Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Momentum Protection

Photo by Massachusetts Dept. of Environmental ProtectionOne of the things I worry about the most is being able to maintain a good set of habits once I do get myself into a mode of quashing my major vices and maintaining consistent progress in any area.

Personally, I don't think achieving success and completing goals are that hard. What's truly hard is setting oneself up in a kind of habitual momentum that presses one towards progress regardless of setbacks and obstacles, and then the task maintaining that momentum. Once that momentum is set, some of the hardest things can become shockingly manageable. 

For instance, intense and slowly completed weight-lifting exercises. (Called “super slow.”) They're incredibly difficult because the slow speed of the individual exercises matched with the discipline of form make this exercise style one of the most uncomfortable styles out there, and on the far end of a set, right when one is running out of strength, a dramatic amount of willpower is needed to maintain the pace and form, to stick it out until the end instead of given into the immense urge to give up. It's very difficult to perform any such workout like this, especially to maintain such incredible exertion it as a consistent habit. 

However, I've noticed that when performing these workouts in a period when I've got good momentum going – when I'm doing well to tend to virtuous habits and avoid my vices – the strength of my character transforms how these workouts feel. On the far end of a set, the most uncomfortable portion, my mind is absent of temptation to give up and my determination to finish with a new record actually goes through the roof, as if to emotionally rebel against the discomfort. In this state of momentum, I have never performed better at such difficult exercise and succeeded so well, all without the support of a trainer, too. 

It's highly desirable, of course, for all of us to maintain this kind of mindset when it comes to approaching the affairs of life, for if we can make a habit of it, then we're pretty much guaranteed to gain success one way or another, for in essence we're making a habit out of chasing and gaining progress without having to exert willpower to push against internal resistance. 

Yet, the thing I fear is how to protect this thing? How do we strengthen ourselves against the unexpected things which may derail us? I myself have suffered multiple times being derailed from periods of ambition from things I couldn't grasp or foresee. 

In thinking about it, I think the greatest things to be concerned about are those things of which you may not be aware, for that lack of awareness is what allows the negative factors to gradually push you off track, if not totally derail you in one big shove. After all, if you were aware of the negative factors, better precautions can be taken, no? 

At the present, my best thought-out solution is to modify my Daily Tally to include an additional section called “Momentum Protection”, wherein I ask myself three questions to exercise awareness of things that may threaten the progress in my life:

1.) Are your efforts paying off, or are you below measure or hitting walls?

[In other words, am I getting the full expected value of what I'm doing, or is it below rational expectations, or even not providing any value at all? Sorry for the awkward wording; I resort to it to keep these questions within one handwritten line in my journal.]

One thing that may demotivate someone is to not know when he's spinning his tires in the mud, or, worse, when someone has jacked up his car to deprive him of traction. If you're unaware of how your efforts in specific goals are measuring, then it's unfortunately easy to keep grinding at them, waste lots of time for little to nothing, and get into the habit of giving up and idling once the lack of payoff drains one's motivation. 

In some way or another, we need to know that our efforts are actually amounting to something so that we can be encouraged to continue putting time and effort into it, and the ways to measure need to be appropriate to what kind of goal is set. For example, if strength-building is a goal, then observing that the number of push-ups, pull-ups, and so forth are actually increasing is the measure that you're actually getting stronger.

If things aren't measuring up, then it's time to reevaluate one's strategy and consider tweaking it, trying harder, or changing paths altogether. For instance, if the push-ups aren't increasing, then perhaps one need to be more focused to squeeze out an extra repetition, or perhaps one might consider elevating the upper body angle a bit, which makes the exercise easier and is appropriate as an early step before doing different types of push-ups. 

At the same time, changing the kind of measurements one is using can also be utilized as a coping and reassurance method in times of hardship, causing motivation to stay consistent or even go up when it may otherwise be natural for it to go down.

For instance, in answering this question one may ascertain that effort at work isn't paying off, as inferiors are being promoted above and the pay is unjust, and the strategy can be readjusted in the meanwhile to look for another job. As a motivation technique, in the duration of the job hunt and continuation of the current job one could shift the standard of measurement towards examining work habits: Am I getting faster at this task? Am I able to concentrate more deeply? Am I getting more competent at this (other) task? 

When one's efforts aren't paying off in a certain realm and there's no other way to resolve it except changing one's path (such as by finding a new job), then it may help to change what one considers the payoff to be in the meanwhile. Not bearing fruit? Just change your goals and pursuits in that situation altogether!

2.) How is your stress? Is there anything you should tend to?

Stress may be the most insidious. It can build up inside of you, and left untended it can totally negate the worth of any meaningful attempt at something, such as how over studying for an exam could reduce one's learning capacity and quality of output. I myself, in my fiercest autodidact days, ran into a lot of walls when I pushed myself to keep studying when I really should have rested, essentially making me spin my wheels in the mud from my own stubbornness. 

Dealing with stress comes in two parts: Relieving it,, and relieving it plus coping with it. Relieving it involves venting the pressures and satisfying desires, such as for rest and recreation, and relief plus coping with it involves venting the pressure from a stressful situation that will remain stressful outside of one's control, and of keeping one's mind off of it so that it doesn't end up in unhealthy thinking habits such as Loose End Thinking

I'll leave it up the reader to devise stress-relief methods for the former. Go to a movie, go on a date, enrich your senses at a nature park or with aromatherapy, etc.

As for the latter, it's a matter of the stress-relief techniques you've devised with the addition of concentration honing methods too. Here, the stress not only needs to be relieved, but managed effectively on a regular basis so that it doesn't derail one's focus. 

For example, also during my most fierce autodidact days I had the trouble of a naysayer trying to divert me from my studies, as they didn't approve of my decision and wanted to be a busybody in making me conform to their desires. They were so disruptive on a regular basis that I lost my ability to concentrate on my studies and had to quit them altogether, and for a long time. This environmental stress that confronted me on a daily basis had shoved me from my goal. 

Now I realize that aside from better stress relief, I should have also tended to my concentration better, for dealing with that environmental stress made me engage in Loose End Thinking, wherein I wanted closure by getting this naysayer to stop disrupting me. The only option was to hone my concentration meaningfully by meditation and other means, for there was literally no way for me to make this naysayer cease their intrusions and imposing stress on me, so all I really could have done is do my best to keep my mind off of it as absolutely as possible. 

Asking yourself this question also has the benefit of aiding you toward awareness of hidden stresses, for, again, what's unknown is the greatest threat to your progress. Perhaps you might be suffering a stress that's building up that you simply haven't gained awareness of yet, and taking the time to reflect in a Daily Tally will help call to attention what might have otherwise gone unnoticed. 

3.) Are there any problems, such as abusive people, that you need a strategy for?

This is, in a way, a summation of the previous two questions, combining them together and looking at them from a different angle. Aside from measuring your progress and dealing with stress, do you have any especial problems that need tending to? Sometimes small things you “feel” are unworthy of attention may turn out to be worthwhile things to solve when you think about it. 

For example, in my above example of the naysayer disrupting my studies, it was originally a problem I ignored since I first viewed it as too silly and preposterous to be worthy of my attention. The person was being so irrational I fully expected them to wisen up in a day or two, for who in the world would be against a person's pursuit to improve his mind on his own outside of a pursuit for a degree? 

Well, ignoring it hurt me in a way, for in the days, weeks, months, and years to come, that naysayer never ceased in their efforts, and it became a dramatic problem that required serious attention and major action. What they did may have been small, but it was so consistent and profuse that stress-levels were off the chart as would be in Chinese water torture. 

Getting derailed back then really couldn't be helped since I didn't possess the knowledge that I do now, but if I were able to transfer this knowledge to my past self, I would have known to acknowledge this problem early on and engage in stress-coping action immediately, so as to prevent it from getting out of hand. I would have meditated to hone concentration and improve my temperament, gone out more to refresh my senses, treated myself more to fulfill emotional needs, and so on, so that I would remain iron-clad toward obtaining my intellectual goals in an environment where a major stress-factor will absolutely not go away. 

The sooner and more thoroughly you can identify a potential problem or dead-end, the sooner and better you'll be able to devise a strategy in dealing with it. 

As another example, I've naively wasted lots of time with worthless employers before, who would hire people with zero experience or poor qualifications to work above my head. Despite these red flags I would continue trusting the employer and grinding away, which in the end resulted in major stress and wasted time. 

Now that I know what the red flags are in regards to unjust employers, I know how to recognize them sooner than I used to, and to take action accordingly sooner. 

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Just asking yourself these three questions at the end of each and every day can help in a major way to protect a great array of habits that are moving you towards your most significant goals. That way, nothing sneaky or unseen can weasel in without you knowing and preparing in advance.

Greater self-awareness of oneself and one's life is a step towards greater self-mastery, and unstoppable momentum. 

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