Falling Off, Breaking Through, and Getting The F*ck Over It

So, after a couple of days things going well… I had a pretty shitty day productivity/diet/whatever else-wise. I ate junk food and didn’t complete any of my writing-related tasks. I was generally feeling pretty shitty, as I tend to beat myself up pretty badly when I fall short of my standards for myself. However, it happened to be that day when one of my favorite sites, NerdFitness, and Mr. Steve Kamb, posted this article, which happened to be just the thing to help me out of my mental rut.

Thing is, momentum is a cruel mistress. When you pick up speed from getting stuff done, working out, or just generally being awesome, it feels great, and soon you’re barreling through tasks like that boulder in Indiana Jones. But when you have a “fat” day, or don’t feel up to it, we often feel like the fact we’ve failed at something is a reflection on our own personal capabilities or worth. We start looking at failure as a noun, not a verb. But as the talented Mr. Kamb points out, it’s just one mistake. And, buckle in, bitches, because you’re going to have to get used to the fact that you’re going to make them over, and over, and over for the rest of your life. Because you’re human, and humans have an unequaled talent for finding new ways to fuck up.

But the great thing? The same exploratory instinct that lets us constantly go on adventures in screwing up is the same instinct that lets us invent new ways to get out of it, and take advantage of the resources available around us to do so. We just have to recognize that failure is an isolated incident, and has no bearing on the decisions we make afterward. Including the choice to shrug it off, and go immediately back to the drawing board to find out why we’ve messed up, and how to keep it from happening again.

To quote Bruce Wayne’s butler, Alfred, in Batman Begins: “Why do we fall, sir? So we can learn to pick ourselves up.”

So, first, I picked up some lifting straps as was suggested on one of Jason Ferruggia’s most recent posts, and HOLY CRAP. It’s like I’m using those mass-cancelling magnet clamp things from the season 2 finale of Doctor Who. You never realize how much energy you use up JUST holding onto the bar until you don’t have to. I added an easy 20lbs to my deadlift (now at 265lbs), and a HUGE 40lbs to my barbell clean (now at 175lb 3RM), as well as bumping up my one-arm dumbell row weight another 10lbs each. They even help with pressing exercises, which I definitely was not expecting. It’s amazing how a change so small can make such a huge difference.

Gaming in Real Life

 

Second, upon advice from my counsellor, I’ve decided to start putting the unique traits about my geeky gamer mind to good use instead of constantly beating myself up about how I can’t motivate myself/learn in the same way many people do. Or at least, it’s significantly less effective if I try to. But. I love me some video games. So, I started constructing a to-do list using Evernote on my smartphone and making a checklist, with a few little extra challenges, effectively turning it into a quest-based reality game:

-I instituted what I call “Vetoes.” If you feel there’s a task you don’t think you’ll get done that day, you can use one of 3 Vetoes to cross that item off of the list, effectively pushing it until tomorrow. However, there is an achievement (more on those in the next point) for completing all tasks in a day without using a Veto.

-There are achievements for achieving all goals of a certain category in a day. Others for fulfilling additional “win” conditions for goals, and still more for completing every task on the Quest List. Here are some examples:

“Machine Man”:  Complete all health and fitness-related tasks

“Time Lord”:  Complete all timed/time management-related tasks in a day + log 5 or more hours of work into Toggl in that same day.

“Jack of All”: Complete all non-vetoed tasks.

“No Continues”: Gain the Jack of All achievement using no vetoes.

Credit to Jane McGonigal (because I haven’t praised her enough in this blog) and her book, Reality Is Broken, for providing the inspiration for trying this. It’s worked surprisingly well so far, and I plan on getting together with some of my game-design inclined friends to see if I can refine it further into something I can perhaps put out into the aether for others to use.

Anyways, I think that’s about it for now. Hope you guys enjoyed this and got something useful out of it!

Cheers,

Vince

Progress Report #2

Yesterday went considerably better than the day before. I got fully 6/8 tasks done, and accomplished 3/4 of my goals for that day. Keeping a to-do list definitely helped, especially one that I can keep accessible on my smartphone and physically check-off when I accomplish things. I don’t pimp out products often, but I’ve definitely got to say that downloading Evernote for my devices has got to be one of the best decisions I’ve made, productivity-wise.

But. 6/8 indicates there WAS stuff I didn’t get done. And because I went to bed early last night, I’m up early enough today to evaluate why before I get on with making today’s to-do.

Not-Done #1: Restarting my Video Games and Adolescent Identity article from scratch. This one is largely due to intimidation. I don’t really know what I’m going to write in terms of actual phrasing and organization. That part I’m just going to have to get over and take it one step at a time. One thing I cannot do is try to just stream-of-consciousness it and hope something comes out which I can edit, revise, and refine into something readable later on. It’s too complex of an argument, with too many throughlines throughout the entirety of the piece to be able to just brain-vomit it into existence and still remain consistent.

Second mistake, I placed a creative writing task in the evening of my day, after I’ve already expended a considerable amount of energy on all of my other tasks. It’s no wonder that I didn’t get it done, or even start.

Not-Done #2: Keeping carbs to post-6pm (in accordance with Renegade Diet). This one wasn’t too bad. I caved at 4 or 5pm, so not TOO far off. I’ve got to put together a couple of recipes which are protein/dietary fat-centric earlier on the day to keep me sated once the strict fasting phase is over with.

Goal Not-Done #1: Make Brutal Legend Soundtrack playlist–> While I now have all of the songs from the video game Brutal Legend on my computer, they’re all still separated by artist and album and such. Yesterday, I failed to organize them into a badass heavy metal playlist because compared to all my other tasks and goals, I saw it as inconsequential. I think this is a task I need to tackle when I just feel like lazing about while doing something mildly productive. I need to recognize that it isn’t in the same category of importance as my writing, editing, or promotion.

Cool. Right. Now to put these revisions into action.

Progress Report #1

Okay, accountability time. Yesterday… didn’t go quite as well as planned. Don’t get me wrong, I got enough done on my to-do list to start instituting a change, but there’s also a lot I DIDN’T get done. And here’s the part where I deconstruct that and try to figure out why. FIRST, my To-Do List for Aug 14th (Crossed out items were completed)

Morning Tasks

-Shave + wear contacts today
-Meals–> Make rice for work meal + chicken stuffed w/ spinach/walnuts for dinner later

-Go to gym for 7AM

-Withdraw money for laundry
Get change for laundry

-Counselling appt (9:30AM-10:30AM)

-Get haircut

-Work 11:30-8pm (Bring “Trust Your Eyes”)

After Work Tasks

-Edit Justin’s article + Send edited draft back to Justin

-Upload all book reviews to hubpages blog
-Contact Caitlin Thompson about Con-G panel

-Buy weightlifting straps

Daily Goals
-Maintain fast for 13 hours
-Go to gym

-Read at work

-Complete all post-work goals

Total Completed: 8/16. Not my best. So, let’s take a shot at WHY:

Well, the post-work goals and going to the gym could be attributed to two things.

1) I overslept. Again. This is a symptom of the recurring problem of me convincing myself I can run on 5-6 hours of sleep (“…and just suck up being tired and get on with it”) instead of just shutting off my alarm and going back to sleep.

2) I had a hell day at work. One of our co-workers called in sick, so on top of being as short-staffed as we’ve been the past couple months, there were only three of us to run the entire meat dept all day + deal with the quite large frozen-food order that came in that day. It caught me off guard, and by the end of the day I was thoroughly exhausted. Add that to the fact that I dropped my iPod and cracked the screen, and so had to buy a screen protector/case for it after work… pretty much exhausted my motivation/willpower to hit the gym afterward. In fact, being in the vicinity of a Dairy Queen in the mall where I picked up said iPod equipment caused me to commit an egregious dietary infraction on a day where I’d be generally quite good about eating healthy: I bought a large Blizzard, busting out the old justification of “I’ve had a rough day. I earned this.” Of course, I felt like crap afterward, and felt more like falling asleep when I got home than doing anything involving work.

So, what can I change, knowing this, to make sure it doesn’t happen again?

Change #1–> Go to bed earlier. It sounds super-obvious but apparently I need it explicitly stated. If I want to get up at 6, or 5, I need to hit the sheets at a time that’ll give me 7 hours of sleep. Otherwise, I won’t just be slightly less chipper that day… I’ll lose several hours worth of potential getting-things-done time to catching up on said sleep.

Change #2–> Convert unbridled optimism to ” cautious optimism.” Work hit me particularly hard because it caught me off guard. In the future, when I go into work, I need to both be ready to hope for the best, but be prepared for the worst, taking that into account when it comes to my planning of what I’ll be doing afterward.

Change #3–> Plan to do more work in the morning. Just based off of where I got the most done, the mornings seem to easily be my most productive time. So, combined with Change #1, I’ll shunt more of my tasks into that time to increase the chances they’ll get done. Cool.

Alright, accountability made, plan of action: set. Transform and roll out.

Dammit, I want to feel awesome again.

Whether from school stress, work stress, or a downward spiral of having less and less time to do things that make me happy (and thus getting the endorphins from junk food instead), I’ve felt like more and more of a slob and just… not desirable over the past month. I haven’t gotten a haircut, I’m constantly wearing my coke-bottle glasses instead of my contacts, haven’t shaved in days so I have the hobo scruff, haven’t done laundry… I just generally feel like shit.

Every day it’s like I get up, dread going to work for several hours while that dread saps any energy from me that might allow me to be productive and happy, go to work, be exhausted by the end of work, go home, surf the net, go to bed. Lather, rinse, repeat. I’m fucking sick of it. I apologize to myself because I haven’t been updating this blog enough. I need this. I need it to be a place where I can reflect on the demons in my head and use that reflection to figure a way out of my mess. But now I have one or two people in real life who know about this blog… and even that tiny loss of anonymity makes me hesitant to put my most intimate thoughts and feelings out here like I used to be able to. I’m scared it’ll scare them off, make them see me differently, or worse, hurt the chances of maybe one day… having something more with them than I do now…

I really hate being as insecure as  I am. It comes from years and years of conditioning, combined with a hyper-analytical mindset prone to anxiety, but it doesn’t change the fact that it sucks dick through a straw. I don’t want to have these periodic cataclysms of doubt about “what if I’m entirely wrong about my potential? What if I’m just fooling myself into thinking that I can contribute something as huge to the world as I feel I need to in order to leave the legacy of change I WANT to? What if I’m just another wannabe internet writer with illusions of grandeur?” I know I’ve brought this up before, but it does appear to be a through-line of fear throughout my life. I want it to stop.

I want my badassery back. That person is there inside me like a little Tyler Durden, waiting to bust out, I just need to nourish it back to life. So, here are a list of things I’m going to change in the next week to make it happen.

-Laundry. I need myself a good set of clean duds again. None of this “seven day t-shirt and jeans” crap. I also think I’m going to order a couple of new tees off of the internet plus get a couple pairs of slacks. Maybe a new set of workout clothes.

-Buy weightlifting straps. I’ve hit a ceiling in my workouts where my grip is giving out before my other muscles do. I have another hour before I go to bed, during which I will find a store in Guelph that sells these and by gawd I will BUY THEM before I go to work tomorrow. I’m hoping breaking through that plateau will give me some encouragement to do so elsewhere.

-Get back on track with my fast/carbs in evening diet. I’m going to stop bringing my credit card/debit card to work with me again so that I have to eat the food I pack for myself. Good, healthy food. I’m going to have to start from scratch with the fasting again though, to get my body back into being fat adapted. I never noticed the huge difference it made until I started eating a ton of carbs again. Being tired + hungry every few hours definitely sucks. It stops now.

Shave, haircut, and contacts in tomorrow. Showing off my baby blues plus taking extra pains to look civilized will probably go a considerable ways to helping me un-distort a good chunk of my self-image.

-I have my next counselling appointment tomorrow. I’m hoping going weekly will help me work through some of the recursive mental loops I put myself through which end up only harming me.

-Gym, of course! Nothing like pumping iron until my whole body feels like a worn-out rubber band to get me feeling a bit better.

-I’m a fucking editor and producer of a website. Time to start acting like it. I have a review to do tomorrow, several book reviews to post to my own public blog, and a review copy of a book to get a start on reading to review. Also, a certain editor to call about an honorarium that I didn’t get. >.>

-Finally, I’ll be tracking everything meticulously again. Using behavioural monitoring has always been something that’s helped me stay on track for longer. Speaking of which, I’m going to try my damndest to try contacting Jane McGonigal, writer of Reality Is Broken, to see if she can help me out in finding resources akin to the now-defunct “plusoneme.com”.

Okay, cool. Sounds like I’ve got a scaffolding to build off of. Let’s fucking do it.