lose energy much faster so I try to keep that practice to a minimum. Please don't mistake this one for an excuse to be a horrible or sinful person. I don't care if your an "honest" person you still have to have tact. Or if you really like that girl, you still have to be married. Be yourself means be honest with yourself not do whatever you want to or feel like doing. And if yourself is a horrible person that should be the first thing you change.
  5. Go outside - Sunlight and activity are proven methods to beat depression and help improve your mood. Eat your lunch outside on a bad day and it will improve your day.
  6. Build good habits - habits are much easier to follow than irregular practices. I feed the animals on my bad days because I have a system of doing so. It doesn't take effort I just go on auto-pilot.

I'm calling a bad day the day I forget my disciplines, break my commitments (like eating healthy or doing a 30 min workout), can't focus at work, yell at my wife, don't do chores, etc. These are all things it takes discipline to control. I like to say I have a discipline meter. I have 100 units of discipline when I'm at my best. I recharge about 20 units every night when I sleep. So If I use 25 units a day I will probably be tires by the end of the week. So I take the weekend off and use very little discipline (say 5 units) instead of my normal 25 which allows my discipline to get back to 100. Burn out and bad days happen when my discipline hits below 20. I can't get through the day so I crash and burn. This is where habits come in. If it takes 3 units to perform a task that isn't fun, 2 unit to perform a task that is fun, it takes only 1/2 a unit to perform a daily ritual such as feeding the animals or brushing my teeth. So the key to sustainable growth is to only focus a limited number of units on growth at a time. Working out when you didn't previously may take 3 units per 30 min. Add to that the stress of eating healthy and you have like 3 units per meal. Add to that doing the dishes at home, which you rarely do and that's 3 more. Your daily job takes a solid 20 every day. You're going to burn out before your week is up. That's not sustainable. So the trick is to make one change. Then convert that change into a habit so it takes 1/2 a point instead of 3. Then when you add a new change too it, it's not an immediate failure from burnout. It replaces the energy you were once putting into what is now a habit and easy to do. Over time your discipline meter may raise a bit from 100 max to 110 max or you recharge 30 per night instead of 20. But that process is excruciatingly slow. While building habits can be done several times each year. 40 days per plus some cooling time in my limited experience. 
Yesterday was a bad day. One of my forced new activities overwhelmed my discipline meter a bit. So I ate too much candy, didn't work out, didn't blog, and was extremely unproductive at work. I took these principles and applied each where I could. I was past fixing my attitude so I chose to have a good attitude tomorrow, and it helped. I needed rest so I didn't force anything more than my basic habits, it worked. I called a friend this afternoon and vented for a bit, thanks friend. I didn't go outside until this morning but that was ok. I got lots of outside time on Sunday so that wasn't really a dominant factor. I already built several good habits so the house didn't fall apart while I was vulnerable.