I just noticed that my last three journal entries start with :
"OK, trying to get back into the journal/planning rhythm again."
"OK, trying to get my routine back"
"I'm still struggling to make this a habit again."
The three journal entries are separated by two days each, as I struggled to make journaling a habit.
The fact is that this morning routine/personal growth/habit forming/goal achieving/transformation stuff is HARD. You're trying to take your current self and upgrade it, give it superpowers, to do things you haven't been able to do before. It sounds and looks fantastic, but that's also the problem. Doing stuff naturally that you didn't previously do naturally doesn't come easily, or, um, naturally.
When I first started reading all these business and productivity books and articles, I was inspired and impressed by the near-superhuman routines and habits of the authors.
Benjamin Hardy, getting up at 5:30am for his morning routine and having his day's work completed by 9am.
Hal Elrod pulling himself out of depression by getting up the same ungodly hour for his routine of Meditation, Visualisation, Affirmations, Exercise, Reading and Writing every day. His Bulletproof coffee carries him through the morning so that by the time my lazy arse wakes up at 7:30, he's already strides ahead, laughing at me in his rear view mirror, as I struggle to convincingly assert 'YOU'RE A TIGER' into my own reflection in the bathroom as I brush my teeth through a sleepy haze.
It was Grant Cardone who really got me. Man, that guy is a MACHINE! Up at 5:30? I'm not convinced he even goes to bed! A whirlwind of achievement, his eyes are on the prize, and that prize is bigger and more unattainable and simply more audacious than any of us mere mortals could ever possibly muster. He's making sales calls while I'm watching 'Masterchef'. He's doing push-ups while I'm soaking off the day's aches in the bath. He's probably downing kale smoothies for dinner while I'm succumbing to the irresistible allure of that strawberry cheesecake.
Another way of looking at the obvious
It was also Grant Cardone who snapped me out of what was beginning to become an unsustainable perfection drive.
I was halfway through The 10X Rule, and was enthusiastically relating a summary of Cardone's incredible abilities and practices to my beloved on our way to work when she stopped me mid-sentence to point out the simple and obvious truth.
These writers and speakers, these preachers of perfection; they're only human too. They're not perfect. They fail too. They present their ideal to the world. They present their best version of themselves as a role model for others, and that's noble in itself. They are the aspiration-pointers.
But, I'll bet that Elrod sleeps in now and then. And Cardone occasionally caves and binge-watches a series on Netflix. And Simon Sinek definitely sometimes stops in his tracks and softly whimpers to himself 'but oh God what's the bloody POINT???'
And that's OK.
That's what it is to be human too, what it is to be alive; because who wants to be a 24/7 automated productivity machine anyway?
The astrological sign of Sagittarius contains within it a beautiful lesson, which sums up the main character of those who were born under that sign. The archer, bow drawn, looks into the distance, eyes fixed far away, always aiming.
What the archer fails to see, while fixed on his future goal, is that which is at his at his feet. This present experience. If I remain permanently transfixed by a vision of my future self, I fail to absorb the wonders that life is offering me right now. In comparing my present self to this future vision of perfection, I fail to see how great I'm doing compared to how I was doing, say, a year ago. I also fail to live the joys that life is already providing, and the abilities I already have.
That's the trap I fell into, and I'm, again, so grateful to Jeannie for teaching me that lesson. I began to feel like I was a failure for not being my future-best-version-of-myself already. I began to feel so excited about where I might be in 3 or 5 or 10 years, and I had started to overlook how incredible my life already is.
Presenting the ultimate Value Proposition
So, my proposition is balance.
Yes, I have my morning routine, and my productivity practices and, yes, I have my goals.
I really enjoyed reading 'Living Forward' by Michael Hyatt and Daniel Harkavy, because it guides you through a simple process of identifying and reaching for those goals, and in doing so the book stresses the importance of balancing business-type success and achievement goals with personal goals, such as relationships and spirituality. Those types of goals are just as important as the financial or career-based ones, if not more so.
The challenge here is that when we're looking ahead into the future to become a future version of ourselves, it takes us out of now, and also re-enforces a belief that who we are isn’t already good enough.
So, I like James Clear's 'Identity-Based Habits' idea. Instead of saying "I'm releasing two albums a year", and then trying to achieve that distant goal, it's easier to stay focused on the present and say to ourselves "I'm the kind of person who works on his music for at least an hour every day".
Instead of focusing on a future goal, which may seem far off and unachievable, this method focuses on our current behaviour and current choices, which is where our real power lies.
It's much more enjoyable for me to sit down and do something in my studio every day, with no huge expectations to make me feel overwhelmed, than to try and feel inspired enough to work every day to meet that Big Hairy Audacious Goal. In doing that hour a day, every day, sometimes I'll hit my flow and an hour could turn into two or three without me even noticing.
Sometimes, the flow might not come, but I'll have made some progress or tidied up a mix or organised my sample library, or learnt a new technique. The time won't have been wasted, and I'll have made my daily habit a little stronger and a little more natural.
Sometimes I won't make it into the studio, and that doesn't mean that I've failed in my goals or that I should just throw the whole thing out the window.
With Identity-based Habits, I'm still the kind of person who makes music every day, so even though life stepped up and scuppered my plans for yesterday, today is a new day, and as I'm the kind of person who makes music every day, when I get back from work, I'll head to the studio.
Even though I may have succumbed to the strawberry cheesecake yesterday, because I'm the kind of person who eats a healthy diet, today I get another shot at eating right.
Tiny steps, every day. A little bit of progress, every day. Another chance at being that person, every day. With my head and heart and awareness in what's happening in this very wonderful moment, because I'm alive, now, and life is happening, now.
So, let's really appreciate the person we are already, and the life that we have already. Then, we can improve and grow every day, and enjoy each day as we live it, too.