I know the importance of being better. I work to convey this to my children, my students, my mentees, the people I work and interact with throughout each day. And I do work by and for myself to become better.
But I’ve grown comfortable.
On the one hand, I’m happy about it because I’ve worked hard for a long time to achieve where I am in life. Still, the comfort has made me complacent. It’s also a conflicting tension between wanting to sit back and enjoy the fruits of my labor, and feeling bad about being static and growing stale. Yes, life ebbs and flows – and while I want to stay in this ebb, I need to force myself to flow again.
I don’t need to be the best, I just want to be better. Little improvements over time add up to major progress. One principle of Jim Wendler’s 5/3/1 program (the weight-lifting program much of my lifting philosophy is based upon) is “Progress Slowly”.
Slow progress might not get you the best rewards today but it will tomorrow. The longer you can progress, even if it’s by one rep or 2.5 pounds, the more it means that you’re actually making progress.… The game of lifting isn’t an 8-week pursuit. It doesn’t last as long as your latest program does. Rather, it’s a lifetime pursuit. If you understand this, then progressing slowly isn’t a big deal. In fact, this can be a huge weight lifting off your back. Now you can focus on getting those 5 extra pounds rather than 50.… If you bench press 225 pounds and want to get to 275, you have to bench 230 first.”Jim Wendler “5/3/1: The Simplest and Most Effective Training System to Increase Raw Strength”
Jim isn’t just talking about lifting weights – he’s really talking about how to make progress. Aiming to be 1% better and achieving it is better than aiming for some unrealistic or undefined target and achieving 0% improvement (or regressing). A little progress is still progress. Granted this process isn’t applicable to all efforts in life, but for efforts that are life-long I think it’s a good perspective and approach to allow for continued improvement in a manageable and sustainable way.
I want to become better; it’s a never-ending process. I have selected a few areas in which I wish to improve. The difference? I’m not aiming for some huge change. I don’t need to take over the world in the next month. In fact, I don’t really have a particular end-goal in sight for these nor do I think there really is one. If simply I can be a smidge better in this area today than I was yesterday, it’ll add up.
This is a vague and sweeping topic, but it’s accurate. It literally is telling myself to choose a path of discipline when faced with a decision.
For example, ensuring I maintain boundaries, especially at the day job, towards sustainability. Remembering posture, not just when I’m standing but when I’m sitting in front of the computer all day. And then, standing up and working once in a while – that’s why I bought an UpLift desk. Not snacking and accepting a little hunger both physically and metaphorically.
I love collecting books. I collect them far faster than I read them. I trimmed my nightstand books down to three that are relevant, useful, and interesting to me right now. I will work through them, even if it’s just 2 pages while I’m on the shitter, it’s 2 pages.
This also implies that I’m on my phone less. Choose book over phone.
Reduce body fat
I’m tried of gaining and losing, gaining and losing. I’m tired of carrying around the flab. I don’t find it attractive. There are physical problems it causes me too. This has to stop.
And let’s be real. I’ve spent years building some sort of body – I’d like to see what’s under all the cream cheese.
I’m finding a more manageable approach is to ensure I get sufficient protein, hit target calories, and beyond that don’t sweat it too much. As of this writing, I’ve been at it about a month and frankly I haven’t made much progress on the scale, but I see some progress in the mirror. What has progressed more is a greatly improved mindset and finding how to make my fat loss efforts more sustainable. If I take the long view, taking a few months that may not make scale-progress but help me find the ways and habits that will lead to scale progress? Those few months don’t seem like such an expense any more.
We’re in a big life transition period. Last year we moved out of Austin to B/CS. The kids are fledging, which has numerous implications. I took a big promotion at the day job. Life’s in transition; what got me here isn’t necessarily going to keep me going so I must adapt to the changing conditions.
Be more of a husband
For the past couple decades, life is primarily centered around raising the kids. The road ahead is no longer about the kids as primary – it has to shift to be about me and the Missus. This is a great thing, and it is something that will require explicit work. We can’t just continue as we have been because that won’t serve how things are (becoming).
So… we’re going to go dancing.
We have always joked about dancing. I can’t dance. Heck, at our wedding we did the old “junior prom” thing of holding each other and just swaying back and forth for a song. So to take dance lessons and go dancing has always been a joke for us. Well, lessons were my Christmas gift to her.
We’re also going out more and doing different things. We’re thinking about our next house and how this next house has a different audience and purpose. It’s good to turn now more towards each other; just it is something we have to care about and explicitly given attention to – don’t take anything for granted.
Chart my new career path
A few months ago I made a major (to me) career shift: after 25+ years as a professional programmer I moved into management as a Director. Still in the realm of software development, but I’m no longer making the software. So far I’m enjoying the shift because it’s where I’ve naturally been evolving: more towards building the company and the people within. But it is a new job to me, with so many new things to learn.
I’m choosing to stay in the job at least one year (barring any black swan events), to give me some amount of experience and exposure to stuff that such a job can bring. What I do after the year I’ll figure out once I get there. In the meantime, I need to invest in growing in this new role: reading relevant books, attending seminars, finding mentors. I am thinking about where I want to go in this phase of my career.
This is really what it’s all about. All the above is ultimately about this:
It doesn’t matter what it’s about: in my day computer-world job, in my side shooting-world job, lifting weights, shedding fat, entertainment habits, dancing in public, daily small things I do.
I need to shed my desire for comfort and embrace the uncomfortable.
The big shift for me is a shift to the little. I am not thinking about one big change; I’m looking for little changes that will add up. I am not thinking about outcomes, other than to provide me with a direction.
I’ve attempted improvement in a number of these areas before, and while I learned much from the failures, I still haven’t achieved what I want. Outcomes still matter; it’s about finding the right process to get there, breaking it into smaller steps that facilitate achievement, and watching the steps add up.
If I can do one small thing consistently, that will amount to big things.